A Goal is a Dream with an Action Plan and a Time Frame
I first visited North Walsham Rifle & Pistol Club in July 2016. The club’s membership was flourishing, but the physical fabric of the place hadn’t really moved with the times. The old wooden clubhouse was pretty much as it had been in 1933, when the club was founded.
On that visit, the club’s Development Officer, Mike Kirkham, who has been shooting since he was 15 years old, talked to me about the club’s future. Planning permission for a new clubhouse had been granted, and an application was being put together for funding from Sport England. With help and advice from Liz Davidson, Head of Engagement at British Shooting, Chairman Olly Crysell and his committee worked on a plan of action for all-round improvement.
“The key to our success,” Mike told me, three years ago, “has been to change our club culture to think more like a sports club, and to actively promote and market what we offer.”
In October 2016, Sport England awarded £75,000 to North Walsham Rifle & Pistol Club towards their new clubhouse. This was marvellous news, of course, but the total amount of money needed was £125,000. The club members worked hard at raising funds for the project, and they also applied for, and were granted, aid from North Norfolk District Council’s Big Society Fund, which was established in 2012 to help fund projects that improve and support the social and economic wellbeing of communities.
Karl Read, Leisure and Locality Services Manager at North Norfolk District Council, was impressed by the drive and commitment of NWRPC.
“Mike, Olly, and the rest of the committee have worked tirelessly in order to grow participation within this club, especially with the junior section. They’ve worked hard in order to create a fresh presence in North Norfolk, and they’ve forged a great relationship with the Council and Active Norfolk.
“The club has created more visibility locally using positive PR and marketing, and they’ve created a working marketing plan. Mike set up a Sports Development plan for the club, and a new website. In the time that I’ve worked with the club, they’ve has seen a 45% increase in membership, which is unheard of in local sports clubs.
“In a nutshell, the members of North Walsham Rifle & Pistol Club have done all the things we would expect from a Big Society applicant, and in a very comprehensive way. I wish the club every success.”
NWRPC now has over 200 members, some of whom have gone on to compete in national and international championships.
The evening began with refreshments and conversation. I caught up with several club members I’d met before, including Charles Cain, who, at 76 years old, is still coaching some of the club’s talented young shooters.
It was a great pleasure to meet 17-year-old Jessie Lodge, who shoots in the 10m Precision Air Rifle county air rifle team – and Freya Giles, 19, who has shot for the England Ladies’ team in .22 Target Rifle.
Imogen Wright, who’s just 15 years old, began her shooting career with Explorers at North Walsham. Before long, she was a member of the Scout International Squad. Imogen, who shoots with a Steyr, is now on the South East Regional Pistol Squad (SERPS); later this year, she’ll be competing at the Welsh Open and at the Scout Championships at Bisley.
Tony Clarke, Scouts’ Norfolk Shooting Advisor, told me about Target Sprint – a relatively new shooting discipline that’s becoming incredibly popular, especially among younger shooters. Tony explained how Target Sprint works:
“Competitors run 400 meters, then they shoot five targets. They run another 400 meters, shoot another five targets, and then run 400 meters to the finish. The winner is the first past the post. But …” (I think Tony could read my thoughts.) “But you have to hit the targets. You can’t continue until you’ve hit all five. Bear in mind, though, that there’s a limit to the number of attempts you have.”
I was rather disappointed not to see Olivia Hill, who is sponsored by Pellpax. There was a very good reason for her absence, though: she was in Serbia, competing in the Novi Sad Grand Prix. It was, however, great to chat with Olivia’s mum, Lisa.
The official opening
Mike Kirkham began his address with, “A dream is always a dream. A goal is a dream with an action plan and a time frame.” He immediately had everyone’s attention.
Mike thanked everyone for all their hard work, with a special mention for Tony Clarke, the man responsible for a strong junior membership, thanks to Scout involvement.
There was a special mention for the late Ken Nash (1948-2019), who introduced shooting for the blind into the UK. Ken was a life member of both the National Small-Bore Rifle Association (NSRA) and British Blind Sport (BBS). I had the pleasure of talking to Ken in August 2017, when he contributed enormously to A Guide to Disabled Shooting.
Mike handed over to Councillor Saul Penfold.
“In 2017,” he began, “an application was received from North Walsham Rifle & Pistol Club for a BSF grant towards a £125,000 project to replace the old wooden clubhouse. The application explained that the existing wooden clubhouse and its facilities were in a poor state and no longer fit for purpose. There was limited social space, no proper kitchen facilities, and no disabled toilet. A new clubhouse was needed to ensure that NWRPC had the appropriate facilities to enable them to cope with their existing and growing membership.”
Just like Karl Read, Mr Penfold expressed his admiration for the club and its members.
“Everyone involved in the project is to be congratulated for their dedication and commitment. It’s a fantastic achievement. The new club house will be an asset to the local community for many years.”
Mike Kirkham declared the clubhouse open, and the ribbon was cut by Freya Giles and Lisa Hill (representing Olivia). North Norfolk MP, Norman Lamb, presented the two ladies with bouquets.
Good luck, NWRPC – and congratulations. Here’s to the future!