In the third of our series, the Bowls England team visited Goodwood BC in Leicester. Having won the EBA’s Club of the Year in 2005, we spent a morning with their members discussing what makes their club special and the importance of the grassroots to the sport.
Goodwood BC is located on the east side of Leicester, formed in 1951 by local people. The club retains this essence of the local community, reflected by the members who kindly hosted us.
Over its 70-year history, the club has developed a reputation for the quality of its greens and the engagement of its members.
The club is home to the former Bowls England CEO, Tony Allcock CBE, and holds a long association with Bowls England. The club has played host to numerous events over the years; EGMs, AGMs and, on the green, the regional Middleton Cup Quarter Finals to name a few.
We were warmly greeted, as with all clubs we’ve visited, and took the opportunity to meet & talk with several club members and officials. The discussion was centred around their effort to provide a natural hub for the local community.
Barrie Thompson, the Men’s President, has been playing at Goodwood since he was 17. He described how he “used to watch my parents playing over the fence” as his inspiration to start the game. Anne Spray, Ladies Secretary, started playing in 2002 alongside her husband. She describes Goodwood as “a perfect club, both socially and for playing.”
Speak to any of the members, and they all use similar adjectives to describe their club; selflessness, commitment, and camaraderie. These are words that could be used for many clubs up and down the country.
Marion Heywood, in many ways, is one of Goodwood’s unsung heroes. As Ladies President, Marion devotes herself to arranging an extensive and diverse social calendar. A glance at the club’s well-designed and informative website describes a list of events that stretches deep into 2022, ranging from an annual craft fair to the “Ukulele Orchestra,” both firm members’ favourites.
“I am amazed that on New Year’s Day this year, people are asking me to book tables for the craft fair that takes place in November!” Marion told us.
John Rowley, Past President, highlights how “some members have never picked up a wood” at the club. This is a great way for a club to diversify its revenue streams – social events, such as those organised by Marion, bring non-bowlers to a club – and more money.
John added “there are no seating arrangements, which gently encourages people to chat and get to know each other.” This sociability is at the heart of our sport.
Carpet Bowls has been a great innovation for Goodwood, John goes on to tell us. Initially set up as a social event, it has evolved into a really “competitive game. Without the selfless acts of our members, we would never be able to arrange any of this.”
This is not to say Goodwood lacks a competitive edge; Peter Heywood, who is Gala Secretary, describes how it might be a very friendly and sociable club off the green, but once you step on to the rink, this club means business. “When you go into the bar, you interact, you get to know people; that’s where you make lifelong friends.”
It is a perfect description of how members at the club play competitively, but when the game is over, they enjoy an opponent’s company over a drink or two!
Deepak Tanna, Junior Vice President of Bowls England and a club member of Goodwood for 15 years, paid tribute to volunteers at his own club, but also across the country.
“The volunteers are the core of any club, and they should be honoured. The clubs would find it difficult to survive without them; they are the unsung heroes!”
The new Bowls England Awards Night, set for its first edition on Saturday 19th February, has seen a host of new awards added to ensure recognition for more of the unsung heroes than before. An open nomination process also meant that volunteers doing vital work to keep clubs going can be put forward for a gong, regardless of profile or size of their club. A number of these prizes have public votes, too – including the Unsung Hero of the Year – and these are open now.
Goodwood secured the EBA’s Club of the Year in 2005 and the Club were delighted.
Tony Taylor, who is Green Ranger at the club, described how “it was a great accolade for the club to win” and recognised the combined efforts of all the members.
As it enters its 70th year, Goodwood is well set for the future. The dedicated members are excited about what comes next, as they build upon their club’s qualities to continue to serve both members and the community.
With the warmth and dedication of the members we met, perhaps Goodwood will be a contender for either the Club of the Year Award or Unsung Hero for the 2023 Awards Night!
The Bowls England Awards Night will celebrate the great stories from right across our sport, from the grassroots to international level. Join us on Saturday 19th February to celebrate the great work that’s gone on in bowls in 2021! You can purchase your tickets for the event at The Athena, Leicester, here
Read and watch our previous Club Life episodes below.
We hope you are enjoying our new series Club Life. If you feel your club has a great story we should feature, let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org