South Shields Flower Club closes after 45 years as membership wilts

Vera Skipper and Anita Buyers are members of South Shields Flower Club which is closing.'Picture by Jane Coltman
Vera Skipper and Anita Buyers are members of South Shields Flower Club which is closing.'Picture by Jane Coltman

A group of flower-powered pals are saying thanks a bunch for the memories – after bringing decades of blooming good times to a close.

South Shields Flower Club has grown from strength to strength since the seed of a good idea was planted in a classroom at South Tyneside College back in 1970.

Jean Steel and Audrey Dixon at the 25th anniversary of South Shields Flower Club'Picture by Jane Coltman

Jean Steel and Audrey Dixon at the 25th anniversary of South Shields Flower Club'Picture by Jane Coltman

But now the popular horticulture club has bid a fond farewell after 45 years due to wilting membership numbers.

The potted history of the popular club saw members raise thousands of pounds for good causes by staging flower festivals and coffee mornings, as well as taking part in the annual flower show in Bents Park.

The club was formed by a group of ladies who were members of the Flower Arranging class at South Tyneside College, under the guidance of lecturer Audrey Dixon.

The club met at various venues in the town – before finding a permanent home at the Sutton Trust Hall, in Prince Edward Road, in the late 1970s.

We can look back on the 45 years very fondly.

Vera Skipper

Flower club president Vera Skipper, who was a founding member, is sad that the club has had to close its doors – but is eager to look back on years of 
happy times and the many budding friendships that flourished.

Mrs Skipper, 83, said: “We had a flower arranging class at South Tyneside College and we heard that Cleadon was getting a flower club, so we thought, why can’t we have one for South Shields.

“Our lecturer Audrey Dixon led the way and we started off the club from scratch.

“We held our first flower demonstration in St Peter’s Hall and then went onto meet at St Marks and St Cuthbert’s and temporarily found a home at St Hilda’s before we arrived at Sutton Hall in the late 1970s – where we remained ever since.”

Closure of South Shields Flower Club'Picture by Jane Coltman

Closure of South Shields Flower Club'Picture by Jane Coltman

The club once had a waiting list of 100 members but numbers had fallen to just 20, making its future financially unsustainable.

Mrs Skipper and pal Margaret Leyden, who was original treasurer, were among the founding members of the club and remained deeply involved until the club’s closure.

The club met for the final time in December, with members enjoying a festive lunch in the company of members past and present.

Mrs Skipper, from Sunderland Road, South Shields, said: “It is a shame that we have closed and a lot of people have said how sad they are, but we are all getting older now and we can look back on the 45 years very fondly.”

Closure of South Shields Flower Club'Vera Skipper the year after the club opened.'Picture by Jane Coltman

Closure of South Shields Flower Club'Vera Skipper the year after the club opened.'Picture by Jane Coltman

Committee member Anita Buyers added; “We have, as well as practical involvement, enjoyed flower demonstrations by local and national demonstrators, and only in September were entertained by Mr Sean Murray, the winner of last years ‘Design a Garden’ competition at Chelsea.

“Being an afternoon class, younger people are working, while grannies are looking after grandchildren, and, although we used to have a waiting list with a full membership of 100, in recent years our numbers have fallen to just over 20, making the club financially unsustainable.

“Members were given notice a year ago of the situation, and we held our final activity, our Christmas lunch, in December, and were very happy to be joined by, as well as our current president, our founder president Audrey Dixon, and some of the original founder members.”

South Shields Flower Club members with a fund-raising cheque in 1996.'Picture by Jane Coltman

South Shields Flower Club members with a fund-raising cheque in 1996.'Picture by Jane Coltman