Bognor Regis Music Club marks its 40th anniversary with a celebrity concert featuring Bognor Regis-born violinist Bradley Creswick.
Bradley will be performing with pianist Margaret Fingerhut in the club’s concert room, 2 Sudley Road, Bognor on January 27.
The club, then known as Regis Music and Concert Club, has come a long way since its first concert which took place on Sunday, January 22 1978 to an invited audience – back in the days when it was “dinner jacket preferred” and tickets were £2 each. But it has also enjoyed a remarkable degree of continuity over the years. The founding chairman Ken Adams didn’t stay long in post. Derek Debuse took over until not long before his death. Derek passed the baton to Chris Coote who has been chairman for the past seven years.
Key to the club’s success is that the club has always had a loyal membership. The challenge for the club is that it is also a declining membership, as Chris says: “Most of our members are of a certain age. We have held the membership steady at about 70 for the last few years, but in its heyday I think there would have been as many as 180 members, probably about 20 years ago. I think part of the problem has been people’s unwillingness to go out and hear live music. There are so many distractions. Television has got so much more to offer these days, and I think that has been the single biggest factor, and also perhaps there is a lower proportion of the public who are interested in classical music than perhaps 30 or 40 years ago.”
Chris concedes that these are factors that you can’t actually do a great deal about: “But we try our best to involve young people with our concerts, particularly in terms of inviting young musicians to perform for us.
“But I think we can be upbeat as a club. Our numbers have declined long-term, but our attendances at events have now steadied out at an average of about 40 people attending concerts – though the actual number can vary between 20 and 70, and part of the problem is never knowing just how many people you are going to get.
“But one of our advantages is that we are unusual compared to a lot of other clubs in that we have a lot of member participation, with members’ evenings - and that was one of the reasons the club was founded in the first place. After the first-ever concert, they had a weekly members-turn-up-and-perform Saturday event for a while. It didn’t continue for very long, but member participation has always been a feature of the club’s programme.
“We also have a number of professional concerts a year. Our budget can’t extend very widely, but we can afford to pay the fees for perhaps half a dozen such concerts a year.”
And so the club keeps on going, with an impressive list of past performers to its credit, including Tasmin Little and Emma Johnson.
Chris is delighted that the club is able to celebrate its anniversary with a return visit from Bradley and Margaret who have long been popular with the club. Bradley was born in Bognor Regis, where many remember him as an outstanding member of the West Sussex Youth Orchestra. He studied at the Royal College of Music.
“They have been here as a duo I think three times. Bradley is very charismatic, walking up and down the audience, playing his violin in gipsy style!”
New members and visitors are especially welcome. Call Chris Coote (01243 773276) or Helen Woods (01243 861620). Starts at 7pm.