Phyllis Court

Fitnes Centre Official Launch and Club Showcase

29 April 2019

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On 27th April 2019, over 1,000 people witnessed Sharron Davies, former Olympic and Commonwealth swimmer, officially opening the Fitness Centre.

The momentous event wasn’t just for fitness fanatics, it was a Club-wide showcase celebrating arts, culture, food and drink.

The occasion began as the crowd gathered in front of the Fitness Centre for the ribbon cutting. Phyllis Court Club Chairman Barry Jackson took  to the stage and said, “In 1929, our Club founder, Roy Finlay, dreamt of having a swimming pool at Phyllis Court. After 90 years we have made his dream come true and how fitting it is that we have an Olympic and Commonwealth Games medal winner, Sharron Davies, to officially open the Centre.”

“I’ve been involved in this project for about six years. It was in May 2015 that the newly elected Chairman, Trisha Christmas, set up a working  group to assess the viability of this Fitness Centre. What a fabulous job she did as well. We are indebted to her skill and persistence and sometimes in the face of adversity. I’d also like to thank my deputy, Stan Ainsley, who really helped keep this whole project on focus, on cost, on budget and really worked tirelessly to ensure that we are where we are today.”

Following the soft launch in September usage has been carefully analysed and the Chairman was absolutely delighted to announce “our Members will [now] be allowed to bring their guests on a limited number of occasions to enjoy these great facilities and we will also be extending it to our hotel guests.”

Barry then invited the former Olympian onto the stage. She said:“ It is an absolute pleasure to open the Fitness Centre and to realise those dreams from  such a long time ago. I have just had a tour [of the facilities] and they are stellar, they really are lovely! You have a wonderful pool and beautiful gym you can enjoy for all the years to come.”

After Sharron declared the Centre officially open, guests were able to view the sculpture of a mermaid modelled on Sharron which was displayed outside the Centre. The creation was made by Jonathan Wylder, who has enjoyed a friendship with the Olympic medallist for 30 years and has sculpted her 13 times. The piece is a replica of the mermaid modelled on Sharron which he was commissioned to sculpt by Lord Iliffe and the Duke of Edinburgh a decade ago for the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Jonathan said: “I’m so honoured to be here and I have to say it’s an impeccable centre. To have my sculptures here is really quite special.”

Once inside the Centre the Photography Gallery was unveiled. The exhibition includes 20 works by members of the Photography Group, some of which were taken with sophisticated DSLR cameras, while others were captured on iPhones. Barry Jackson explained: “The ethos of this exhibition is to show that great photographs can be achieved with both sophisticated cameras and smart phones. The images are printed in high gloss on aluminium and after costs, the funds raised from the sale of these images will be donated to our chosen charity in 2019, Thames Hospice.”

The day, which was attended by Members as well as prospective members and specially invited guests, wasn’t just based around the Fitness Centre. Matches were played on the tennis courts and croquet pitches, there was ballroom dancing in the Ballroom and classic cars were displayed on the lawn – including a 1908 Model T Ford! The Riverside Pavilion was incredibly busy as attendees had the chance to meet representatives from each Interest Group.

Sharron wasn’t the only Olympian to attend the event. Also present were fellow former Olympic swimmer Neil Nicholson, who competed for Britain in two  events in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and Victoria Lucass who also represented Britain in the women’s synchronised swimming team at the London 2012 Games. Victoria, who is a personal trainer at the Fitness Centre, said: “It’s an amazing place and I’m very lucky to work here. It’s been a long time in the making and it’s great that Members can finally use it. Everyone seems so positive and it’s exceeded all expectations.”

Throughout the day, money was raised for Thames Hospice, our charity of the year in 2019. Members were taking part in the ‘Thames Challenge’ in which they were sponsored to cycle, row, swim or run with the aim
of clocking up a group total of 100km – the equivalent length of the River Thames between Phyllis Court and London. In fact the group of dedicated volunteers managed to travel a fantastic 150km!

Prior to the event Members were invited to enter a raffle to win lunch with Chairman Barry Jackson, Sharron and Jonathan. The Fitness Centre Deli which offers a healthy protein and salad lunch was debuted at the event, and one pound from every ticket on the day was pledged to Thames Hospice. A total of £845 was raised. In the afternoon Jonathan and Sharron gave a ticketed talk in the Thames Room. Barry Jackson commented: "Jonathan’s talk about the sculpture was absolutely fascinating and I think a  lot of people could have listened to him for hours.”

The event concluded with burying the Phyllis Court time capsule outside the main club house. The capsule is due to be opened in June 2056, on the 150th anniversary of Phyllis Court Club. The capsule which measures 26” x 11” was coordinated by Member Gordon Jones: “The idea behind it was to put something together to show what the Club today is all about – friendship, good health and enjoyment. It contains a letter from Chairman Barry Jackson to the future Chair, newsletters and photographs from the Club including the Fitness Centre and the Riverside Pavilion. Plus all the Interest Groups have put in contributions to show what they do, and there are some special things, like the Photography Group has put in two very nice photographs of the Club and their cameras mounted onto a stainless steel background, the Classic Motoring Group has put in a model of a 2019 Jaguar, the Artist Group a number of their paintings and the Live Jazz Group has added a specially engraved plaque which commemorated our 10th anniversary last year.”

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