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)
Meeting NotesWe wish to be completely open with developments with this project, and therefore the notes from all relevant meetings will be available through this page.
Posted 26/06/2013Following a meeting held with the chair of Mountnessing Parish Council, three possible locations within Mountnessing for a new Bridge Centre are being explored further.
Actions arising from a project meeting held on 11th June 2013Present: David Tennet, Eric Field, Nick Hagan, Alaric Cundy
- Discussions about possible expansion of the Project Team will be deferred until after actions 2 to 4 have been completed.
- David, Eric, and Nick will view the premises that have been identified as a possible choice. In particular, Eric will assess accessibility from Brentwood. Please keep an eye on the 'Premises' page for a possible update on this issue.
- David will contact John Court to see whether his son could offer Estate Agency advice.
- Alaric will meet with the chair of Mountnessing Parish Council to advise him of our aspirations and to seek his support.
Meeting at Bishops Hill Adult Education College, 18/03/2013Eric Field and Alaric Cundy had a meeting with staff from Bishops Hill to explore the options for renting space at that centre. There are a number of advantages in the use of such a location, including ideal 'class-room' facilities, good on-site facilities, such as the car park and the canteen, and a convenient location on a bus route and close to Shenfield Station. However, there would also be some significant challenges. Overall, the Project team's conclusions were:
- There was complete agreement with the point that as a potential new venue for the club, Bishops Hill is a complete non-starter, the main points being cost and availability of a suitable room for a full playing area
- Opinions were more divided on the question of suitability as a temporary teaching venue. The clear balance of opinion is that it would not be a good choice on the grounds of up-front costs and security of tenure
- Some support was generated for the idea of trying to get some teaching sessions off the ground sooner rather than later, but the prevailing view is that we should focus on finding a new location for playing sessions, and then use that facility for teaching.
Posted 25/02/2013 [Updated 28/02/2013]
Project meeting held on February 15th 2013
Present: Eric Field, Hick Hagan, David Tennet, Theo Todman, Alaric Cundy
Apologies: John Peacock, Lorraine Butler
OUTCOME OF MEETING
- The meeting noted the availability of a Draft Constitution and 'Case for Applying for Registered Charitable Status' and agreed to consider the fine detail of those documents at a later date.
- The three clubs represented at the meeting agreed to support an outline strategy through which they would come together into a single entity, following a plan summarised by "The Four Bullet Points" listed below.
- The three clubs represented agreed to present this strategy to their individual members within a month, via the following mechanisms:
- Hutton: An Extraordinary General meeting to be arranged for a Club Night in March
- St Edith's: The Annual General Meeting, now scheduled for March 13th
- Mountnessing: membership renewal applications, due out by the end of February
- David agreed to talk 'off-line' to John to explain the approach and hopefully to achieve buy-in on behalf of Mayflower
- Alaric agreed to talk 'off-line' to Lorraine to establish whether any one or more of the three clubs that she helps to run would be interested, and if so, on what basis.
- David agreed to think about a common message, to be summarised in "Four Bullet Points"
OUTLINE STRATEGY: "The Four Bullet Points"
- The aim for this initiative is to make a positive move to ensure the long term viability of Duplicate Bridge in the locality. Local clubs need to work together to secure a dedicated bridge centre to enhance the current playing conditions and establish a dedicated teaching facility to attract new members to ensure the long term viability of bridge in our area.
- The belief is that this aim would most easily be achieved by acquiring new shared premises that were available on a full-time basis. Such premises would offer side benefits, such as no need to set up or clear away the tables, chairs, and other equipment, and would offer the potential for continual availability of wireless table-top scoring and computer-dealt boards.
- The belief is that this initiative can only be achieved by the local clubs coming together to form a new bridge centre. Forming the new organisation would need to be the basis of the first action to allow a dedicated premises to be found.
- Other actions would follow, such as setting the organisation as a Registered Charity to take advantage of the benefits a larger organisation could secure. There is no doubt that as a Registered Charity the cost of acquiring and running our own premises would be reduced, and that our scope for raising funds would be enhanced.
