Finding some social space

For a couple of years in the late 1970s, I was part of a small group that travelled around the Irish Midlands every so often to take part in what was then a popular phenomenon: the whist drive. Whist, as I hope at least some readers will know, is a team card game., and a ‘whist drive’ is an event at which teams compete for a prize. To be honest, I don’t really know how widespread whist drives were at that time, but they were in fashion in Counties Westmeath and Offaly (which is as far as we got) back then; and if I say so myself, I was rather a good player.

But what I remember most from those days is not the game but the occasion. The players were an extraordinary social mix, from all sections of society, and in addition to the game there was a lot of conversation over refreshments. And in many respects I found that social side of the events even more interesting than the playing.

I had forgotten about this until a passer-by in the town where we currently are asked today whether there was a ‘bingo hall’ anywhere in the vicinity. I confess I have only ever played bingo once or twice, and I have no idea whether there is any such thing as an operational bingo hall here. Somehow I doubt it, because the era for such diversions seems to be over. And that made me remember the whist drives.

Of course there is entertainment of much greater sophistication available today, a good bit of it heavily technological. But not much of it takes place in spaces where people gather and socialise. And even when people manifestly want to gather – as can be seen with many young people – we don’t offer them the space in which to do it; and then we wonder why they annex a space that suits them and from which they create apprehension in others. Moving them on from that is not the answer – we need to give them the infrastructure for social interaction.

We cannot turn the clock back: it is unlikely that are going to return to whist drives and bingo. But we need to find the modern equivalent, and the locations for it. We already know and have the online virtual locations, but I believe we also need the physical ones. Now that our recently acquired wealth is coming under threat, it is time to re-discover a sense of community.

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4 Comments on “Finding some social space”

  1. cian Says:

    There’s actually an operational bingo hall halfway down the Collin’s Avenue, in the Grand, although it’s clientele are mostly elderly.

  2. Vincent Says:

    Bloody shark. It was people like you that killed it stone dead. There is something similar with the table quiz. But there questions like the name of aunty Marys Kerry cow with the cross eye goes some way to halt their gallop or at least places a handicap to the wandering Mensa freak. There is an advert on Ch4 which explains.
    But No, in most places 25 for Turkey & Ham is the game of choice. I’ve played that game in a Pub on the high street in Galway. And Whist has been overtaken by Bridge. Mind you the Parish Lotto has killed the reason for the Drives and the Bingo, as Whist was where the cardplayers from either side of the tracks could come together.

  3. BBJ Says:

    I was hit by a great whiff of nostalgia to read those evocative words “whist drive”.
    My late much-loved maternal grandmother was an aficianado of these events. It was said of her that she would play cards on your coffin.
    When whist drives in Belfast were largely killed off by bingo in the late 1950s and early 1960s, she would go to play the latter but without any real enthusiasm. There was no skill involved nor was there much “craic”.


  4. […] This chap placed an observative post today on Finding some social space University BlogHere’s a quick excerpt3 Comments on “Finding some social space”. cian Says: July 5, 2009 at 9:16 am. There’s actually an operational bingo hall halfway down the Collin’s Avenue, in the Grand, although it’s clientele are mostly elderly. … […]


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