New tournaments for bowls festival

Great Yarmouth's annual festival of bowls will break new ground this year when two new tournaments extend it to four weeks of seaside action.

Great Yarmouth's annual festival of bowls will break new ground this year when two new tournaments extend it to four weeks of seaside action.

As if ten categories in the space of three weeks were not enough, the organisers have grafted on two more to stretch the showpiece event, which kicks off on August 26, to September 21.

The Hamilton Hotel have provided a £700 prize fund for an open (ie men and women) over-60ssingles competition, £300 going to the winner. And the Festival will now conclude with an over-60s open pairs event, with sponsors yet to be announced.

That, says tournament manager Derek Webster, makes it the biggest bowls event of its kind in the world. And, he proudly adds, while other open competitions around the country are reporting continued declines in numbers, Yarmouth entries continue to go up.

“Last year we had almost 1400 entries, and entries are aleady up on the same time as last year,” said Webster, who heads a hard-working committee of eight who routinely make light of the task of making such a mind-boggling logistical exercise run like clockwork.

“It is the biggest bowls festival in the country, without any doubt. So far as I know there is not another bowls tournament in the whole world which runs for four weeks.

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“Apart from ours, all competitions cross the country are reporting that entries are 10 to 12 per cent down. Ours is 10 per cent up.

“People come to Yarmouth year after year and in ever greater numbers because they make new friends and meet old ones who they don't see from one Festival to the next.

“It's special for them and it's good for Yarmouth businesses because all these people have to eat and have somewhere to stay.”

Among many other factors, Yarmouth has history and tradition on its side. This will be he 62^nd successive year that the Festival has been staged, making it one of the oldest as well as the biggest, longest and, Webster insists, the best.

It is also the most financially attractive with the new sponsorships bring the overall prize fund up above the £10,000 mark for the first time.

England international Mark Royal, from Stowmarket, will be bidding to win Yarmouth's blue ribband men's singles - which also has a prize fund of £1000 - for the fourth successive year having been crowned champion four times in seven years.

North Walsham's Liz Shorter will also be back to defend her ladies singles title on the town's five seafront greens.

All competitions have an entry fee of £4 per player. The two new, Over-60s, competitions guarantee a minimum of three games.

Entry forms are available from the Great Yarmouth Tourist Office or by calling Derek Webster on 01493 603976.

The complete schedule is:

t August 26 to 28: Men's Fours, sponsored by Hall's Leisure and Ladies' Singles sponsored by Great Yarmouth Tourism.

t August 26-31: Astro Open Under-25 Singles sponsored by Astro Communications.

t August 29-31: Men's Pairs sponsored by the Palace Bingo.

t September 2-4: Men's Triples sponsored by Nottingham Bowls and Ladies' Pairs sponsored by Great Yarmouth independent Newsagents.

t September 5-7: Men's Singles sponsored by Aylsham Bathrooms and Kitchens and Ladies' Triples sponsored by the Eastern Daily Pres.

t September 9-11: Mixed Pairs sponsored by Aicheson Brothers of Freethorpe.

t September 12-14: Mixed Triples sponsored by Potters Leisure.

t September 15-18: Over-60s Open Singles sponsored by Hamilton Hotel.

t September 19-21: Over-60s Open Pairs.