Brentwood Leisure TrustFollowing on from telephone contact with the Brentwood Borough Council, Theo Todman and Alaric Cundy met with the Chief Executive of the Brentwood Leisure Centre on November 29th. That meeting proved to be a catalyst for a significant amount of activity over the past three weeks, which has just been reported on the Premises, Finance and Operations pages on this website - the links to those pages are in the bar above. Please do look at the detail that was posted on December 15th on those three pages. The Project Team invite comments and criticism from all members of the four clubs and from interested by-standers and visitors, which you can do either through the Comments Pad link in the green bar above, or by sending an e-mail to the contacts listed on the 'your views count' page, or by dropping a note to the project convenors.
Workshops on Charities and FundraisingTheo Todman and Alaric Cundy both attended two workshops, on December 3rd and 13th, on the subjects of the roles of Charity Trustees and Fundraising. repectively. The tips gleaned from these two sessions are expected to inform work in these areas in the near future.
Southend & Leigh Bridge ClubJohn Peacock, David Tennet, Carol McCue and Alaric Cundy visited Southend & Leigh Bridge club on Friday 9th November and had a meeting with Terry Wise, followed by a telephone conversation with the treasurer, Mike Parry. We also played in their regular Friday afternoon session - a very enjoyable experience - and were able to talk to some of the members playing that afternoon. We came away even more enthused about our project! Seeing is believing, and seeing it all first-hand was very encouraging. Many points emerged from the conversations, as summarised below:
Legal Status and Club StructureCurrently the club is neither a limited company or a charity; technically it is owned by a small group of trustees on behalf of the members - an arrangement that has been in place since the club opened its current premises in March 1969, but which is now being questioned. Potentially, it looks as though Charitable Status is the best model, otherwise a 'not-for-profit' Limited Company.
They have a very large and very active committee, who share out key responsibilities. Terry noted that it is very important to have someone responsible for each of the key tasks to ensure the smooth running of the club, such as the keys, organising the directors and scorers, and co-ordinating the teachers. One of the committee members takes responsibility for all issues associated with the building maintenance and repairs. Others need to be responsible for the noticeboards, stationery, and equipment. Amongst the club membership, they have 14 people who can direct , 9 of whom do so on a regular basis. They use some of the more casual club sessions as training / practice opportunities for new and developing Directors - so nobody need be 'thrown in at the deep end'.
Premises LayoutThe S & L Club has a small teaching area in addition to the main playing area, and the geography is such that the small area can be used as an extension to the main playing area on occasions; this situation is a design that we would hope to emulate. The main playing area id aet out with 16 tables; the smaller area could take another two if needed. However, potential snags are that you can only access the teaching room by passing through the playing area, and that you can only reach the kitchen from the playing area by passing through the teaching room. In practice the two rooms couldn't be used for two separate functions simultaneously - something that in our setting it would be nice to be able to do. In practice, we would have to take whatever premises were available and affordable, but here is an alert that it might not be ideal in these aspects.
Premises Maintenance and RepairsOne of the committee members has good connections and is well qualified to manage / oversee repairs and maintenance. Another member has responsibility for organising the two cleaners. Costs of repairs and cleaning are met from the Club's funds. The Club also employs two tea ladies; in most sessions tea / coffee is served at the table during a short mid-session break, rather than being offered on a self-serve basis throughout the session.
TeachingThe club has 5 teachers. They had evidently had much success in recruiting students through adverts in the local press and then through word of mouth. These students were keen to learn the basics so that they play at social-level sessions at the club, but few are interested in developing more advanced skills.
From the club's perspective the key reason to encourage teaching is to get more people into the building, many of whom will in due course become full club members; the club per se does not expect to earn profits from teaching, but nor does it want to run at a loss. Therefore they charge a levy per student, intended to cover pro-rata overheads. The teacher charges normal teaching rates. If the teacher chooses to hire the tea person for his session then he pays for the service, but he then pockets whatever is left over.
MembershipMembership had gone up and now stands at 330; however, the average playing strength had gone down, because most of the increase had come through their teaching sessions, and the newer members tended to be much less ambitious in terms of entering and winning county and national competitions compared with 'the old guard'. These new members are critical to the overall success of the club, and several of the playing sessions each week are focussed particularly on their needs. In our own situation, as well as catering for (hopefully) many new members, we would need to be careful to ensure that we also served the needs of the more experienced and more ambitious players.
