MEMBERS of a popular Totton social club set up 70 years ago have banded together in an attempt to save it after shock news that it is to close this weekend.
A post on the club’s Facebook page revealed Testwood Working Men’s Club in Salisbury Road was to shut down on Sunday. Members were stunned by the news and immediately started a group – The Friends of Testwood Club – with the aim of keeping it open.
Bill Solomon, who runs the facility on behalf of members, said in a statement on Facebook it had fallen into debt after people stopped supporting it and that the closure was unavoidable.
“It is with great sadness that this announcement has to be made,” he said.
“Following the AGM of Testwood Club, it has been resolved that the club will be closing following trading on Sunday 25th November. Further details will follow.”
The news caused anger and sadness amongst members, including Dave Hills, who created the Friends group.
On its Facebook page, he said: “The idea behind this page is that we can all come together, discuss ideas and see if there’s any way of saving the club in its current form. If not, we can look at whether it would be possible for a different club to operate from the same site.
“It’s a long shot, but we have to give it a go.”
Among ideas suggested was asking the council to make the club an asset of community value and crowdfunding to raise the money to buy the club.
Totton councillor David Harrison said: “I’m sorry to hear about the proposed closure of Testwood Club. I have been in touch with one or two members offering support; I hope something can be sorted.
“One very useful thing that I recommend is registering the club with New Forest District Council as a community asset. This usually prevents a situation whereby a sell-off of the building can be forced through, allowing time for supporters to see if a rescue package can be put together.
He continued: “I think the club does have a sustainable future but it requires a lot of goodwill and support. It’s a private concern, not connected to any local authority. However, I am very aware of the value that it has to local people.”
Mr Solomon has pointed out on Facebook that if there had been more support for the club in recent years it would not be facing closure.
He stated on Facebook: “After years of pleading and sustained warnings asking people to use the club, regrettably it has got to the point of no return.
“It is a purely financial situation. The members are fully aware of the club’s position. This decision has not happened overnight; it has been approximately three years in the making.”
Mr Solomon said he could not give any exact figures regarding the debt, but told members: “The club has been struggling for a few years now. The members agreed a few years ago to take investment secured against the property, which is owned by the members.
“The hope was that this investment would see us through lean times. Unfortunately, this has failed and the investment has been swallowed up in sustained losses over three years.
“We cannot trade with nothing in the bank and we cannot borrow any more funds. So before the club is put into administration, the decision has been made to close and sell it to recoup the funds to repay these investors and not incur more debt. After all debtors have been paid, the remaining balance is then divided equally between all members.
“We own the building and land. We are not so irresponsible to acquire goods with no funds to pay for them. This is not a knee-jerk reaction and nobody wants the club to close but the investors need to be repaid under the terms of the loan agreements.
“All this information was made known to the members and the appropriate resolution was made at the AGM.
Mr Solomon added: “It is very heartwarming the support shown today to not lose the club, but I fear we have passed the point of return.”
Members reacted with sadness to the news. Posting on the club’s Facebook page Tara Taylor said: “Can’t believe this. So sad. Will really be missed. Best place for amazing entertainment. Been a fantastic place to go with my family.
“Well done to all the staff for making it a fantastic and welcoming place to go and thank you Bill Solomon for all your hard work.”
Julie-Anne Jones wrote: “Sad news – been going to the club since I was a child over 50 years. All good things come to an end.”
Others praised Mr Solomon for his efforts in trying to keep the club going.
Geoffrey Wayland said: “Bill you did your best the last few years, great entertainment. Shame the support was not there.”
Another member posted: “Bill is one of a kind…a guy who gave everything to try to keep the club he loved open and thriving. He booked bands, ran discos, quiz nights and children’s parties by the score.”
Edie Whitcher: “Gutted, we love going there, so sad and such a big loss, so sorry Bill you work so hard to make it a fun, enjoyable place to go.
“Let this be a warning to you. If you don’t get out and support live music and the venues that host live music then they will close… they will be torn down… flats will be built and in a few years you’ll wonder what the hell you did on a Saturday night.”