Croquet at Countryfile Live (Photo: Alison Jones)by John Dawson at Blenheim Palace, Oxford
After last year's successful debut the CA team returned to Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace. The four days (2 to 5 August) were baking hot, but that did not deter the visitors; most of the 120,000 plus visitors wandered past the lawn in the very centre of the show. Our counts show that over 900 people picked up a mallet and tried croquet (up from 800 last year); over 85 people left their contact details for Dave Gunn our Development Officer, to steer them towards clubs near their homes- (up from 65 last year) and others made direct contact with a CA volunteer who came from their local club. We don't think that we were on television this year, but Carol Kirkwood gave croquet a go and both she and Anita Rani gave a plug for croquet during the Q & A sessions in the Big Barn. The volunteers also did a great job passing out leaflets and chatting to passers-by: up-dating their knowledge of croquet and dispelling a few myths.
It is always difficult to assess impact, but undoubtedly the public profile of croquet was raised and interest stimulated, which we hope will convert into people taking up croquet.
This year we trialled sail flags with the CA emblem on them. We think they were very useful. The flags will soon be back at Cheltenham and if any club wants to borrow them they are most welcome.
Interestingly, Countryfile Live has decided to have two shows next year - one at Blenheim and a second at Castle Howard in Yorkshire so I'll be talking to our Northern colleagues about any potential interest in the latter.
Finally a big "thank you" to all the volunteers who stuck to their tasks in such roasting conditions, to Tony and Pat from Eynsham who did a great job making the lawn out of parkland and managed the setting up and dismantling of the site, to the Eynsham club and Klim Seabright for the loan of equipment and to Frances Colman who recruited the volunteers and managed the admin processes.