‘It’s not about rowing or being fit – it’s about belonging’

Star Club created a newsletter to keep their members connected and to showcase their new initiatives during lockdown. Chairman David Rainbow tells us more

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The strapline to Star Club’s lockdown newsletter – ‘It’s not about rowing or being fit – it’s about belonging’ – really sums up the club’s sense of community. Star Club Chairman David Rainbow explains how a newsletter, created during lockdown, has helped foster club spirit.

1 – How did the newsletter come about?

David: We found ourselves locked-down and isolated and the clubroom chat and camaraderie was gone for a while. We could see 1,001 different WhatsApp groups popping up, but they were missing links between each other – the club needed to find its voice and provide the glue that would keep us all part of Star Club.

We wanted to create something that could replace some of that missing community. The committee were also acutely aware that these were worrying times financially for many members and yet we needed them to understand how important it was to stick with us through an unprecedented period.

2 – The newsletter promotes new club initiatives including a book club and a Star digital photo archive. How did these start?

The ideas are all really exciting and, in all honesty, they came from the members and not the committee. I could see people reminiscing over past rowing photos on WhatsApp. I know which members have a passion for club history and photography and they kindly agreed to run with the idea.

The book club was the brainchild of one member with a love of books and a willingness to take the lead.

They’re the kind of people who make running the club easy and rewarding.  We are especially hopeful that the digital archive could become a really valuable resource to members, ex-members and their families, but we are feeling our way into it.

If anyone has experience of doing this at other clubs then we would love to hear from them.

“It’s a lovely place to have a coffee or grab lunch, and it has made the club part of a much wider community”

3 – The hardship fund is also a fantastic initiative

This started as quite an emotional reaction to the pandemic. We are fortunate that hardly any of our members have had to ask to terminate their membership because of money worries, but we weren’t sure that this would be the case.

We will be changing the name from ‘hardship’ to something broader because Bedford is a very diverse town and we have now committed to make ourselves much more open and affordable to all.

We are very much aware that rowing is too expensive for some families to afford and so we are embarking on new plans to increase access to rowing across all segments of the community.

Securing the funds to stop money being a barrier to talent is very important to us and resonates with both our founding principles and current sponsors.

4 – The club cafe even had a mention…

‘Fay’s at Star’ is our cafe franchise that we started in 2019 and operates from the clubhouse (as well as other sites in Bedford). Charlie (Charlotte) Fay and her staff have quickly become part of the fabric of the place and it has been a growing success in many ways – in normal times, the clubhouse is busy. It’s a lovely place to have a coffee or grab lunch, and it has made the club part of a much wider community.

Lots of groups with nothing to do with rowing now meet there (meditation, dementia care, even knitting!) and it brings lots of people into the clubhouse tor coffee, breakfasts and lunches.

That’s why we wanted her to have a section in the newsletter – Charlie and her team have worked so hard to make a success of the new venture and members really miss them and their snacks.

5 – Is another newsletter being planned?

We are aiming for a quarterly newsletter with interim email updates as needed, supplemented by Twitter and Instagram for anyone born after 1990.

Once you have established the newsletter format then it’s the content that takes time and not the presentation, so yes – we’ve taken a step forwards and we will not be stepping back, so long as someone is able to help the committee get to grips with basic desktop publishing.

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