At Plashet Park Bowling Club
Photographer Colin O’Brien and I went over to visit the Plashet Park Bowling Club in hopes of witnessing some exciting action on the green and reporting back to you. But, with temperatures rising in excess of thirty degrees, we found the members had wisely decided not to venture beyond the Club House and were spending the afternoon sitting in the shade drinking tea and eating cake instead. We could not fault the wisdom of such a decision, especially as it gave Colin the opportunity to take their portraits and, enlivened by the novelty of photography, a spontaneous tea party ensued that filled the afternoon very pleasantly.
The Club has been in the headlines recently on account of a recent surge in membership from Asian people, reviving a flagging institution, but when we arrived none were to be seen. “They’re at the mosque today,” explained the Club Secretary, Joan Ayre, proudly – as we stepped into the kitchen for a cool glass of lemonade,“They’re really good players and they’ve made us a stronger and better Club.”
“We do have a history of acheivements,” interposed Cliff Dye, the youthful President & Chairman, standing up for the Club’s legacy, “In 1911, a group of men got together and founded this Club in Plashet Park as an offshoot of the Bowling Club at the Green Man, a pub which has gone now.”
“You know how all the pubs round here have car parks?” added Joan, unable to conceal her disappointment, “Well, those all used to be the Bowling Greens.”
“In 1999, there were fifteen Bowling Clubs in Newham,” revealed Cliff, quoting figures, “and now there are only six – lack of membership was the problem.”
“We are the originals,” continued Joan, clutching at the arm of her husband Nobby for moral support.
“We both joined twenty-six years ago when we retired,” Nobby admitted to me, “I am the second oldest member at eighty-five.”
“The Asians were rolling up every day to practice in the first year so, in the second year, we invited them to join our competitions,” Cliff informed me, eagerly picking up the narrative of the club’s recent ascendancy, “And they won them all because of the practising – they’re very good bowlers.” This last comment drew nods of agreement and approval all round.
“I am confident of the future of this Club,” Joan assured me as I studied the score boards, trophies and old photographs that adorned the Club House, “because we are going to become the first all-Asian Bowls Club in years to come.”
And I was touched by the many emotions present in Joan’s statement, of her relief that her precious Club would not die like so many others, of her delight in sharing it with new members, of her excitement at the renewed competitive future of the Club and her pleasure that her beloved sport had delivered the arena for a such an unexpected meeting of cultures united by their enjoyment of bowls.
By now, I spotted two Asian gentlemen who had sought the cool shade of a laurel hedge to relax and so I went over to discover their side of the story.“I only started playing bowls when I joined the club in 2010, though I was always keen on sports from volleyball, basketball, cricket and athletics when I was young.” confided Bashir Patel, known affectionately as “Bash,”It’s a very friendly club with very nice people and all suspicions on both sides have been dispelled.”
A heat haze hung over the green and it was necessary to retreat back into the Club House where we persuaded the members to gather for a group photo, before our taking our leave and promising to return later in the summer when all the members would be present to show us how a game of bowls should be played – and Colin can take portraits of all those we missed this time.
In the meantime, the Plashet Park Bowling Club seeks new members of all ages. Email Joan Ayre to learn more firstname.lastname@example.org
Plashet Park Bowling Club
Joan Ayre, Club Secretary and Member for twenty-six years - “I don’t go in for competitions anymore because I’ve won them all.”
Ted King - “I started playing bowls when I was sixty-one and I was eighty-seven on Sunday. I love bowls because it’s out in the open and this is a real friendly Club, that’s what I like about it. When the Asian chaps wanted to join, we was a bit amazed at first but we’ve accepted them and they’ve become really good members.”
Peter Chilkes -”I’ve been playing bowls for forty years, ever since I got injured playing football. And, in 1974, I was rhythm guitarist in Mike Berry & The Outlaws and our hit “Jumping Jeremiah” went to forty in the chart.”
Barry Menzies - “Eight years, I’ve been a member of the Club. I learnt to play at the bus depot ten years ago when I was working on the busses.”
Margaret Springford , member since 1985 - “I love the social life and the camaraderie!”
Nobby Ayre – “I am the second oldest member at eighty-five”
Dot Mardle - “I only started bowling when my husband died. I’ve been a member for eighteen years and it’s been good because it opens up your life. You don’t do anything with your life if you don’t play bowls.”
George Gale - “I’m eighty-two and I’ve been playing bowls for eighteen years, I love it. I need my exercise because I’ve had a lot of accidents.”
Les Langford - “I’m retired and it gets me out of the house.”
Bashir Patel (known as “Bash”) – I only started playing bowls when I joined the club in 2010, though I was always keen on sports from volleyball, basketball, cricket and athletics when I was young.”
Cliff Dye, President & Captain
Members of Plashet Park Bowling Club – (Click photo to enlarge)
Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien