Club Management Focus: Winter 2015

The Revival of Frome Bridge Club

In 2013 Frome Bridge Club had reached a point where unless drastic action was taken it would be forced to close. In two years the efforts of the whole membership in recruiting, teaching and integrating new players had been successful, and club had been turned round.

Marianne Lewin, Club Captain, tells the story of how Frome BC was saved through the action, co-operation, determination, enthusiasm and friendliness of all at the club.

"When I joined Frome Bridge Club in the 1980s it was thriving, meeting three times a week. The club seemed to have no difficulty attracting new members and we just thought it would go on thriving.

But it didnt! Our position at the beginning of 2013 was dire. We were only meeting on a Monday evening and never had more than four tables. Twice we even had to abandon the night. We increased table money and, because of relatively low costs, were just about managing financially, but without action the club was simply going to fade away.

Having talked to other people whose clubs had needed reviving, John Perry and I decided the best way to encourage bridge was by running a teaching class in the daytime and advertising it widely. We were sure there were plenty of people living nearby who played or wanted to learn bridge, but it would take a new initiative to get over the message of how much fun club bridge could be.

We agreed we would plan and do the teaching together and targeted Frome and areas round where we knew there was no bridge teaching. We advertised extensively in libraries, cafes and on any available bulletin boards. We put ads and an article in local papers.

We thought that one of the difficulties would be catering for bridge players at different levels so decided to run two parallel classes, Beginners and Improvers. We opted to run them on a Thursday morning between 10:00 and 12:00 a.m. Fortunately our current accommodation could provide two rooms, so we could run two classes simultaneously. We decided to combine teaching with playing and keep the charge low at œ.

The bridge lessons started in September 2013 with twelve beginners and twelve improvers. I ran lessons for improvers and have to confess I always felt a bit of a fraud, but the class was very forgiving of my mistakes. John and I spent a long time working on our lessons, myself because it was my first teaching attempt, John because some of his class had never held a card in their hands before.

We were fortunate in that several of the regular players at our club came along to help. This gave us flexibility (in making up tables) and there was a real feeling of Frome Bridge Club helping itself.

We continued our separate lessons until Easter, 2014, when we brought the two classes together, playing supervised set hands. In autumn 2014 we became aware that there was still eagerness to learn, so we opted for half an hour's lesson before playing twelve boards. We have continued this up till now.

Over the course of our journey a few people have dropped out, but more have joined, so that recently we have had 30 people from the classes there on a Thursday. The atmosphere within the group is tremendous; there is much laughter and new people have been welcomed with open arms.

But what of our original aim to boost the numbers of our bridge club? We now regularly have six tables. New members coming to our Monday night club have improved the atmosphere and all our original members have been totally supportive of them. We don't use a clock to hurry people along and sometimes general advice is given at the tables. Sometimes new members beat original members, sometimes they are clustered at the bottom, but it doesn't matter because the overall feeling is that we're all in it together and, most important of all, we're having fun."