Published: 06:00, 22 January 2021
Kent County Bowling Association President Peter Luckhurst is ready to embrace a second year at the helm after Covid-19 made the first 12 months a virtual write-off.
FIRST YEAR IN CHARGE
Not much happened in 2020 for bowls in Kent – in fact, everything was cancelled nationally quite quickly due to Covid-19.
I attended an indoor event in the winter which was a welcome to the outdoor President, the Bowls England annual dinner in February at Coventry where the prizes for 2019 were handed out, and then two events that I was invited to in Surrey and Essex.
I have a load of mementos that I was due to hand out across the county in 2020 but I’ll be handing them out this year instead – the only problem is that they will have last year’s date on them!
It was a really quick call to extend all the positions of 2020 for another year, the county decided in April. They asked if we’d like to have it rolled over so everyone said yes.
Clubs celebrate anniversaries and often invite the county President to events so I know I’ve inherited a couple that would have normally been given to the next president this year.
I also want to send my best wishes to Ellen Phillips, who is my counterpart for the ladies’ section of the game in Kent this year.
THE IMPACT OF COVID-19
It’s been difficult for some clubs. We’ve lost one or two who have had to close where the green was shut down for the whole of the summer. Having said that, the government grants have helped, they’ve filtered down to the clubs and many have benefited from that – it’s helped them pay their bills.
In reality, most clubs’ income is through annual subscriptions and match fees. It’s pretty much hand to mouth so there’s been that lack of revenue but you’ve still got bills like gas and electric to pay out.
It was a concerning time during the summer and I was worried what was going to happen but nearly everyone seems to have pulled through.
When the lockdown started to ease, some outdoor clubs opened up. In terms of what happened at my club, Milton Regis, they had very limited numbers allowed and maintained strict social distancing. I know a number of people at other clubs who weren’t able to get back.
It’s been a really tough year but I’m really looking forward to 2021 now. I really want people to get out and play bowls this year. It’s been difficult for so many clubs, but also so many people. A lot of people have not bowled much in over a year, they’ve been sat indoors sadly.
There is a social side to bowls, a lot of the elderly single people have missed that interaction and I really hope we can get that back this summer.
BOWLS IN KENT
Kent is really strong. Two of the strongest counties are Devon and Kent – there’s always a competitive edge when the counties meet at competitions, although Devon probably have the edge.
But when you look at the number of people playing the sport, Kent has four times as many as some other areas which is encouraging. As President I feel I have a responsibility to represent all the bowlers, which runs into thousands.
Bowls in Kent has a very rich history. The club that I bowl for is over 450 years old. We were formed in 1540 which is the era of Henry VIII. It was on churchland and there is proof that the bowls green was there going back as far as 1675 with people working on the bowls green – I think that’s the earliest written evidence there is.
A SPORT FOR THE OLDIES?
It’s definitely not an old person’s sport. I always say this is a family sport – there are four generations of bowlers at our club alone.
We have teenagers playing at the top level of the game. When you look at the National Championships every year in August, they are young people there, and most people who play for England are under 40.
When I was Junior Vice-President in 2018, part of the remit was to support the inter-county matches and I saw children as young as nine playing bowls – and they are really good!
In 2019, Isaac Jenner played with his grandfather and they reached the quarter-final of the county pairs – and Isaac was telling his grandfather what to do. I actually learnt to bowl with Isaac’s great grandfather, Frank Broster, so I’ve reminded him of that a few times!
I got involved in bowls when I got married in 1980 (yes, that does mean I spent my ruby wedding anniversary in lockdown!). My father-in-law and mother-in-law were keen bowlers, as was my father. We got into it and have been involved for over 40 years now.
It’s not just a sport across generations, we stretch across society with disabled players and those with mental health problems also getting involved – it’s great to see. You can get too obsessed with winning so it’s great that you can enjoy bowls, whatever your back story.
THE YEAR AHEAD
During my year as President, I will be raising funds for Prostate Cancer UK. After the 2018 season I spent a day in the garden and felt a bit ill. It didn’t go away for a week so I went to the doctor who sent me for a blood test.
In December 2018, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer but Medway Hospital was very good and they operated in late February 2019. They removed the prostate and it’s only since then that I’ve realised how many people who bowl have also had the same condition.
We lost a couple of top sportsmen last year in Bob Willis and Ray Clemence so I’ve decided I’m going to raise money for that charity this year. When I get invited to a club, we’ll have a tea or dinner after the bowls and I’ll be leaving my donation boxes on every table!
I’ve got to thank everyone who has already donated their fees from last summer, when events were called off, to the charity instead of accepting a refund.
The highlight of my year as President will be attending the national finals, hopefully we’ll have some winners from Kent. It lasts for four weeks during the whole of August, the ladies play for two weeks and the men for two weeks, and there are also some mixed games as well. I’ll be there as President, and get to the green at 9am every day. It’s great that I’ll be able to represent the county and support our players as much as I can.
There’s also the annual county dinner at the end of the year when we get to present the awards and that’s always an enjoyable event.
The National Finals are held every year at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire – that’s when I want to see people from Kent win! In 2019, Roger Kendrick from VCD was in nearly every competition and he won the national pairs alongside Jason Haskins, while Jason Avery from Folkestone Park won the junior singles. I was at the end of the rink with Roger’s father cheering him on.
I know when you watch bowls on television it seems quite quiet but it can get very noisy at the finals! There’s a ladies’ competition called the Amy Rose Bowl and that’s the loudest of the lot. There was a lady there with a whistle permanently against her lips and a football rattle – it’s not quiet when you get to that level!