Abbeyview BC Club Story - with Sporting Memories

Try Bowls Club, Abbeyview BC in Dunfermline are truly a venue at the heart of their community. Despite a number of members not returning to the club post-pandemic, a successful Try Bowls open day this season helped the club experience membership growth overall. We spoke to the club to hear about their 2022 season as well as find out more about the weekly sessions the club hosts for Sporting Memories Foundation, re-connecting older people with sport.

Sporting Memories Foundation (SMF) uses the power of remembering and talking about sport – along with physical exercise – to tackle dementia, depression, and loneliness in older people. We wanted to find out more about the weekly sessions that have been hosted at Abbeyview BC since 15th February 2022, so Bowls Scotland spoke to Gary Waddell, Group Delivery and Practice Coordinator for SMF to find out more. SMF hold regular sessions across the UK, with Abbeyview claiming the honour of being the first bowling club in Scotland to host a group. Gary told us more about the Foundation and described a typical session at Abbeyview BC to us…

“Starting with just one member in the first week, the participation grew week to week until it reached a comfortable level of around 11 regular members who attend, around 50% of these have a diagnosis of dementia. The main purpose is to bring together sports fans; players, participants, spectators… anyone who loves sport! Our sub objective is to connect those fans who have perhaps become isolated or lonely for whatever reason. Our members tend to be older and often retired. Members are there primarily as lovers of sport but also have perhaps become isolated at home, have restricted mobility, depression or dementia. All our members enjoy the company and love a blether.

“We usually kick off each session with a chat about current sport headlines, which leads us on to reflections of past sporting events and experiences. We have an exercise session which, including warm up and cool down, takes around 20 minutes and then we finish up with a quiz and more discussions, coffee and cake. We had a guest speaker, Roy Barry, who was brilliantly received by the members, most of who are Dunfermline FC supporters and loved hearing stories from the ’68 Scottish Cup win.

“Abbeyview BC have been so enthusiastic and so accommodating of our group. The coaches at the club even took some of the members onto the indoor rink to Try Bowls which was a fantastic experience. A personal highlight of the Dunfermline meetings to date for me was when a member told me they “love coming because you guys are like my new family!” comments like that really makes everything worthwhile.”

Feedback from some of the members from Gary’s SMF group also reflected on the warm and friendly welcome they receive at Abbeyview BC “our club has been integrated into bowling club life…the warmth and acceptance of the (bowling) club makes it easy to feel comfortable in the venue and relaxed when our group meets.” Others commented on the high quality of coaching they’d received when they tried bowls, mentioning having a go at our wonderful sport as one of their highlights of the sessions. Of course, “great cups of tea” were also mentioned! 

Also host to Dunfermline Strathspey and Reel Society practice on Thursday evenings, and the local bowling associations committee meetings, Abbeyview is the perfect example that a bowling club can be more than just bowls, these strong community links with small businesses and charities are brilliant to see. As a sport accessible to all ages and abilities, what better venue to host a dementia friendly group that advocates for reducing isolation and promoting physical and mental wellbeing? We spoke to Stuart Roxburgh, Secretary at Abbeyview BC to find out about the other successes and some challenges the club has had throughout the 2022 season…

“Despite a drop in membership at the start of the year, we had our come and try day and following that we continued sessions for newcomers on a Tuesday evening (which we’ll keep doing through the indoor season.) New members can come and play, with tips and advice from more experienced bowlers. The day itself was really successful, we attracted 15 new ladies and 11 new men, so we’re up in membership since the Covid period.”

Along with its boosted membership, the club also had great success in their local competitions over the season and an increased uptake in social bowling nights at the club as Stuart explained…

“The highlights well obviously, our membership grew which is important for any club. Of course, the success of Sarah (Jane Ewing) at the Commonwealth Games – she came up the club with her gold medal which was great. We’re very proud of what Sarah’s achieved at Abbeyview BC throughout the years, she’s been here since she was a wee girl, we were all delighted for her. Also, for the club coming back from Covid we had some good competitive achievements across the board. Winning the West Fife Top 10 and gent’s pairs, Sarah retained the West Fife ladies’ singles, Thea Liddell won the ladies under 18s and the senior W Babs league, so success right across the age groups for the club.

“With indoor and outdoor it’s a big ship to keep sailing and the club is still quite a way from normality since covid and now with rising costs. As a committee we do our best to support the members and club, but we’ve definitely been pleased to increase our membership this year through try bowls and we hope to continue this through the indoor season where so far our Monday Ladies social nights have been really popular. A lot of people don’t want to play against the best players all the time so the uptake on our social sessions has been fantastic and we’re holding those sessions year-round now, the atmosphere is great. It’s been popular with some of the older members who might prefer to just have a quick throw and a tea and a blether, I think this more relaxed atmosphere is what’s attracted some of our new members this season.”

“It’s great to have the Sporting Memories group use the club, it was our Club President, George Sanger, (who as Club Coach and an Umpire is a huge asset to our club) who took the group for their bowling session, the SMF group seemed to really enjoy that. We’re just delighted to have them at the club, it’s great to see the facilities getting used regularly.”

Abbeyview are due to host the British Isles Championships Indoor for the first-time next March which we hope will allow them to drum up more community interest in bowls before they return outdoors for the 2023 season. With junior and social sessions continuing through the winter, we wish the club all the best on its Try Bowls journey. Huge thanks to Stuart for his time sharing news from the club and to Gary for telling us more about the Sporting Memories Foundation sessions.

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