Earlier this week Ian and I attended a talk given by Martjin Gilbert the new MD of Go North East about future plans for the company hosted by the Northern Group Enthusiasts Club. I was also asked by a viewer over on YouTube if I could point him in the direction of local meet-ups as his young son loves buses and they are looking for a way for him to get involved. So, the subject of enthusiast (or spotting) communities and clubs has been at the forefront of my mind and I thought I’d put some musings down on paper. Ok, it’s a screen, not paper but you get the idea.
All this got me thinking about the relevance of clubs in our modern society. Have they been killed off by the internet and social media, rendered irrelevant in a changing world? Or is there still a place for them, either online or in ‘the real world’ so to speak?
Now I doubt this is a question unique to me as I’m sure many clubs have been asking themselves the same. However, I do think I have a little bit of an answer, so if you’ll indulge me as this may seem a little off topic I’d like to talk about knitting and photography. Yeah I know that might seem odd but bear with me.
When I was young the introduction of modern acrylic (manmade) yarn and cheap mass manufactured knitwear was heralded as the end of hand knitting as a craft. To the extent that knitting was branded as something for ‘old women’ only and predicted to die out when they did. Yet here we are 30-40 years later and all over the world people of all ages are still hand knitting. They’ve formed online communities on social media and small local groups meet up in libraries, pubs and village halls for regular knitting sessions.
Photography also went through a similar upheaval with a double whammy of digital photography and the internet with the death of professional photography being trumpeted left right and centre. Many camera clubs struggled to cope, their darkrooms which had been a draw for members rendered irrelevant and competition from online sources making it difficult for them to be seen as the place to go to learn. Yet one of our local clubs is now vibrant with a growing membership.
What about enthusiast clubs for buses, trains etc? Well, in my opinion, they need to adapt to the modern world, just as the photography and knitting communities did. They can’t use the structures or ‘club models’ that worked 30 years ago. Much of our lives have moved online and they need to reflect that. That said, one thing I’ve learned through my involvement with crafting and photography it’s that people still enjoy and want to be social in person. Chatting on an internet group is not the same communal experience of meeting up with people who share a similar interest. When I walked into the hall earlier in the week for that talk I ended up chatting and laughing with people in a way I never could online. Yes, I enjoyed hearing about the plans for Go North East from Martjin Gilbert, but there was a level of enjoyment because I was hearing about it in person that I never could have got from reading it on a screen in a social media press release.
So what am I rambling on about, well I guess what I’m saying is that clubs, regardless of what they’re about, need to cater to the changing needs of their members. You can’t ignore the online world, but you also shouldn’t ignore the basic human love of social interaction in person. It’s a changing world and if clubs adapt I personally think that they are very much still relevant. They might be a bit scarier than an online group where you can lurk in the background and remain mostly anonymous, but then there are a lot of potential rewards as well.
What do you think? Are you a member of any clubs? If so which ones and why?
take care till next time
p.s. since the talk was about Go North East I thought I’d illustrate this post with photos of their buses