Horsham Bridge Club is in a fortunate position. We own our own town centre premises, have 300 members, and enjoy seven sessions a week. We have taken the view however that this is not a time to rest on our laurels. Rather it’s a time to look to the future and work hard to maintain and improve on what we have.
We have found our membership hungry to play more bridge and eager to learn. But most importantly of all, so many of them are willing to help. While the committee can come up with bright ideas and suggestions, without the involvement of a significant proportion of our membership, none of this would be possible. And this isn’t just those who direct and deal boards, it’s those who take responsibility for the myriad of jobs that need to be done to keep a club of this size running, from washing tea towels to organising the cleaners.
Set out below are some of the ideas that have been introduced recently.
Three years ago we introduced Sunday afternoon Swiss pairs with afternoon tea and from the start these proved popular. Volunteers make cakes and sandwiches and lay on an excellent spread. The atmosphere at these sessions, while competitive, is relaxed with a good mix of experienced and less experienced players.
These sessions have made us wonder whether more Sunday afternoon bridge might prove popular and indeed a recent survey of our members has shown these would be well supported. We are likely to start bridge on Sundays in the autumn.
Our new Monday afternoon session is also starting to be well supported. Two of our members have worked hard to promote these sessions and make people welcome. It may be that as time goes on daytime bridge will become more and more popular.
In order to support more sessions and also to spread the load we have asked for volunteers to become directors and are delighted that ten of our members have signed up to our own directors’ course. Two more are attending an external EBU directors’ course.
We were extremely lucky when two of our top players offered to run improver workshops. We had no idea these would be so well received but the fifth series of six workshops is about to start. Each series is fully booked within a fortnight with reserves on standby hoping someone will drop out. Three helpers are available at each workshop so an extra table can always be made up and no one has to sit out. After a talk on the topic of the day, eight pre dealt boards are played and discussed. Last Christmas the workshop was devoted to famous bridge hands and these together with festive nibbles went down very well. The income from these workshops has certainly been welcome especially as we’ve had some major building work to do, but more important has been the fun and enjoyment had by all who’ve come along.
Our Monday evenings are aimed at beginners with helpers on hand to answer questions and give encouragement. To enable us to run some beginners’ workshops and courses we asked if any of our members would like to learn about teaching bridge. Knowing the EBU will run a course locally if there are enough attendees we made enquiries and found that a number of people from across the county were also interested. We are now looking forward to the course which is being held at our club soon, five of our members will be attending. One of our members is teaching bridge at a local 6th-form college.
Our club has been in existence since the late 40s and is coming up to its 70th anniversary. We feel this achievement is worthy of celebration so we are holding 2 special events side by side. A Blue Point Stratified Swiss Pairs and a Welcome Pairs for District Master and below, members and non-members welcome. There’ll be prizes at all levels including, if we get enough eligible players, a special prize for the leading pair under 25.
But as well as the ideas and changes above plus advertising in the local free press and having a press officer who writes articles for us for the local papers, there are some important yet simple basics. The make up of our hard working committee is representative of the club being made up of a good mix of long serving and new members. We want to make our members feel good about being part of the club, and also that they get a lot out of being members so, a short bridge holiday away is now in the early planning stages or possibly an exchange with a foreign club. We make announcements when members do well in outside competitions and will put a piece on the website together, hopefully, with a photo. I watch the results and when people do well I congratulate them.
I try to introduce myself to new members and welcome them and thank them for joining Horsham BC. I explain what’s going on at the club, let them know they can contact me with any queries and put them in touch with our membership secretary who, if needed, will find partners for them. Members of the club will introduce themselves and try to make new joiners feel at home. A new member paid us a great compliment recently saying, “I’ve tried 3 bridge clubs but I decided to join Horsham because it’s friendly”.