BY JANE MACDONALD
“Our aim is to encourage LGBT people to play sport.
It’s as simple as that.”
I thought I’d extol the benefits of getting/keeping fit, losing weight, getting out more, meeting new people, etc, but, of course, that’s the case for a LGBTQ sports society. So, instead I’ll tell you about what I know, and hopefully whet your appetite to find out more.
BLAGSS (Brighton Lesbian and Gay Sports Society) started 21 years ago and now has around 400 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members from across Brighton & Hove, Sussex and beyond. Members are all different shapes, sizes, ages and abilities, and participate in sports as varied as badminton, tennis, squash, golf, table tennis, running, tenpin bowling, football, cycling, and many, many more.
My favourite activity is walking. There are usually three or four walks per month, ranging between five and 15 miles. Because BLAGSS is a member–led society, different members of the group lead the walks. There are usually between eight and 18 people on each walk and a good mix of women, men and age ranges. I‘m writing this article sitting on the sofa after an eight-mile walk up on the Downs, past Ditchling Beacon and back to Stanmer village.
Each year there are a couple of weekends away too. Dieppe was great fun, and we’ve also been to Canterbury, Whitstable and Weymouth – highly recommended! The trips are reasonably priced, and BLAGSS itself is good value too, with an annual subscription of just £15. If you’re interested you can try BLAGSS for free but in some cases court charges may apply. There’s also discount offered at a number of local businesses including Nick Rivett Sport, Cotswold Outdoor, Tidy Paws Dog Grooming Service and The Jog Shop.
Football tends to attract a younger crowd, while tennis and tennis virgins are popular groups too, both appealing equally to men and women. I would urge you to give these a try out if you wish to know more!
I’ve been on the easy and social cycle rides that take place throughout the summer. Not being a young woman, I have found my forte with petanque. In fact, I am now co-host of the group that meets weekly in the summer. We play on the petanque terrain on the seafront by the Peace statue. The petanque team came into its own by winning the 2017 BLAGSS pub quiz tournament!
There are over 700 sporting and social meetings every year. 2017 saw the try out of croquet – great fun, and who knew it could be quite so vicious! Netball taster sessions are going to be trialled this year too.
Golf is another very active group. They’ve created a pathway from beginner (beginner and rusty irons lessons, pitch and putt, range balls) through to expert (nine and 18–hole events, plus bigger competitions). I’m still at the beginner stage, pitch and putt at Roedean. Others with more experience and skill go for weekends away and play serious sport.
As it’s BLAGSS’ 21st anniversary this year, big celebrations are planned; BLAGSS has an active social side. My favourite includes a companionable drink in Velvet Jacks after sports sessions. Last year we organised a dance at the Holiday Inn, a very posh affair with candelabras on tables. There’s also an annual ten pin bowling event, which is always well attended.
There’s a lot going on with BLAGSS throughout the year. It’s a very inclusive society, and as a member-led non-profit making organisation, there are sports development officers on hand to help. If you can’t find the sport you’d like to play you can set up your own group, anything from archery to Zumba.