Bids firm for North Freo club

North Fremantle Social Club at a brainstorming meeting.

THREE groups have so far put their hand up for a chance to take over the North Fremantle Bowling Club.

Fremantle council recently opened up the lease of the Thompson Road club after residents complained the bowling club’s management committee had been freezing them out and the site was under-used.

So far the North Fremantle Social Club, North Freo Bowlo and the Women’s Shed Movement WA have all publicly announced they’ll be submitted expressions of interest.

NFSC member Daniel Elias said the group formed four years ago to try and activate the site, and their bid had received strong support from the not-for-profit sector, as well as through knocking on doors in the suburb.

He said they had an “open door” policy for community groups who wanted short-term hire, while there are plans to devote one day a week to events focused on health and wellbeing.

Mr Elias said NFSC was incorporated and had a membership in the “high thirties”, while a guarantor should see them through the first year.

But he was confident they also had the financial model to become sustainable, with the organisation running under a volunteer management committee, and employing professional bar staff.

Mr Elias said suggestions for activities if NFSC’s bid was successful included dance classes, community-run yoga sessions, kids activities and an arts market place. Also on the cards are Sunday “pot luck” sessions to give the community the chance to put up ideas on what they’d like to see at the club.

“As a collection we are a group of social workers, educators, scholars and artists – just to name a few,” he said.

“The NFSC committee are orientated towards making a positive contribution to North Fremantle and it has been a joy to see it reciprocated in the community.”

He said NFSC had previously reached out to the bowling club using the council as a mediator, but that 

led to his members being banned from signing up. He was more optimistic about working with rival bidder North Freo Bowlo if successful.

Fellow member Raymond Grenfell said there had been a steep decline in civic spaces over the past decades despite growing demand.

“A space that is truly run by the members that use it, and is open to all people, regardless of 

their background, locality or any other defining characteristics.

“I think it’s really exciting that after years of organising the North Freo Social Club might finally be able to be a reality.”

NFSC is holding its third and final community forum on April 23 at midday at Mrs Browns Bar.

North Freo Bowlo’s crew would love to be running the club’s greens, saying bowling’s at the heart of their bid.

Parents, grandees, kids and dogs

NORTH FREO BOWLO’S bid is styled as the “parents, grandparents, kids and dogs” of the suburb.

Spokesperson Peter Blackall said it’s been in the wings for years, with many a  conversation at school pickup or walking the dog about what needed to happen to fix the reclusive bowls club.

Mr Blackall said they initially looked to support the North Fremantle Social Club’s bid, but with few of its members at the time North Freo residents and some locals “unable to get their head around” its decision-making processes, they decided to lodge a home-grown bid.

Community hub

“We’re not about 1970s beer prices and live music; this is a community hub,” Mr Blackall said.

He said there were 10 residents on the steering committee, though if the bid was successful a head would be appointed “so thing can get done”.

“We have already had 130 responses to our online survey in a couple of days,” he said of the community response to their EOI.

Mr Blackall said West Leederville Bowlo had agreed to “shepherd” them through the EOI process as well as provide advice on how to emulate its success as a community-run bowling club.

“The heritage of bowls is at the heart, and maybe we’ll put a pot belly stove in there for winter,” he says of the group’s low-key (and lo-fi) approach to the club.

He says the plan is for three revenue streams; membership, grant applications, and food and beverage sales.

The group has already run that past the local retail precinct to ensure they’re not “cannibalising” their customers, and he was relieved to see most saw it as a driver for more custom.

He acknowledged most members had a negative experience with the existing bowling club and were a bit sore that they hadn’t been able to hold kids’ parties there for at least five years, but said its members carried an important local bowling history that needed to be recognised.

North Freo Bowlo is also holding its on meet and greet to let people know the results of its survey and enjoy some gelato and coffee on Saturday April 9 at the North Fremantle Community Hall (right up the driveway from the bowlo) from 3-5pm.

Mr Blackall said if there were any “angels” able to help make the club more sustainable, such as helping fund a solar battery, they’re particularly welcome to attend.

by STEVE GRANT

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