Chess in the Park

One of two newly installed tables in Redditch – overlooking the lake in Arrow Valley The table in Arrow Valley Park, Redditch with set on a frosty morning in November
A sunny day in February. All we need now is …
Two players arrive to enjoy the the new table

Background

Back in August the Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced a combined package of measures worth almost £1 million to help develop the next generation of chess players, bring chess to a wider audience, and support the development of elite players.

The investment will include Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) support for players to receive world-leading training and development opportunities, Department for Education (DfE) grants for schools in disadvantaged areas to get more primary school children playing chess, and support from the Department for Levelling Housing and Communities (DfLUHC) for 100 new chess tables to be installed in public spaces.

Full details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-investment-to-transform-future-of-english-chess-announced

The Chess in the Park programme is a key part of the governments initiative and is now well underway as at December 2023, with the grant funding allocated to local authorities in designated Levelling Up areas, and local authorities are now in the process of planning for and/or installing tables and seating and making arrangements for sets and equipment.

Local authorities have been given some discretion as to how they spend their grant funding and there are a number of choices to be made, including selecting a suitable location, procuring and installing a concrete or recycled plastic table or tables with seating, and making arrangements for supporting equipment (including sets and potentially clocks and/or giant sets to support events). A key consideration is how to make sets available for players to use the tables, with the expected approach being to locate the table near to a café or park facility with the staff making the sets available on request and retrieving for storage.

ECF Support

The ECF has been in contact with the DfLUHC team to support the chess tables initiative and have set up this web page to help share information on the tables as they are installed, and how the local authorities are being supported by their local chess community.

We will update the page with details of the table implementations as they become available.

Worcestershire
After receiving their grant, Redditch Borough Council have acted quickly to procure and install two tables with seating – one in Arrow Valley Country Park, and a second in Morton Stanley Park on the other side of Redditch. The Arrow Valley table (pictured at the start of the article) has been installed in a fine location overlooking the Arrow Valley Lake and in the grounds of the visitor centre. The plan is to make sets available from a stock of basic tournament style plastic sets held at the Visitor Centre and issued on request. The local Redditch Chess Club have been in contact with the Parks team and will be looking to run a launch event in the spring to promote the facility as the weather gets warmer. This may be a standalone event or part of one of the park’s spring events. The club will be bringing some of their trestle tables and sets to add to the concrete table in Arrow Valley and will be looking to take on park goers and all comers.

An earlier ‘Chess in the Park’ event run at ‘Pebworth Party in the Park’ by the Redditch club secretary Dan Lambourne within the classic car display

Yorkshire
Kingston Upon Hull is a second early adopter and will be installing tables in Pearson Park and East Park. You can find further details of the Council’s plans at the BBC News link at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-67296951

Chess in Pearson Park, Hull

The local association (Hull and East Riding Chess Association) have been extremely active in supporting social chess playing and have run ‘Play Chess’ Festivals for the past three summers.

Leicestershire
Plans are underway for Leicester City Council to install their two chess tables in the historic 69-acre Victoria Park, which is situated in central Leicester next to the University Campus. The installations will be based on recycled plastic tables with bench seating and accessible access. There will be two boards per table to allow multiple games at once. Leicester has a long history of supporting British chess, with De Montfort University’s Venue hosting the 2023 British Championships which included a well-attended outdoor chess programme with drop-in chess events held in the Circle in Leicester city centre and on the De Montfort University campus.

Drop in chess on Leicester University campus – FIDE Master Jonathan Blackburn provides commentary on the 2023 British Championship games, which are showing on a large display screen

The Local association (LRCA) is supporting the council in the installation programme, and hopes to  organise promotional events once the tables are in place via local Leicester clubs.

Lancashire
Grant funding has been provided to three authorities in Lancashire with plans to install tables as follows:

Blackburn by Darwen – local centres of the two main towns

Hyndburn – Gatty Park, Accrington and Rhydding’s Park, Oswaldtwistle – https://www.hyndburnbc.gov.uk/news/new-community-chess-tables-coming-to-hyndburn-parks-following-levelling-up-funding-influx/

Pendle – Marsden Park, Nelson and Letcliffe Park, Barnoldswick – https://www.pendle.gov.uk/news/article/185/chess_tables_and_seating_to_be_installed_at_two_pendle_parks