Working together to ensure the future of Bridge Clubs in the Brentwood & Billericay Area
Hutton Bridge Club (Monday), Mayflower Bridge Club (Tuesday), St Edith's Lane Bridge Club (Wednesday), Mountnessing Bridge Club (Thursday)
BACKGROUND TO THE PROJECTIt is sad to note that overall both membership of, and attendance at, local Bridge Clubs is generally in steady decline, and if this trend continues into the future and nothing is done to halt it, then in ten years time there may well be NO CLUBS AT ALL left in the Brentwood / Billericay area. We only have to look around on a club night, and we see that the players are getting steadily older, and that relatively few new faces appear on the scene. We note that elsewhere, other clubs are vibrant and witnessing growth. So what do clubs like Southend & Leigh have that ours do not? We believe that the key answer to that point is that that clubs like Southend & Leigh operate out of their own premises, which then opens up new opportunities.
- An absolutely key point is that by having their own premises, those clubs are able to set up teaching sessions and feeder clubs, ensuring a steady stream of new members, who, furthermore, are not simply new to the Club, but who are also new to the game of Bridge.
- They can also set up new day-time duplicate sessions - and, indeed, social Bridge slots, all of which helps to attract a whole new group of regular players who do not particularly like to travel out in the evenings.
- Operating from dedicated premises also offers the opportunity to serve better the more experienced players, for example by organising two-session 'Blue Pointed' Club events on weekend dates, and 'Master Class' type sessions to share knowledge and experience around the club members.
As a direct 'spin-off' from a meeting of the ECBA Teaching & Education Sub Group, the Chairs of the Hutton, Mayflower, and St Edith's Clubs and the Director of the Mountnessing Club met late in June 2012 to discuss the idea of collectively acquiring their own premises, possibly purchased, possibly leased. As a result of that meeting, 'soundings' were taken around the Club's committees and some of the members of the four clubs.
The four of us re-convened in early August to take stock. The 'soundings' had revealed:
- General support for the idea, especially if viewed as a medium-term / long-term project
- BIG concerns as to how it would be funded
- Justifiable concerns about operational issues - just how would the club be run?
- A desire to retain the unique characteristics of the four existing clubs
It was also recognised that the development of this project breaks down into three different elements:
- Finance - just how could it be financed? Would renting be advisable, or should we push for an outright purchase?
- Premises - how much space and car-parking would be needed and can any suitable locations be identified?
- Operations - how would the new arrangements work? What would be the club's constitution? How would 'migration' from the current situation be managed?
Superficially, this project may sound a bit like a bit of a replication of the First Class Bridge Academy at Barleylands, but a difference is that, though the legal status of the ensuing organisation is the subject of one of the (many) as yet unanswered questions, the resulting organisation (or organisations) of this project will be owned and run by the membership; it will not be set up as a small business.We have also agreed that we will NOT seek any kind of formal 'vote' from the membership until we have at least one fully costed and robust specific proposal. The hope is that if / when such a point is reached, the membership will have been sufficiently involved in the process to be able to answer a simple 'yes / no' question. It is envisaged that the time-scale will be at least a year, and probably more than that. We have also agreed that it will be impossible for the four original convenors alone to do all of the work entailed in seeing this project through, and we would be pleased to receive expressions of interest from persons offering to join the steering group or to support any of the individual elements - especially from members who have relevant professional experience, for example, in financial planning, securing grants, or running a 'club house'.