The 1980's

Ours at Last

After long negotiations with Devon County Council the buildings finally became ours in August 1982. The school was ours at last!!!

A great many people helped during this period, a few of whom are still committee members, the great deal of effort and time spent by Laurence Smith on behalf of the Club talking to Banks, Solicitors and reading numerous legal documents must be acknowledged for without his expertise, and the enthusiasm of Dennis Clement who’s energy kept the committee together through some difficult times, the Club would not own its own premises today.

Running a Business

During the period from 1980 to 1982 many people came forward to help the club and a positive spirit of enthusiasm and commitment developed. As well as being hard work it was also a lot of fun - ask anyone who stayed awake for 24 hours and ran supporting laps at 5.40 in the morning!

However, in 1982 the committee realised that we would shortly have commitments to repay loans and to maintain an old building, and that this would be very difficult for an organisation, which relied mainly on fund raising activities for its income. In addition, the club only used the premises for two hours a night and it was empty during every weekday. Although membership had increased to nearly 150 there was clearly a great deal of potential for making gymnastics available to even more children.

Responsibilities! Responsibilities!

The trouble with loans and mortgages is that they have to be repaid. The gym club was an entirely voluntary organisation and relied completely on a small number of people to give up their spare time to coach gymnastics, to manage the club and organise fund raising events. The majority of the club’s income arose from fund raising and The Club needed to raise over £3,000 every year to repay the loans and keep the building in order.

Once it became clear that the Club could buy the premises the committee began to worry about the financial commitments. Fortunately, in the spring of 1982 contact was again made with Mike Euridge. On leaving the services, Mike became a professional gymnastics coach at the Hawkes club (then in Seaton), also helping to manage the sports centre there. Mike’s ambition to run his own club coincided with the need to ensure a more secure future for the club and the committee started exploring methods of combining the club’s premises and equipment with Mikes nationally recognised skills and enthusiasm.

Preserve us from Solicitors

Again the expertise of Laurence Smith and his legal knowledge were invaluable to the Club. Things are never so simple as they seem. As a voluntary club, the premises and equipment had been purchased by the efforts of a large number of people and the committee have a responsibility to make sure that they are used for the purposes intended. Similarly, Mike was giving up a secure and lucrative job to run the club
and, as any parent, needed the security that could not be provided if a committee that changed every year employed him. The terms of the grants and loans prevented us from selling the premises to Mike so the Club had to look for a way of operating in partnership.

Enter the solicitors! To cut a long story short, the Club finally agreed to the following arrangements (and if they appear complicated - blame the legal profession):

Exeter Gymnastics Club remains a voluntary organisation and has appointed four Trustees to own the property on behalf of its members. The terms of the trust are quite definite about what can and can’t be done with the property. The Trustees have leased the premises to Mike on a restrictive lease that insists that the buildings can only be used for gymnastics or related activities. Mike uses the premises to run his own club called Exeter Olympic Gymnastics Club and all the children are members of that club. Hang on! That leaves the voluntary club without any members! Well, when a child joins Exeter Olympic gymnastics Club his or her parents automatically become members of Exeter Gymnastics Club, who elect the committee who appoint the Trustees who lease the premises that Jack built. Get it?

Financially, the rental received from Mike enables the club to repay the loans and mortgages and the term fees provide Mike with an income. Mike is responsible for maintaining the building but the club through fund raising finances major improvements as well as items of equipment.

A Brighter Future

In 1984 the Club was in a much more stable situation - the building was ours and the membership had risen to 350 gymnasts. The question was raised as to how to improve the training facilities for the gymnasts. A 40ft floor square still a dream to come true. However, walls could be knocked down, chimney breasts removed, and were, to improve the vault run up etc. One new facility, which it was decided the Club could afford, providing lots of voluntary parental help was forthcoming, was “A Pit”. And so in the summer of 1984 the two-week break was set aside to do just this.

A Dream Come True

At the beginning of 1986, the Club was granted Charitable Status, which was a very important milestone in the Club’s history. 1986 also brought with it definite plans from the dreams of the past few years. Detailed plans were drawn up for the building, which was to go up in the back playground and which would house a 40ft floor square. Is it really possible? Plans have been passed but £83,000 is a lot of money!!! By October finances were in place and on the 3rd November 1986 Duncan Andrews Construction Ltd moved on to the site and started to demolish everything in sight!!

April 1987 saw the completion and official opening of the new gym. This had involved a lot of hard work, both physically to keep the cost down and raising the funds needed for the project.

. . . continued in 'The 1990's'