Poplar Bowls Club chalks up support in E14

By Beth Allcock on June 21, 2014 2:41 PM |

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Lawn bowls. Husband-and-wife Ray and Janice Fortune, members of Poplar Bowls Club, tackle the image problem immediately by admitting "it's perceived as an old man's game".

The Fortunes remain optimistic their struggle to tempt more people to try the sport will be a success. And the increasing number of corporate days organised by banks in Canary Wharf can only help.

A recent corporate event for HSBC caused a bit of a buzz, as well as a similar challenge for Standard Chartered staff.

"They come down here, have a game and we put on food for them," said Janice, 57.

"They love it and, because they work around here, it's easy for them to come over for two to three hours in the evening. The HSBC staff had a competition with each other and we presented them with a trophy too. They can't wait to come back."

Canary Wharf Group has also lent its support, sponsoring the club's Open Invitation Pairs Day for 2013 and 2014, to be held on July 26, as well as team shirts.

Janice is one of three generations in her family to have been involved - her son and father were also bowlers - and she believes "anyone can play the game".

Ray added: "Our son played for about eight years. When he got to the age of 14 or 15, he said 'I love the game but I can't be there, standing on the green talking about hip operations when there's other things out there like girls and drink'.

"Unless you have three or four young people coming in at the same time, it's hard for them.

"You get county teams, where there's under-25 boys and under-31 girls so there are people out there playing the game, but they are getting fewer and fewer. It's hard to find these youngsters."

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The green has been in place, just off Poplar High Street, for more than 100 years and is like a second home to the Essex-based couple.

Janice signed up with the club in 1983 with Ray, 64, following suit 10 years later. And, as well as their roles in Poplar's teams - with the male contingent entered into three leagues and the women's team in the Lea Valley League - they're both county players.

Since 1999, the club has chalked up successes including 17 county men's titles with four for the women in the same time.

"Wharfers are more than welcome," said Ray.

"I would love to see them down here and, who knows, we might get a few more members too."

Call Janice on 020 8262 2169 or email janice.fortune@btopenworld.com.

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