Innisfree Social Club 40th Celebrations
The Innisfree Social Club, situated on the Longbenton estate in Newcastle, celebrated its 40th anniversary over the weekend of April 24/25th, 2009. The club has always been central to the local community on this post-war estate but like many clubs has been through some difficult times. The club nearly never reached this landmark after coming close to being shut down one year previously.
Treasurer Neal Terry picked up the keys to the office one year ago to take up the position and one of the first pieces of mail he found was a bailiff’s notice- for the next morning! Fortunately he was able to think and act quickly to give the club breathing space and immediately started to tackle the financial problems and debts. For many clubs, the bailiff’s notices mean the end of the line but Neal wanted his involvement in club management to last longer than a day or two, and as a member for 10 years, he wanted to save the club from closure. The club was given time to turn its fortunes around.
There is still a long way to go, but things are improving there and the 40th celebrations were attended by some members who hadn’t visited the club in a while. The signs for the future are more optimistic now than a year ago but Neal is a pragmatist and knows that changes are needed to keep Innisfree, and indeed other clubs up and down the country, open.
Like other clubs, there are rooms that are hardly used and running these costs money so they have to reach out to parts of the community who don’t use the club at present. Plus the local estate, like many others, is changing, with new housing and newcomers who might not be familiar with club life. Ways are needed to bring them on board and to show them the benefits of using a club. Neal and his colleagues, such as ‘Ginger’ Rogers, Club Secretary and Bob Glasgow, Chairman are keen to have existing members use the club more as well. At present there are 500 members on the books. The club is well located right by a Metro station so people from other areas can easily travel there.
Club historian Ruth Cherrington visited the club and attended the special concert on Friday 24th April. Whilst she may not have won on the bingo, a very friendly lady on her table did and bought a drink for everyone in the company. Drinks were on special offer on the night, only £1.50 a pint! Just like the good old days! But of course, we would like clubs to have a continuing presence in our communities and a role to play. As part of that commitment, Ruth gave a presentation on Saturday afternoon. Entitled ‘The lost heart of the community? The rise and decline of workingmen’s clubs’, the presentation focussed on the varied roles that clubs have played for members and their families over the decades and why these are worth retaining.
The discussion that followed was very lively and it was clear that people involved in clubs are extremely concerned about the problems they now face and are committed to doing something about these. It was felt that some form of concerted action is required; from the grassroots level to CIU executive and also that local councils and government departments and bodies need to be brought in. It was felt that legislation is excessive and doesn’t take into account the special status of clubs which are not businesses like pubs.
It is hoped that this small event at Innisfree might lead to something bigger which will help clubs and their members, and as a result, local communities as a whole.
Why not check out the Innisfree Social website