In these times of hardships, it’s good to visit a club that is keeping afloat and still providing the type of facilities expected of CIU clubs such as Christmas parties and trips for senior citizens and
children. The members and committee at the Radford Social Club in Coventry remain upbeat about their prospects in these difficult times as many clubs go under. The club has a long tradition and the committee, led by President Dean Mcgarrity, are intending to keep this going.
The club dates back to just after the First World War when a group of local men felt that there was a lack of local facilities. The founding members, known as ‘8 great gentlemen’ met in a local pub, The Grapes (which survives to this day) and managed to raise £25 from each person present. This was a large sum of money for those times. Over a period of only three days they had £750 and closed the initial subscriptions at 600 people- a clear indication of the desire for Radford men to have their own club. Suitable premises were found in a house in Lydgate Road and the club was opened at Easter time 1919.
The club proved popular in what was a growing suburb of the city and there was a new building in 1937. One of the pride and joys of the club was the new billiards hall with 8 tables- a dream come true for many men!
By 1969, at the time of the 50th anniversary, there was a membership of 2,200. There was a whole week of celebrations to mark the occasion with the well known Bert Weedon on guitar* and the Dallas Boys. The variety concerts were free but collections were made for the CIU convalescent homes as well as Radford’s own OAP fund. This typifies the importance placed on benevolent and charity work which clubs have carried out over the years. Whilst enjoying the celebrations, members were asked to help out others, which still goes on to this day. When I visited the club in early October, 2008, there was a letter tote being drawn, the proceeds of which go to the funds for the Christmas parties and outings. Many clubs have had to abandon such parties but the Radford keeps the tradition alive. They also put on a panto to raise money for these causes. This coming December 27th will see an adult only panto- Jack and His Stalk, performed at the club.
They also offer outings for members. On Friday 3rd, for example, there was a trip to see Walsall’s illuminations. In the clubs heyday a few decades back, there would be six or seven coaches lining the road outside ready to take members out for the day to places like Drayton Manor Park or Wickstead Zoo. Now it’s more likely to be only one but at least the trips are still taking place. In the past, they would even hire out a whole train to take members to Blackpool for the weekend, a typical Midlands holiday venue. All of these past activities were remembered in a special BBC Coventry and shire radio broadcast in May 1994 to mark the club’s 75th anniversary.
Colin Brown, a very active and long serving committee man (he has also been President, Vice President, Games and Entertainment Secretary) recalls the ‘old days’ when the club was busier but is pleased that they still get a good turn out for the events they do put on such as bingo, games and also an ‘oldie goldies’ disco evening. The latter draws in quite a crowd on Sunday evenings with prizes for name that tune and some members get dressed up according to the decade.
Colin is also an excellent historian for the club with plenty of memories and memorabilia. Among other things, he told me about the 10p voucher scheme for OAP’s from a few years back. They would each receive a book of 200 of these coupons per quarter to use towards the cost of a drink.
Also in the past times, Sunday night was a popular time for members to come along for the games. They would start queuing half an hour before the bar opened (7 pm in those days remember!) in order to get their names down for the snooker tables. Over the years, some of the big time snooker players have visited Radford such as Joe Davis.
Radford has played a large part in local games leagues and section. They set up the first ever club golf section which was then taken up by the CIU at national level. They are particularly proud of this. Usually games like snooker, darts and dominoes are associated with CIU clubs but Radford pushed the boundaries here. They have good records with cricket, football, angling and other sporting events.
They are also rather famous for their ladies darts team which have won trophies too numerous to list here. On the night I visited, they won their match against Bell Green Ladies and looked set to win the local league as well. The team is proud of their long standing chair and ace player, Irene Lawson who has been throwing darts successfully for Radford for over 51 years. Her team mates call her ‘super gran’, quite rightly so I think as she is 87 years old! I am also rather proud as Irene turns out to be a relative of mine on my father’s side who I didn’t know I had until I started researching clubs. I only hope that I have inherited her genes and am still an active club goer at her age.
The ladies darts team have fared well in what used to be traditionally a very male dominated area. As in other clubs, women have made inroads in all areas as borne out by current Vice President Pat Sunner. Pat has been on the committee for 12 years and has been a member for much longer. She has seen women become more active and gain more status over these years.
The club’s motto is ‘My club is just what I make it’, which used to be hung above the stage until the concert room was altered some years back. It seems an apt motto for Radford, with its 1,400 members still making it a busy and friendly club to belong to and visit.
* Bert Weedon is famous for writing the best selling guitar tutor - ‘How to play the guitar in a day.’ (Imagine, BBC1 5th Oct. 2008). He also had a Number One hit with a guitar instrumental which was unusual as this slot was usually taken by singers.
Oct 4th 2008