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News > Alumnae News > Jill Cole tells us about life at Old Hall Commune

Jill Cole tells us about life at Old Hall Commune

Jill Cole (OG 1946-1951) explains what community living is like on an organic farm in the beautiful Old Hall Commune.
Jill Cole (OG 1946-1951)
Jill Cole (OG 1946-1951)

How did you get introduced to the community lifestyle?

I got into this life unexpectedly; it was a turn of fate. I was studying Sociology and Politics as an Open University course and we’d often meet in a local pub. One guy who was not in the usual group talked about a community which was being set up a few miles away.

Describe what living in a commune means to you.

I have lived at Old Hall since 1975. I suppose we were pioneers at the time. Old Hall, an organic farm, is one of the oldest and most well established and with renewed interest in ecological issues and climate change. Residents enjoy the outdoor life. We have our own water supply from a borehole and we have photovoltaic solar panels. We grow most of our food and care about the environment. Community life keeps you fit; I am 84 and I am up at 6am most mornings to milk our cows by hand and cook for 30 plus people, two or three times a week.

What is it like for a child to be part of a commune?

It’s great or children, I came here with my four. They learn what it is like to live healthily, organically where possible and there is no hierarchy. The children have a nice relationship with adults and get involved in jobs outside of school, although there are not many children now; eight altogether.

How is it decided who can live at Old Hall?

People find out about Old Hall via the website and often people write in asking to visit for six months. During that time we get to know them and vice versa. All decisions are made by consensus. We get a lot of interest from young families which is just as well, as some of us are getting on a bit!

Do people have jobs outside of the commune?

Most people have part-time paid employment outside the community. We have teachers, doctors, lawyers; a variety of jobs. Some people take on roles within Old Hall whether it be secretarial or looking after the accounts. I’ve worked in a school but I’m retired and there is a lot of work to do – farming and vegetable growing takes a lot of time!

What is private and what is shared?

One reason we’ve been successful is that we have our own space. I have a big sitting room with three bedrooms to accommodate family and visitors. Some people have private bathrooms but the majority share. We share a great big kitchen and eat food together. We eat outside a lot. We mostly get on together but with any groups there are occasional conflicts, but on the whole we are one big family.

What is your stand out memory from Prior’s Field?

Our headmistress ‘Bice’ as she was known, was frightening and called all of us her ‘creatures’. We were so grateful for her art lectures. They were so special and something other schools just didn’t offer. In my day at PF, everyone was a boarder and I think that sharing life with others back then has helped me be a good community member now.

You can find out more about Old Hall by visiting www.oldhall.org.uk

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