This week Katy and Angie visited Addlestone Victory Park Bowls Club to find out a little more about the club and their upcoming Open Day. Thanks to Coalition member Richard, who first told us about the open day during one of the virtual cafés.
There has been a huge change at the club moving from the dare we say it, somewhat stuffy and exclusive nature of bowls to a desire to be truly inclusive, accessible and a real asset to the local community. The story is a remarkable one – you can read the full version on their website – Barrie de suys Story Addlestone | Addlestone Bowls, – but here is the brief:
Barrie de Suys has become a bit of a local legend and Addlestone’s very own Captain Tom. During lockdown, aged 86, he decided for everyone’s mental and physical health to draw the local community into the park by walking around the park perimeter to raise money for the RNIB. By October he had walked 2400 laps equivalent to just under 1450 miles and raising over £10,000 for the RNIB. He became well known amongst the local community who would join him or bring water and snacks.
Barrie was still an honorary member of the bowls club; he had served as club Captain back in 2002 when the club had 100 members and he was extremely upset to see the clubs demise. Over the years membership had dwindled to just 4 at the beginning of 2021 and the council were about to stop the club subsidy which would effectively close the club down. The feeling was that the club was not doing anything to attract new members, indeed people were being turned away for not wearing the right clothes. Although Barrie hadn’t played since 2016 due to arthritis, he wanted to do something to help save his club. The boards around the green needed replacing and the council agreed to pay for new boards as Barrie had agreed to creosote them. This he did, twice, working all day for 2 months.
The club sunk its remaining funds into an Open Day in May 2021 and by the end of the day 25 members had signed up. More importantly the club was becoming more outward looking and welcoming with Barrie embodying the new values of accessibility, inclusivity and self-sustainability. He was often at the club giving something back to the community; gardening, umpiring and coaching a new group for adults with learning disabilities that he had helped set up. People came into the club to bring him food and drink still and joined up because of his local reputation. By the end of 2021 the club had 41 members and a community café being run out of the clubhouse. Angie and I can vouch for the quality of their cakes!
Indeed, we had a pleasant meeting in the sunshine with tea and cake and a chat with club secretary Albert Tapper about the plans for the future of the club. Albert spoke enthusiastically about improving accessibility to the clubhouse and was keen to seek our advice. The Art’s and Craft style clubhouse currently does not have step-free access. However, funding applications have been made to add this and accessible changing (including a Changing Places toilet) as well as additional adaptive equipment. In the meantime, food and drinks can be served by the green on the level path and there is a Radar key accessible toilet within 50 yards of the clubhouse.
The upcoming Open Day is an ideal time to pop along and see what it’s all about. The event will be hosted by Gill Platt – Surrey parabowler and member of the Commonwealth Games team for 2022. There are 200 free cream teas available from local supporter the Gingerbread Bakery. They will have two “Bowls Royce” chairs available for use on the green for wheelchair users who are able to transfer. They will also have boccia style ramps available from 2.30pm for playing from outside the green for those who cannot transfer. Why not give it a try – you might be a champion bowler, you will certainly have a fun social afternoon!