The British Club Bangkok
….. a short history
2004 and beyond
The first Hundred Years saw a slow pace of change for a world which itself moved slowly – the next hundred years would no doubt progress faster and further.
In 2005 the Club saw the election of a woman, Angela Daniel, as the Club’s chairman – the first woman in 102 years – something the founders would never have envisaged in their just post Victorian world, and in 2007 the first non-British person took the chairmanship, Dr. Stuart Blacksell, an Australian.
Since the early post-war days, the Club has always opened its doors to community groups, and in 2005 we made this “official’ by creating a constitutional entity called ‘Associated Groups’ – community organisations that are allowed to use the Club premises on a regular basis – from the four Loyal Societies to the Bangkok Community Theatre, from Bangkok Mothers and Babies International and the Bangkok Music Society to the Society of Professional Engineers in Thailand – over thirty groups in all.
In 2006 the Club sought to reinvent its positioning in the expatriate market after recognising increased competition from bars, restaurants and health clubs, and it became marketed as “an International Club for Family and Friends”. Also in 2006, a Club Development Master Plan was agreed by members to reflect this more familial orientation. Unfortunately this plan was poorly delivered by contractors and project managers – the first phase saw The ‘Churchill Bar’ move into the ‘Lord’s Dining Room’, and ‘The Verandah’ café took over the old Churchill Bar, but neither was to members’ satisfaction and far exceeded the budgets. The remainder of the Master Plan was abandoned. In 2008 an All-Weather Court was added to the Club’s facilities.
As we approached the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, the Club membership was starting to decline. Expatriates coming to Thailand were no longer executives on huge salary packages which included a Club membership, but were here on one or two years contracts, often working in education or on a consultancy basis … the Club needed to change to stay relevant. Thus in 2010 we launched an Annual Membership scheme enabling both those on short term appointments to join the Club and those on lower salaries to “join over six years”. Annual Membership was an amazing success, bringing new life and energy to the Club and to date almost 15% of our Club membership are Annual Members.
With this surge of ‘new life’ came the opportunity to re-evaluate where we are in the “market-place” so in celebration of its Ninth Cycle of Existence (108 years) in 2011, the Club relaunched itself as “the social, sports and cultural centre for the English-speaking community in Bangkok”, emphasising what differentiates us from all the competition with our membership, our range of facilities, our associated and community groups, our traditions and our history.
The year 2012 was a magnificent year both in the history of the Commonwealth Realm and that of our Club. First of all, it was H.M. Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee year, and in her honour the Club organised a Diamond Jubilee Fête, opening its gates and grounds to Commonwealth citizens, community groups, and businesses. With over 70 community, educational, charitable and commercial stalls offering a vast range of merchandise, activities and services, there was live music, entertainment, pony rides, arts, crafts, games, food and refreshments for all who attended. The British Ambassador led the toasts to both the Thai and British monarchs respectively, and over 1,000 people enjoyed the afternoon and evening which included UK Diamond Jubilee celebrations live from London on television projected on the Back Lawn. Secondly, it was the London Olympic games which saw our country do proud, and finally and most significantly, the Club, after decades of expatriate male management took the bold step forward of appointing Mrs Premrudee Tanyaluck as the first female, and also the first Thai, General Manager.
Also in 2012, the positive effects of Annual Membership coupled with years of good financial acumen allowed the Club to embark on a new direction of ‘Enhancement Maintenance’, and in that year we opened an upgraded Sala restaurant & bar, a fully retiled and landscaped swimming pool (designed to celebrate the Olympics), an upgraded poolside kitchen and an enlarged Fitness Centre. The enhancements are continuing in 2013 with the opening of the Pétanque court in March and the new enclosed Multiple-Purpose Court in May, soon after holding our Decquicentennial Fête at the end of April which celebrated the first 110 years of our Club’s existence. A complete refit of the Main Kitchen and Clubhouse upper rooms was also completed in 2013. It is planned that 2014 will see a full enhancement of the family poolside area as well as the squash and massage facilities.
That is the story so far for our first 110 years - what will the next 110 years hold? One cannot say, except that the British Club Bangkok will strive to meet the needs of the English-speaking community in Bangkok for the foreseeable future and for as long as it is feasible so to do.