DUE to a technical error, the following feature was printed incorrectly in today’s edition of the Doncaster Free Press. Here the article in full.
Games enthusiasts at one Doncaster institution have been playing their cards right for sixty years. DARREN BURKE shuffled along to Doncaster Bridge club to meet the pack...
The small circular plaque on the oustide wall of a tidy but unassuming terraced house in Bennetthorpe gives a tantalising hint of what lies beyond the heavy, black wooden door.
Heart, diamond, club and spade motifs that have probably been passed by thousands of pedestrians and motorists down the years are a clue to the genteel pastime that goes on just a stone’s throw away from one of Doncaster’s busiest roads.
This is Doncaster Bridge Club whose members have, for half a century been pitting their wits against each other, playing the classic pairs card game at regular weekly meetings and developing lasting friendships along the way.
It was way back in 1952 that a group of friends rented a spare office in Doncaster’s Market Place to play social bridge. Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength, now boasting more than 200 members and moving into its current premises as far as back as 1965 - a home they’ve enjoyed ever since.
Chairman Brian Stones said: “From its humble beginnings, the club is now one of the largest in Yorkshire and we pride ourselves on our inclusivity and openness.
“There has been a firm rejection of the the stereotype image of bridge as a snobbish, elitist pursuit.”
Downstairs, the club has a bar where members can chat and socialise but its upstairs where the serious card-playing business takes place.
The large, bright room is littered with small, square wooden tables, around each, four bridge fans clutching their handful of cards, ready to go into battle against their opponents.
The rules and regulations are too complicated to explain here - but that doesn’t mean there’s no way into the pastime for the unitiated. Games last about 15 minutes with players using the same cards throughout the evening as they move from one table to the next.
Joked Brian: “Bridge is pretty easy to play - and if you can count up to thirteen, then you stand a chance.
“We are always looking to attract new members - and even those who have no experience at all can learn to play. We have a teacher who can guide people through the basics and get them playing. The age range goes right from young beginners to our oldest member who is 91.” The club hosts eight sessions a week at its Bennetthorpe base with members coming from far and wide to play the game and of course, hopefully play their cards right to ensure success.
Vice chairman Michael Chapman said: “Bridge can be as competitive or as purely social as you want it to be. There are regional, national and even international tournaments that people can get involved in and some of our members have played for England. But for the majority of people, its about coming along and having a pleasant time with their friends.”
The walls are crammed with lists of tournament winners as well as photos of the club’s social gatherings - and recent events have included Italian themed evenings where players have tucked into anti-pasti, a meal at the nearby Vivo restaurant and then returning for a game or two of bridge, accompanied by wine and Italian ice cream.
Barbara Boaler is a club regular, the 69-year-old from Stainforth, first taking up the game with her mum, dad and brother as a teenager.
She said: “We just did it for fun as a family but when I got a job, I stopped playing. But then I came back to it years later and have been playing ever since and I’ve taken part in tournaments all over the country. While some people do take it very seriously, its a really friendly club where everyone knows each other - I’d recommend it to anyone.”
“It can seem complicated to the unititated and its classed as a sport of the mind. But you never stop learning - there’s always something new to contend with.”
Added Michael: “Its not a stuffy pastime. People like to come along, play a few games and then have a beer afterwards. We’ll make anyone feel welcome and ensure they enjoy playing bridge.”
So if your heart is in playing and becoming a diamond card whizz, you know which club to join!
* For further details visit Doncaster Bridge Club or contact Brian on (01302) 721649.