From utilising a defunct swimming pool at Glevering Hall to navigating their way around less-than-ideal low beams at Rattlesden Village Hall, the much-travelled Stowmarket Badminton Club have certainly come a long way over the past 50 years.
Established in 1963, with a modest 25 members paying an annual subscription of just £2.2s.6d (two pounds, two shillings and six old pence) to play friendly matches, the club quickly grew in size before joining the Ipswich and District League in 1965 and moved to the Grammar School in Stowmarket three years later.
The club finally made the move to its current home in the newly-opened Mid Suffolk Sports Centre in 1973, where the influx of new members has seen burgeoning numbers grow from 32 to now boasting 60 adult members as well as 45 juniors.
The junior club was fully established in 2006 with a grant from Local Network Fund and offers badminton to local children between the ages of seven to 17, with four level two coaches and seven level one coaches.
To mark the momentous occasion, 60 past and present players attended a special event with club memorabilia and photos on display to rekindle memories of the past 50 years.
One lady who has seen the club go through it’s transition more than most is Mary Hughes, who was honoured for more than 35 years of devotion and commitment to the club.
During that time Hughes has filled many of the committee posts including fixture secretary, honorary secretary, selector, coach and player, as well as helping out on the IDBL committee for many years.
Reminiscing over other landmarks in the club’s history another highlight came in 2008 when it was awarded Badminton England Premier Club status after successfully completing the Clubmark quality accreditation scheme, with Julia Strong of Badminton England hailing the club’s ‘commitment, dedication and hard work from both the club and its volunteers.’
That dedication of allowing participants the opportunity to flourish, including 10 adult teams in the Ipswich and District League as well as the Bury and District league, four mixed teams, four men’s teams and two ladies teams spread across the two Suffolk leagues, has reaped rewards on the court.
Over the years the club has produced several county players and currently boasts the Suffolk Ladies Champion Isabel Lucas among its ranks.
Last season saw Stowmarket fill many of the places in the county second team, while also having representation in the county first team as well and juniors in all the county age groups.
In another step to encourage further growth in the sport, the club also now offer a ladies’ club aimed at enticing ladies and girls of the area back into badminton to gain experience and improve their technique in a welcoming environment.
From humble beginnings, Stowmarket continue to be a forward-thinking and thriving club who look set for at least a further 50 years of continual success.
n If you are interested in getting involved with any of Stowmarket Badminton Club’s numerous age groups, you can visit the club’s website stowmarketbadmintonclub.onesuffolk.net for further information or contact club secretary Mary Hughes on 01359 240811 for membership details.