Bowls clubs across the UK are closing and the greens are being redeveloped into all sorts of other things – lost forever to the sport of bowls.
The UK boasts over 2,700 bowls clubs, but with the average age of members at 70 there are likely to be many more closures in the future.
Sadly bowls has acquired a stuffy, conservative image of formal traditions and only suitable for old people.
Recreating bowls as a sport that appeals to younger people is a tough challenge but it has been done in other parts of the world with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all boasting strong club memberships and a much lower average age. Bowls in these countries is still a seriously competitive sport, as can be seen by their success in world competitions The key seems to be to remove the more formal aspects of the game, doing away with flannels and blazers in favour of shorts and polo shirts. Encouraging a more social atmosphere on the green.
One innovation is Festibowl. Situated at Finsbury Park Square, Festibowl offers delicious street food, a wide range of drinks, open air music, entertainment, oh, and bowls! Bowls is quintessentially British and Festibowl is faithful to the essence of bowls – you’ll still find wood, ends, rinks and jacks – but has injected a more 21st century feel by creating a game that is faster, more intense and a lot more fun.
Another innovation originating in Australia is Barefoot Bowls which also encourages a more relaxed, yet equally competitive, atmosphere that includes food, drink music and socialising.
Indoor bowls as a winter activity is also starting to attract younger players, and it’s a great way to get some exercise, socialise and learn a new skill when the nights are long and gloomy.
There are some bowls clubs that are diversifying and offering their facilities to non-bowls events such as private parties, birthdays, anniversaries etc, and community activities such as yoga sessions and keep fit classes.
Bowls needs to reinvent itself to survive and we really hope these innovations take off and bowls clubs start attracting younger members. It is vital to preserve some of these historic clubs across the UK, and also remain competitive at an international level.
Talk to Bowlaway about organising a fun bowls tour to Bournemouth – even if you’re young and inexperienced!