It is often a familiar story about bowls clubs that have struggled during COVID; falling membership, limited finance and questions about future viability. New Herrington Bowls Club were no different, and member Barry Thomas, along with a few others, have proved that with some determination and willingness to commit time and effort, you can create a real change of direction for your club.
Barry joined New Herrington during lockdown as his local club had enforced more stringent COVID restrictions, whilst New Herrington made itself available for play, in accordance with the Bowls England guidelines.
On his arrival, it was clear that the limited membership of 12 members made the future of the club unsustainable. A new committee was formed and Barry was appointed secretary. Undeterred by these difficult circumstances the committee embarked upon a campaign to revitalise the club using local press, regular newsletters, advertising, social media and hard work.
Taking the club on and becoming secretary, Barry sought to engage the local press with a message about how bowls, and New Herrington, can offer a wealth of social opportunities to the whole community, and how sport and in particular Bowls can become a focal point with its values of friendship, sportsmanship and comradery. In just 12 months, Barry, along with Treasurer Howard Smith, club captain Colin Watson and fellow committee members Ronald Watson & Gary Hassan was able to increase membership from 12 to 39 members. 18 of the newly recruited members had never picked up a bowl before joining.
Alongside his tireless work creating flyers to advertise the club locally, producing newsletters and reaching out to local media, just as important was the emphasis on using social media. Social media is an excellent method of communicating with the world outside of the bowls community, used as a gateway to the game. Barry said, “Communication with members is vital, so we make good use of WhatsApp”
All of these efforts meant that a club that was on the verge of closure has become a club very much looking towards the future. Last season they participated in four local leagues and were runners-up in the Earl Cup, a brilliant achievement for such a young and inexperienced membership. Additional innovations have been supported, with open days and fun events seeking to increase the diversity of the membership at the Club.
Barry, said that he hoped the club would offer these fun days “not just annually, but rather once a month, as they have proven to be a great success for the club.”
Next year will see New Herrington again being involved in Bowls Big Weekend between Friday 27th to Monday 30th May, the perfect opportunity to showcase bowls to a new audience.
New Herrington was a club that did not have any female members, so it is a source of real pride that they can point towards the recruitment of four new lady members. Norma Ord is one such lady and she is unwilling to accept this modest number and is actively seeking to add to their ladies’ members in the next twelve months.
Barry said that he and the committee “want the club to develop a ladies’ side in the near future, to feature in various competitions” and were totally behind Norma.
New Herrington is without question a club that many others can look towards as an example of what can be achieved with limited resources, some ingenuity and a lot of hard work.
Bowls Big Weekend is the annual open day, where the doors of clubs up and down the country open to the public to show how great our sport is. The event will be held between Friday 27th May and Monday 30th May 2022, and more details including how to sign up your club, will be released in due course.