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BANNED! because you are a woman.

Byline: Alison Duck

THE AGE of equality appears to have by-passed working men's clubs. One Evening Telegraph reader was astounded when she wasn't allowed to play snooker at Wyken Working Men's Club in Coventry. But feature writer ALISON DUCK discovered that under an archaic ruling, they're not allowed to become full members - even if they help run the club

AS the blonde and bubbly lead singer with Sadie And The Electrons, she set the club scene alight.

In the days when Nancy Sinatra topped the hit parade, Sadie Taylor fronted one of the top club bands in the Midlands.

Fans followed the pop cover group from venue to venue on coaches while they turned up in the back of a van belonging to their manager, the father of Barry the bass player, who had a fruit and veg round in Radford.

"Many a time the strawberries, apples and plums would be eaten on the way back from a gig on a Saturday night," laughed Sadie, now back to her natural auburn.

"They were good times, really good times."

Her 20-odd-year career as a club singer was launched after her vocal talent was spotted in a competition at the old Locarno nightspot.

These days, it's Sadie who scouts for club singers.

As entertainment secretary of Coundon Social Club, she goes along once a fortnight to a "shop window" - a showcase of local acts looking for club bookings.

In just six months, Sadie has turned around the club's entertainment programme. "Sadie has rejuvenated our entertainment," said club secretary Doug Mazey, days after a Glen Miller night sell-out.

But Sadie is more than just the entertainment secretary. She helps run the place, spending as many as five nights a week there.

When she's not sorting out the acts, she's selling bingo tickets and calling the numbers, making sure the lottery tickets have been sold and checking the bar deliveries.

And yet because she is a woman, she cannot be a member of the club - even though she is a member of its committee.

"If we are good enough to be on the committee then we should be good enough to be members of our club," argued 54-year-old Sadie, who lives in Coundon.

"At our annual general meeting in March, I was on the door handing out the yearly reports but I wasn't allowed to go into the meeting. I had to stand outside."

It's all because of the Club and Institute Union (CIU) rulebook dating back to the days when working men's clubs were literally just that - a place where the cloth-cap brigade could unwind after a hard day's graft over a pint of mild and a packet of Woodbines.

Although women are not allowed to become members of the CIU, they are allowed to join their men at the bar once they have been granted a "ladies card".

And although some committees do allow women to become members of their own clubs, they are not entitled to visit any other affiliated club in the country.

Unfortunately for Sadie, Coundon Social Club is one of those clubs which doesn't allow women to be members.

They can have a drink and play bingo in the concert room, and they can play darts and watch Coronation Street on the big screen television in the bar - but they can't play bagatelle or snooker in the games room.

The sign above the tables makes that clear.

"That needs to come down," muttered one chap, as he lined up his cue to take a shot.

The club may not let Sadie Taylor and Linda Nixon play snooker or bagatelle, but it is more than happy to let them help run the place. It gets round the complicated CIU rules by co-opting them onto the committee.

It's not that the club isn't in favour of women becoming members, insisted 78-year-old Doug, whose father-in-law was one of the founding members of the club which opened in 1948.

It's just that the club doesn't think it's fair that women should have to pay the same pounds 6.50 annual membership fee as men and not enjoy the same rights.

As far as Sadie is concerned, it would be a small price to pay. Even with the extra pounds 1.50 for a CIU leather wallet to keep her membership card in.

"I agree with what he says, but I think you have got to start somewhere. If all the clubs were to allow ladies to become members then it would be a start. We've got to start at the bottom and work our way up to the top," she said.

Linda has been coming to the club for some 25 years. Clubs have always been part of her life. When she and her twin sister were born, their proud father took them straight down to the one in London Road.

However, times have changed. These days youngsters aren't interested.

They'd rather get a couple of cans from the off-licence and sit at home in front of a video, she says.

She doesn't think the CIU can afford to continue being so choosy about its membership.

With nearly 100 clubs closing last year, the CIU is looking to bingo to be its saviour.

A national link-up game with up to pounds 10,000 jackpots is due to be introduced any day in a bid to get more people through the doors.

"They're trying to get more bums on seats, but look around you. Most of the people playing bingo are women," said 46-year-old Linda, surveying the bingo players in the concert room.

"If they want women to fill the seats, why stop them from becoming members?"

Ann Wood, whose husband Robin is the club president, agrees. "There's more women than men in here tonight so why shouldn't they be members in their own right?" she said.

"I think they should be - and my husband's all for it as well."

It seems, though, that it will take a change from on high.

The controversial issue was due to have been discussed at this year's annual conference of the CIU, but was taken off the agenda when the proposer of the motion fell ill and couldn't attend.

In the mean time, Sadie wants women to put pressure on their own clubs to relax their own rules.

And to make a point at her own social club, she has applied to become a member of the club at Cheylesmore.

"Cheylesmore will not let women serve on the committee unless they join," she said.

"I have applied to become a member there purely to say to my club that I am a member of your committee and yet you won't let me become a member."

Sadie will carry on working for Coundon Social Club, not because of the beer money, but because she enjoys it so much.

"I love the entertainment side of it," said Sadie, using up one of her beer tickets on a lime and soda. Now and then, she'll get up on stage like she did all those years ago and do a turn on the mike.

It's the end of another busy night, a five-hour stint as shift captain. Sadie knows she will probably have to wait another year before there's any chance of getting the CIU to emerge from its timewarp.

The only way she can see that happening is if the conference was moved away from Blackpool, the heartland of traditional clubland.

"As far as the CIU is concerned, why should they let women in when the Women's Institute won't let men in?" she said.

"They say they will consider changing when the WI changes. I can never see that happening, can you?"

THE WEIRD AND THE WONDERFUL

RULES IN BRITAIN . . . YOU could get arrested for beating a carpet in the street before 8am.

HANGING around outside churches, hollering for taxi cabs and hauling sacks of soot can get you into trouble in some parts of London.

BUTCHERS caught selling bad meat can be put in the stocks for a day.

FLYING a kite in a public thoroughfare can land you in hot water

SPECIAL permission is needed from the Police Commissioner if you want to drive your pigs down London's Oxford Street or Leicester Square before 7pm.

ANYONE who finds a washed-up dead whale must offer it to the Crown. By law, the head belongs to the King and the tail belongs to the Queen.

RULES IN AMERICA

IN the state of Florida, it is against the law for single, divorced or widowed women to parachute on Sunday afternoons.

WOMEN caught napping under salon hairdryers in the Sunshine State may be fined. And in Michigan, men legally own their wives' hair.

YOU'RE not allowed to eat more than three sandwiches at wakes in Massachusetts.

IT'S illegal to carry an unwrapped ukulele on the streets of Utah's Salt Lake City.

YOU might end up in jail for boarding a plane in Wakefield, Rhode Island, within four hours of eating garlic.

HOUSEHOLDERS in Pennsylvania are banned from hiding dirt and dust under their rugs.

CAPTION(S):

BANNED: Sadie Taylor at the snooker table which women are forbidden to play on at Coundon Social Club Pictures: ROY KILCULLEN; WORKERS: Committee members Linda Nixon (left) and Sadie Taylor collecting the bingo money
COPYRIGHT 2001 Coventry Newpapers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 30, 2001
Words:1549
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