Social ActivitiesOne of the key characteristics of the club is that all the members are friendly and have a real sense of 'belonging'. It is evident that some of the Bridge sessions are more social events rather than cut-throat competition. A nice small touch - the Club runs a 'Book Exchange' scheme; that is just a very small point but it helps further to promote cohesion within the club.
FInancial IssuesPlease see the comments posted on November 15th of the Finance page - via the link in the bar above.
Back to Earth!!Of course we still have two $64,000 questions - raising the money and finding some premises!!! [Well, if the premises only cost $64,000 we might have a chance...]
Posted 24/10/2012These notes arise from conversations through Theo Todman with three different representatives of the Darlington Bridge Club (St Georges' Centre). See here for background.
Source: Manageress of St Georges' Bridge Centre, Darlington
- Club originally formed by issue of 220k £1 shares.
- A few large tranches of £30k or more - most investors of £1k, £500 minimum?
- Shares aren't traded, but the club has been redeeming shares at face value using profits generated. Most of the original equity has been redeemed, especially from the original large investors.
- Shares pay a dividend, originally set at 6%, now 4.5%.
- St. George's Bridge Centre is a limited company, VAT registered, pays corporation tax,
- All members are members of the Centre (at £15 p.a.), not of the clubs. The membership currently stands at 205.
- Table money is £3.50 for members, £4 for non-members.
- The three founder clubs still exist (one renamed?) - retain their identities, club nights and competitions.
- The clubs don't pay rent, but pay 90% of their table-money to the Centre (very attractive as their costs are variable rather than fixed, though presumably the Centre needs to watch out).
- The clubs retain the remaining 10% for funding parties, trophies, prizes and the like.
- The Centre is quite large - it was originally a rather disreputable pub, then the "Board Room, MD's Office, Visitor Centre and Executive Dining Room of Darlington Simpson Rolling Mills".
- It's on 2 floors, with cellars, and has a flat (originally intended for the Steward) as well as a bar. Stairs but no lifts. Quite a lot of trudging up and down when we were there.
- The Centre has a full-time Manageress (known as the "Steward").
- The Steward originally started running the bar and was paid an hourly rate, then took on cleaning and the like . now does the accounts and the website and generally runs the club. She's now on a fixed salary, but has quite flexible working hours, with lots of give and take.
- The Steward gets a percentage of the takings of "special events".
- Originally a non-bridge-player, she learnt the game so she could converse with the bar-flies, but now plays up to 9 times a week and helps direct the sessions.
- Peak periods are staffed by hourly-paid casual staff (mostly members of Bev's family).
- There can be problems with a full-time Stewards being protective of their income - example of a local club where the Steward objected to self-catering.
- The Centre is used for conferences, Christenings and other special events not related to bridge. This source of income has been used to fund developments (security gates, etc.) and share buy-backs.
- Bridge-wise, the club is used for County events, and as a "half-way-house" (eg. for the Gold Cup, where a team from the South plays a team from Scotland). They've had ladies' nights (with make-up artistes) and meals.
Source: member #1 of Darlington Bridge Club
- Don't register for VAT if possible - if necessary split into two companies that are below the VAT threshold.
- Investigate forming a Charity - eg. York BC has done so. Keith Sowerbutts (01904-347838; 07764-583537) is the contact.
- Obtain the right premises - purpose-built if possible. Preferably ground-floor, or single-storey - avoiding steps/stairs.
- Finance - project the membership, taking account of the fact that most memberships are dropping.
- How bid - county and other events.
- May need "change of use" from the council. Originally to get permission to convert a building near the airport, but permission was refused by the Council.
- Can tack on to sports clubs or community associations.
- Location is important - will elderly people go there?
Source: member #2 of Darlington Bridge Club
- Was annoyed that member #1 didn't consult him about VAT. It seems to have been something to do with whether a property is sold subject to VAT or not (but I'm not sure).
- Stewards are expensive, and it's more cost-effective to use volunteers. [This is obviously true, but my view is that there's no sense in doing it yourself if you can afford to pay for it.]
- Some other very important point that came back to me just now, but has vanished again!
