Twyford Bowling Club chair reflects on 'difficult' lockdown and hopes of upcoming open day

The chairwoman of Twyford Bowling Club has spoken of a ‘difficult’ lockdown and hopes of boosting membership and diversity at its upcoming open day.

The club, which was first formed in 1935 and has been in Wargrave Road since 1936, was forced to close its doors in March 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic.

While the club, which runs its seasons from the end of April until mid-September each year, re-opened in the summer of last year following the easing of lockdown restrictions for players to play and take part in ‘little competitions’, it is yet to restart league matches and will do so at the end of June.

Discussing the impact of the pandemic on the club, chairwoman Ann Harris, who first joined in 2009 explained: “It's been difficult and obviously, we lost a lot of money, because with the building and the green needs maintenance, we still had to pay out.

“We struggled to get any funding at all. We applied for loads and loads of stuff, and were turned down for whatever reason.”

She added that the club, which is normally financially subsidised by its bar, which has now reopened from closure following the Government restrictions, has received a grant this year from Wokingham Borough Council which has ‘helped pay the bills’.

Ann explained that the grant was important to the club as, otherwise, they could have seen themselves ‘struggling to pay the bills’ in the future.

Touching on the impact on members, Ann explained that due to the pandemic, the club was unable to host social activities every month through the winter, some of which include: bingo nights, quiz nights, horse races and 'silly games nights'.

She added: “We've got quite a few older members. I used to phone them once a week or once a fortnight, to see how they were doing to make sure they were all okay and, we've kept in touch by email and phone.

“But I think quite a lot of people were glad when they could actually come down, and not play in a match but come down and either practice on their own, or with a friend or two or three of them together.”

Nevertheless, with the easing of the lockdown restrictions, a glimmer of hope has been offered as the club is set to host an open day this Sunday, to coincide with Bowls England’s ‘Big Bowls Weekend’.

Bowls England is running a campaign to attract more young people, families and those with disabilities to the sport.

The club has a total of 52 members, comprising of 38 ‘fully playing’ members and 14 social members

Ann explained that members in their majority are aged 65 and over and that only a small number fit the profile of the demographic groups Bowls England are currently targeting.

She added: “We are trying to change some of the format so that it will hopefully fit in with everybody rather than just a few.

“Times change, you've got to change or you will die.

“I think quite a lot of people are suddenly realising that that is the case.”

The event, which will take place at Twyford Bowling Club from 1pm to 5pm will see visitors be given a tour of the club, before having the chance to try out some bowling for themselves.

Following the session, visitors can sign up to become a member if they want to, or they can sign up to attend a coaching session at the club.

COVID-19 restrictions will be in force on the day and the club has a booking system, with a maximum of 30 visitors allowed on the green at once.

Discussing her hopes for the event, Ann said: “We hope we get quite a few visitors. I think because people are having to book I think those that do come will be interested in actually playing.”

Ann explained that bowls is also good for socialising, mental health and health and wellbeing in general.

She added: “You’re out there in the fresh air, you’re mixing with people, you’re talking to people, you’re chatting to people, you’re getting some exercise.”

Touching on its future plans, Ann said the club’s main aims include: building up the confidence of its members; restarting league matches at the end of June; encouraging new members to join and helping them progress; building up the social activities calendar after their cancellation last year due to the pandemic; and visiting secondary schools to encourage youngsters to get involved in the sport.

The club will also be holding another open day, independent of Bowls England on Sunday, June 27.

Bookings for Sunday's event can still be made by emailing: honsec@twyfordbowlingclub.org.uk or calling 07952370096.

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