After 20 years as Chairman of Brighton & Hove Hockey Club, during which the club has grown immeasurably in size and stature, Graham Edwards has announced he will be standing down from the role at the end of this season.
During his fine stewardship Graham has overseen the club's increase from three men's and one women's team to the 17 adult sides fielded today and the flourishing juniors section; the move from Preston Park to the new pitches at Blatchington Mill School and the Nevill pavilion; the rise of the men to gain national league status; the introduction of coaching for all teams; and most recently the award of England Hockey ClubMark accreditation.
Graham said: "It has been a great honour and a privilege to represent the club as Chairman. I wish my successor all the best and hope they achieve what I did not, with our own clubhouse and the women's 1s joining the men's 1s in the national league."
As a matter of priority the club is looking for his successor in the prestigious position of Chairman by advertising it to the members and an outline role description is attached below. Expressions of interest are being sought by the end of February 2024 so if you feel you possess the drive and vision to help take the club further forward please indicate your interest via email to the Club Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org. The role will be subject to formal election at the club's annual general meeting (AGM) on Saturday April 6.
Although he is standing down as chairman Graham says he and Jenny intend to carry on with the bar and teas next season, health permitting.
We asked Graham for some reflections on his long association with BHHC:
When did you first become involved with BHHC and how?
"I first became involved with BHHC when, in 1989, my brother John asked if I could run the bar for a couple of weeks until someone was found on a more permanent basis but I fell in love with the atmosphere and the people and stayed. I very much enjoyed meeting and greeting the wide variety of members and always tried to make the clubhouse welcome to all.
The hours were 4pm until 8pm. In those days we were at the clubhouse by the cycle track in Preston Park and the teas were provided by the cafe in the park.
It was the job of the first team back to the clubhouse to collect the teas. Invariably this didn't happen so I used to go in a little earlier and collect them. The next problem was that the first teams back would devour all of the food and the later teams were left with the remnants. So John then asked our mother to come in and serve the teas so that everyone got a fair share.
This went on for some years until my mother was ill and couldn't attend. She asked if my wife Jenny could do it for her. Jenny was disgusted by the state of the stale sandwiches that were being presented and foolishly said she could make better than that. Which she did and was welcomed. I should say there were only three men's and one women's team at the time."
When did you become chairman and how has the search for our own pitches and clubhouse unfolded?
I became chairman in 2003, once again as a temporary measure until someone suitable was found.
The long campaign to have our own pitches was in full swing and thanks to my diligence and that of Cameron Heath we finally got planning permission to build two pitches and a clubhouse at BHASVIC/Newman. After the initial euphoria everyone just sat waiting for it to happen assuming Stewart Newton (our president) would foot the bill. He didn't. As a result the planning ran out of time.
Cameron got chatting to one the governors at Blatch, who I believe was a member of the club, and was introduced to Chris Grammer at Brighton & Hove Cricket Club. In 2012 we managed to get permission to build two pitches in a joint venture with the school. That same year the men's 1s got promotion to the national league.
The cricket club were already sharing the Nevill clubhouse with a football team who were happy to have us on board to run the bar. The cricket club fell out with the football club for various reasons and we took over the winter season entirely. That continued for several years until the cricket club wanted to renegotiate the tenancy. As I'm sure you remember the two clubs fell out big time; as a consequence we moved to the school canteen for a season after which both the cricket and hockey clubs came to their senses. You know the story from there."
How has the club changed under your chairmanship and what are you most proud of?
"As previously stated when I arrived there were only three men's and one women's team. There used to be handful of youngsters coached by Pete Smales and Fiona Walker at Falmer. We now have nine men's and eight women's teams and several hundred youngsters at various age groups. I do not claim the credit for this but was more than happy to push it through: it was more probably the new facilities and more exposure to hockey during the Olympic success and not forgetting the great work by Atul Patel.
Originally only the men's 1st team had a coach but I've made sure that every team is now coached in some form.
The aforementioned building of pitches and moving to Blatch was a favourite memory along with the men's 1s achieving national league status. I had hoped that the women's 1s would do likewise but there is still time for that.
Another has been watching kids who were playing at the start of my tenure turning into adults and producing kids who are now playing for the club."
Why have you decided to stand down now and what will you miss?
"I have decided to stand down because I'm 71 and I feel that the membership wants change.
I never sought to be chairman. I always enjoyed being involved with the running of the club and was always willing to help with whatever needed doing - trials day BBQs, social secretary for a couple of seasons amongst other things. I will miss the assistance of all of those committee members who served the club whilst I was in office. They are a much maligned group by those of the membership who didn't listen to JFK when he said 'ask not what the club can do for me, ask what I can do for the club' (at least that's what he meant to say)."