'It’s a dying game': Bowls clubs across Sussex to host open days

Bowls clubs in both East and West Sussex are set to host open days as part of an initiative to get more people involved in the sport.

The Bowls’ Big Weekend is taking place across the country between May 27-29.

Almost 800 bowls clubs have signed up for the event – including more than 30 in Sussex.

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An event spokesperson said, “Up and down the country bowls clubs will be opening their doors to people who want to try a new sport, have some fun and meet new people.”

Members of Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club

Bowls England has also been supporting the initiative.

A Bowls England spokesperson said, “Our research shows that over 20 per cent of bowlers begin playing off the back of club open days.”

Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club is opening its doors on May 28.

Men’s captain Roger Cavie said, “A lot of people think it's an old people’s game but it’s not.

Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club

“I joined 10 years ago when I was 60 and it was the best thing I ever did.

“All these people have just come back from the Isle of Wight. There were over 40 of us who went and they loved it. Everyone gets on with everybody. All the clubs are the same.”

The captain also spoke about how accessible the sport is.

He said, “The eldest one [member] we have is 92. He bowls every day.

Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club's Men's captain Roger Cavie

"There are people who are disabled. We can look after them as well.”

The chairman of Tarring Priory Bowls Club, which is hosting an open day on May 27, 28 and 29, agreed with Mr Cavie.

Keith Brinsmead said, “It’s a sport that everybody can play regardless of physical attributes.”

The Worthing-based bowls club took part in the initiative last year and Mr Brinsmead said they want to make it ‘bigger and better’.

Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club

Mr Cavie also spoke how important it is to gain new members through the Bowls’ Big Weekend.

He said, “We can’t survive if we don't have the members. Anything below 50 members and we would struggle to survive.”

Mr Cavie said bowls ‘needs to be restored’.

He added, “It’s a dying game. Most of the people are 60 and above and each year we lose members.

“It is putting off people but people don’t realise how easy it is.”

The captain said new members at the seafront club can join for a reduced price of £60 for their first year.

Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club members

Mr Cavie explained that the club plays both friendly and competitive matches but also sets up fun games.

He said, “Throughout the season when it is Airbourne we put on a bit of a comedy act. We put stuff on the green and you have to bowl round them and we had 40 people doing that and the place was full up.

“We do candlelit bowling towards the end of the year. We put candles all up and down the green and when it gets dark we all come out and bowl."

Mr Cavie touched upon the costs some clubs face.

He said maintenance of the club’s two greens costs £18,000 a year.

Mr Cavie said, "Without the intake of new members the club will close down, which is what it has done over the years.”

Residents can find their closest participating club on the Bowls’ Big Weekend website.

Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club
Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club
Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club
Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club
Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club
Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club
Eastbourne Parade Bowls Club