Posted 26/09/2012During the past week, members of the project group have held a series of meetings / conversations with representatives or members from other clubs, most of which operate from their own premises. Updates have been posted today under a number of headings - please click on the links above as appropriate. These conversations have been held with:
- Bernie Hunt, from the First Class Bridge Academy at Barleylands
- Graham Randall from Southend & Leigh Bridge Club. A follow-on meeting is being planned.
- A member of Welwyn Garden City Bridge Club
- A member of Colchester Bridge Club, which is affiliated to Suffolk CBA
Notes from a conversation with a member of Welwyn Garden City Bridge ClubThey hire rooms 24x7x365 in the local cricket club for £18k / year. Recently they held one event for which they had found space for 18 tables. They have about 450 members (there were 435 in 2011 according to their website). Table money is £2.50 for members, £5.00 for non-members (of which a £1.50 levy goes to the cricket club). They offer 6-year membership, which more than 80% of members have taken out. It looks like there are 8 sessions a week, though a couple are review sessions for which an increased fee is charged. It seems they got an extra 100 members by getting existing members to post mail-shots through their neighbours' doors. David Clark's brother Peter does a lot of teaching there.
Notes from a conversation with Graham Randall from Southend & Leigh Bridge ClubThe club has 350 members. There are evening club sessions on Mon, Tue, Wed, and Sat, and day-time on Fridays, plus assorted supervised play sessions and similar. From their website it is apparent that the club averages a total of 60 to 70 tables per week. Additionally, they sub-let the premises to local clubs for two sessions a week. There are currently also 5 teaching sessions advertised on the website. All of their teachers are committed club members. The students are charged £5 each per session, out of which the club takes a levy of £1.50, and the balance goes to the teacher. Students are invited to join the club after about 9 months. They originally bought the premises in the 1960s, and then extended it in the late 70s; the extension was funded in part by mortgage and in part by loans from members. All debts have long since been paid off and the building is fully their own.
We plan to send a couple of pairs to have a longer chat with him and to play in a club session as guests, probably in November.
Posted 07/09/2012The notes from the meeting held on September 5th have now been agreed and they have been reflected throughout this webiste under comments labelled as 'Posted 07/09/2012'. Please look specifically at pages where the 'date updated' is shown as September 7th or later.
Posted 30/08/2012Next meeting date: Sepember 5th at 12:15. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending. Please call back after that date - numerous updates to this website are anticipated.
Posted 07/08/2012 (Updated 11/08/2012)To date, three meetings of relevance have been held:
- A meeting of the Essex Contract Bridge Association (ECBA) Teaching & Education Sub Committee was held on June 15th 2012. The notes technically belong to ECBA, not to Hutton / Mayflower / St Edith's / Mountnessing Clubs, but we have permission to publish them here. The whole of the note gives the context in which this idea arose; the paragraphs highlighted in yellow refer specifically to the initiation of this project. They are an important part of the 'audit trail' for this project. The meeting was chaired by Alaric Cundy (ECBA Teachers' Liaison Officer), and also present were John Williams (ECBA Chair), Dennis Valtisiaris (ECBA Committee Member) and Graham Foster (ECBA Committee Member).
- The matter was raised at the ECBA Committee meeting held on June 20th 2012, the minutes of which can be read on the ECBA website. In summary, the ECBA reaction was that it welcomed and supported the initiative, but thought that it should be managed by the clubs involved, not by the ECBA.
- An informal meeting was held - literally over a 'pint and sandwich' - on June 26th 2012, at which Eric Field (Hutton), John Peacock (Mayflower), Nick Hagan (St Edith's Lane), and Alaric Cundy (Mountnessing) met to consider what mutual interest there might be in the four clubs coming together to acquire their own premises, which would then enable those clubs to establish a 'grow your own membership' capability through organising teaching and education sessions from within those premises. Given that the meeting was informal, so was the output, which took the form of e-mails and discussion papers. Those e-mails and papers will be assembled into a meeting outcome record, which will then be linked into this website. One of the main outcomes was that the four participants would consult with their committees to test general reactions to the idea.
- An informal 'stock-take' meeting was held on August 7th to compare reactions and to consider next steps, if any. The general consensus was that despite numerous snags being identified, there was sufficient general support to continue with the project to see whether one or more viable proposals could be constructed for the entire club membership to vote on. There are numerous comments on this website labelled as 'Posted 07/08/2012' and between them they constitute the input to and outcome from this meeting