Starting A Go Club

British Go Journal No. 19. January 1973. Page 7b.

Francis Roads

This article is aimed mainly at our many unattached members. It is based partly on my own experience in starting Woodford Go Club and partly on communal B.G.A. experience.

The most promising areas for Go clubs seem to be anywhere where computers are programmed, science and maths departments of universities, and other research establishments. As an Arts graduate myself, I hope it will never be assumed that a mathematical mind is required of any potential Go player. However, founding a Go club without such a focus as the ones I have mentioned is a much harder and longer job.

I am convinced that the best way to make permanent converts to the game is by personal contact. If you can arrange things so that the potential convert asks YOU for information about the game, so much the better. Arrange to be seen playing Go, or reading "Go Review" if you havent an opponent yet, in a common room or similarly public place. You will soon learn to distinguish the merely polite from the genuinely interested enquiry.

In view of the difficulties in obtaining equipment, it is as well to emphasise from the start to your recruits the ease with which equipment can be made, using buttons, graph paper, etc. If making your own equipment for use by beginners, make only quarter-boards to start with, as most beginners learn more quickly if progress to the full board is delayed as long as possible.

Anyone who wants to start a Go club must be prepared to spend a long time teaching beginners, many of whom will drop out, and playing boring games against very weak opponents. As soon as possible get a regular meeting place, even if it is just someones front room. One wants to make Go playing a habit, and to have a time and place where people know they can drop in without warning. At one time in its history Woodford Go Club was down to three members who played regularly. However, we kept up our weekly meetings, and even arranged some matches. Now we are flourishing rather more.

As soon as you can persuade five people to pay 20p, affiliate your club to the B.G.A., and start a programme of activities. Members tend to take more interest in a club that they feel is doing something, so start by asking your nearest club for a match. Dont hesitate to ask because the club may be a very large or strong one - they will probably be only too pleased to help a new club. Matches are usually arranged on handicap and, if your players are very weak, the club may send an "A" team of players of similar strength.

Another date in your calendar could be to invite a strong player to your club for a lecture or simultaneous display. The BGA Secretary can arrange this if necessary.

Never hesitate to take part in BGA Tournaments, however weak your players. If you wish to run a tournament yourself, on however small a scale, you dont need to be a big, long-established club; all you need is one or two people, with the necessary time and enthusiasm.

As soon as you have something worth reporting you will, of course, contact your local newspapers and radio station. Once they have understood what you are talking about and finished making the usual puns on the word "Go", I have found local (as opposed to national) news media very co-operative, and prepared to publish almost anything they are sent. Local papers like photographs, especially if they show children or an attractive female playing Go.

Public libraries often keep registers of local organisations and diaries of events, and usually you have only to ask to get the Go club listed. It usually pays to be on the optimistic side when describing your membership and the regularity of your activities. Many libraries stock books on Go, usually those by Lasker and Smith. However, show a little enthusiasm, and they may be persuaded to buy some or all of the Nihon Kiin and Ishi Press books on Go. The sight of all these stacked together on the shelf will give the casual borrower the correct impression of the importance of Go. If you can afford to present a book to the Library, they will usually let you inscribe it with the name and address of your club.

Libraries and other places (e.g. toy-shops selling Go-sets) will often display a poster about Go - suitable ones are available from the BGA. Make sure the Secretarys phone number is on it in large figures.

Some local organisations, e.g. Womens Institutes, Young Conservatives, etc., find it difficult to find enough speakers to address their meetings. Here is a good opening for the Go-propagandist, armed if possible with some sort of demonstration board. Naturally, one will vary ones approach according to the audience. For example, at the W.I. one would be discussing mainly the social and traditional aspects of Go, always bearing in mind that ones real target was the husbands and children.

However, never expect too much immediate result from publicity ventures. While you may get a good response from publicity where there is a concentration of likely recruits, e.g. at a University Freshmans Fair, general coverage in local papers etc. rarely brings in more than a few casual enquiries, and few if any become regular members. Such efforts are far from wasted, however. There are enormous barriers of apathy and ignorance to be overcome in creating a Go-conscious public in a particular area, and it should be looked on as a gradual process over a period of years. Your own efforts to gain publicity may well bear fruit years later, perhaps after you have left the district!

People often tell me that they would take more interest in Go if only there were a club or some players in a particular area. There is nothing the BGA committee can do to create Go players - we can only help and encourage individuals who take the initiative in starting a club and keeping it going.


This article is from the British Go Journal Issue 19
which is one of a series of back issues now available on the web.

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