In 2017 four bridge clubs in South Notts – East Bridgford, Keyworth, Phoenix (Ruddington) and West Bridgford set up a joint project to run market and advertise bridge courses, and to establish supervised bridge sessions so that novices would be able to play bridge in a safe environment before migrating to full club sessions. They were supported by a £250 grant from their EBU county association.
Here are some insights from the campaign.
The clubs fully appreciated the need to have supervised and gentle bridge sessions for newcomers to play. West Bridgford now runs improver sessions every Wednesday. Keyworth runs supervised sessions as needed, with more planned for the summer after the next set of teaching courses concludes. Phoenix runs a Friday improvers class. And East Bridgford supports improver classes run at Nottingham Bridge Club. What this means is that all the clubs involved can offer a complete path from learning to playing in full sessions.
The clubs picked on the Fast Track Bridge course as the best teaching book for them. This course teaches the basics of the game in 12 two-hour sessions, hence “Learn and play in 24 hours”. In reality only the most exceptional learners will emerge from the course ready to take on anyone! That said, because it is an accelerated course, it is perfect for someone who already has a bit of bridge knowledge as well as complete novices. Many of these returners were able to join full club sessions immediately after doing the course.
The price of the course run by the project is £85 or £148 for two people booking together. Charging for the complete course as one thing has the advantage that it represents more commitment from the student and makes them more likely to continue. The fee has also given the project a small surplus to spend on equipment and marketing.
A dedicated web site has given the project a simple single point of information for enquirers. Because the web site is entirely focused on learning bridge in South Notts, it is much easier for people to navigate than trying to present the same information in the context of a club web site full of results and other news and information.
The marketing for the campaign focused on the local community, with posters in supermarkets, libraries, golf clubs, and anywhere that people would see, along with news and ads in local free newspapers and magazines.
The membership campaign has highlighted the demand for daytime bridge. Keyworth for example now runs two daytime sessions a week, including a new Wednesday afternoon session that is hosted so people can turn up without a partner. The membership growth has been largely in these sessions which unfortunately means that some evening sessions continue to be poorly attended. Flourishing daytime bridge is still an advantage though, and apart from anything else helps to keep the club finances healthy.
The clubs are now focused on meeting the demand for bridge teaching and are sending more of their members on courses where they can learn to be bridge teachers. Note that the EBU will pay for club teacher training within certain limits – more details here.