Thursday 15th September
REPORT TO MEMBERS
This report highlights the events of the club during the past 12 months. It has been compiled from contributions from members of the committee and is intended to stimulate debate at the AGM. It does not cover financial issues which are the subject of a separate report which has been prepared by the Treasurer, Sean Cufley.
This AGM is the first for our new club which formally came into being on 1 September 2021 as a members’ club. In the preceding 6 months, there had been a great deal of furious paddling under water to deal with the general emergence of bridge from the shadow of COVID and lockdown, and in particular, the withdrawal of Lord Newton from the ownership and management of the club.
I therefore drew together a band of volunteers, some of whom had been on the committee of the old club but also including newcomers, to form a committee to lead the club into the future. We prepared a constitution, opened a bank account, took on a lease at Third Avenue for 7 months and got stuck in.
This AGM should have been held within a reasonable time of the end of our financial year at 31 March, but at that time we were still settling in to our new premises so decided to defer. Next year we will get into the correct cycle.
As a response to COVID, we decided to make our day-to-day operations as cashless as possible. So subscriptions, table monies and bar sales went on-line or via Zettle. We were one of the first clubs to do this but received a lot of support from Cheltenham BC who had done it before us. We now offer our expertise to others. Huge thanks to Peter Buttery for setting this all up and being Enforcer-in-Chief in keeping it on the rails.
We decided that all players, regardless of which session they played in, would be required to join the club. This had not been the case hitherto. Regularising the “old” membership was a major task but is complete and we now have a streamlined process for all new members with online registration as well as paper-based. Thank you to Denise Boxall who took on the additional role of Membership Secretary and pulls all the strings very effectively.
Since we had no money at all, we asked members to pay a one-off sum of £40 to cover the period up to the end of March 2022.
We decided that, as far as possible, all services required to run the club would be provided by members on a voluntary rather than a paid basis. Thank you to everybody who volunteered – bar staff, cake makers, session hosts, etc
Our current number of members is 180. This is really encouraging, as pre-pandemic the number was around 160. We had thought that some members would not renew their membership, and indeed this was the case, with some members joining other clubs or deciding not to return, but they have been replaced by new members joining us. At the beginning, this was down to players at Duplicake which is so popular, but now also includes people who have recently moved to this area or are keen to wake up their old skills. We have a reputation as a friendly cooperative club and gain new members every month.
Some older members have remained nervous about Covid, and prefer to play on-line. Some members just play Rubber Bridge. However, there is a nucleus of between 50 and 60 members who play Face-to- Face bridge on Mondays and Thursdays, with a similar number playing at Duplicake.
We have not, so far, actively sought new members through advertising. Lessons have started again this term, and hopefully the students will become full members to swell our ranks as they gain more knowledge and confidence, and move through the system.
Sadly, three members have died this year- Bernard Daniels, who had just reached his 100th birthday, John Sear and Peter Goldsmith. The latter two had been members for many years and they will be greatly missed.
The Annual Membership Fee was set at £40 for the current year up to end March 2023.
We took a 7-month lease on Third Avenue which ended on 31 March 2022. The building had been empty for over 18 months and was in a poor state. Prior to re-opening we undertook a major programme of cleaning, replacement and repairs which meant the building was in a much better state when we left it than it had been for years! Much of this work was done by Richard Cleminson and helpers.
In October 2021 the New Premises Group was formed to conduct a search for a new home. This was led by Richard Cleminson assisted by Andrea Galpin, Nick Goddard and Mick Howes who worked with great energy and heart using all their skills to assess and present options for our new home. They ranged far and wide over Brighton and Hove and beyond, considering 38 different venues. These were narrowed down to a shortlist of 5 which were described on boards at the club premises for members to consider. Site visits, and trial evenings at the two most favoured venues resulted in a near unanimous decision to move to The Sussex. This represented a huge amount of work in a short timescale and we are extremely grateful to the NPG.
Our settling in (albeit a bit bumpy to begin with) has gone surprisingly well. We have worked out a modus operandi with the bar staff, and members have got stuck into setting up and clearing away after sessions, including lugging boxes up and down stairs. And our numbers on Thursday evenings have hit record levels, so we guess members are happy.
Despite the transition, a lot of our members managed to follow suit and more in the past couple of years.
West Sussex Inter-Club League. Played online - and with grateful thanks to Brian Kirkdale and Vincent L'Estrange of West Sussex BC - six teams played in the 2021 WSICL, with the two Avenue teams winning through to the final. Captained by Jonno Cook, the winning Avenue 'B' team took the honours, with other team members being Sam Beaumont, Kevin McGrath & Nick Misoulis, Robert Zimbler & Mike Salida, Ken Leonard & Jack Pryer, Andy Osborn & Joe Winter, Claire Pyant & Michele Heath, Sharon Hanvey & Bridget Fishleigh, Jill Hassan & Liz Cheveley, Claire Newman & Jane Smith.
On the international front Oliver Powell represented England in the European U26 Championships in July, whilst Gunnar Hallberg was doing the same but in the Seniors Championships in June.
Domestically, Peter Clinch & Julian Mitchell were runners-up in the National Pairs Final - for the second time! They, with David Dickson, were also part of the Hermits team that won one iteration of the EBU Lockdown League.
At county level, the team of Ken Ford, Mike Allen, Andy Ryder, David Dickson & Matt Read (with Ian Swanson) won the delayed SCCBA Premier League, with Mike & Andy also winning the Sussex Pairs Final this year.
Alan & Nanette Gillespie and Mike Moody (with John Williams) won this year's Sussex Championship Teams.
At club level we have just re-launched the Non-Swiss Pairs and the Avenue League and it was good to see so many familiar faces again. Who will be the winners?
Pre-lockdown, our teaching programme was in full swing with 5 tutors covering all bases. With the sudden losses of Sarah Mitchell and Dave Collard plus COVID, the remaining classes went on-line with Julian Mitchell, Andy Ryder and Oliver Powell.
Since September last year, 3 members have completed the EBED courses and we have just launched an extensive programme of classes including two new beginners’ classes run by Andy Osborn, Nick Goslett, Nick Goddard and Dudley Edwards. And for the first time we held a Summer School in August. Thank you to Andy Osborn for volunteering to be Teaching Coordinator for the club – we see this as an area for expansion in the future.
Thank-you to all of you who have helped to run the bridge both at Third Avenue and at The Sussex, including all the hosts and volunteers and to all those who help to set up and clear away after sessions. Special thanks must go to Oliver Powell and Dudley Edwards for acting as TD in our face-to-face sessions; to Peter Clinch and Brian Kirkdale for the same online; to Liz Cheveley and Helen Dawson and Marie-Clare Castree for the more important part of DupliCake. And to all of Mike's staff at The Sussex for working so hard and doing everything to make us welcome.
18 months ago, we didn’t know if our club would survive the transition and certainly when we opened our doors after lockdown, we had no way of knowing if members would return and in what numbers. Where we are now as a club has surpassed all our expectations, for which many thanks go to the committee for all their extraordinary work as well as to those club members who rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in, in so many ways. And to the players who came back.
I am clear that the next 12 months will also be challenging so come and join us on the ride.