History of the Alpha Bridge Club
The Club started on 1986/1987. The founding members were Paul Kempton and John Ratcliff. Paul was a bridge teacher and at that time taught many of the current older members. It was called the Friendly Bridge Club and mostly rubber and Chicago bridge were played on Monday evenings. Starting venue was the Toy Library, Alpha Road, Southtown but due to circumstances the Club did meet at other hotels in the neighbourhood. A decision to start a Wednesday group playing duplicate bridge came shortly after, and both sessions moved back to the Toy Library in 1994. This was instigated by Muff Knight who was a member of the Club but also Chairwoman of the Toy Library. The Wednesday evenings playing duplicate became quite popular to the detriment of the Monday evenings which continued to play rubber and Chicago. There were various Chairmen of the Club but John Ratcliff remained as both Bridge Director and Secretary. Carl Jacob ran the Monday sessions.
In 1996 the Club was placed on a more structured footing with Roy Walding as Chairman, Pat Arpino as Secretary and Judith Barr (now Edmonds) as Treasurer. John Ratcliff remained Bridge Director. Kath Warrilow took over as Treasurer in 1997. Pat Arpino started teaching many of the current members on a Friday afternoon at her own home and, after the lessons had finished, continued with a 2-table group playing Chicago. In 1998 the membership had increased to about 50. In 1999 Geoff Micklethwaite took over as Chairman; Pat Arpino remained as Secretary; and John Davies was Treasurer. At the start of 2000 the Club started to use bidding boxes and Gordon Bailey joined the Club. As an associate member of the EBU's Teachers' Association he offered to start teaching under the auspices of the Club. Pat Arpino no longer wished to continue teaching so this offer was accepted by the Committee. As the number taking lessons on Friday had grown it was impossible for Pat Arpino to accommodate all those wishing to play on Friday so these sessions also moved to the Toy Library.
In 2001 Kim Plane took over as Treasurer and the Club started giving trophies for competitions to be held on the 3rd Wednesday in every month. These were the KimCo Championship Pairs Trophy donated by Kim Plane; the Keith Gilbert Handicap Pairs Trophy donated by Dorothy Gilbert in memory of her husband Keith Gilbert - a keen member of the Club; and the Muff Knight Individual Trophy donated by Geoff Micklethwaite in memory of Muff Knight who had contributed so much to the Club and the Toy Library.
In 2002 a new constitution was voted in and the Club officially assumed the name of the Alpha Bridge Club mainly due to its location in the Alpha Centre, Alpha Road, Southtown. Geoff Micklethwaite remained Chairman; Pat Arpino, Secretary; Kim Plane, Treasurer; and Gordon Bailey, Bridge Director.
The Toy Library found it very difficult to accommodate the Friday sessions so the session moved to the Bradwell Community Centre. The room there could only take a maximum of 6 tables and there was the problem of two sets of equipment and stationery. In 2004 the Monday sessions were cancelled due to poor attendance. In the meantime the Toy Library had ceased to exist as a separate entity and had been taken over by Contact. Now the life of the Alpha Bridge Club at the Alpha Centre was limited. Nevertheless, a very acceptable venue was found in the Social Room of the Gorleston Reformed Church which could accommodate both the Wednesday and Friday sessions and the Club would have remained there but Social Services removed the Church's funding so it had to close.
In the meantime Gordon Baileys' lessons had produced many new members and, in 2006, this resulted in the start of the Tuesday sessions which aimed at novices and improvers. Due to low attendance the Tuesday session has now been abandoned.
The Club moved to the social rooms at the Methodist Church in Gorleston but this proved unsatisfactory mainly due to the temperature in the winter and the badly lit and cramped accommodation for the Wednesday evening sessions. It was very difficult to find an alternative venue, particularly one which could take all three groups. After a considerable number of enquiries and trials, the Committee decided to accept the offer to move to the Conservative Club. The Club moved there at the beginning of 2008 and has been there ever since.