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In conversation with Bristol University's Pool and Snooker Club

As one of the university's lesser known sports societies, this year Bristol's Pool and Snooker Club is seeking to break stereotypes of male chauvinism.

by Amelia Jacob, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Epigram recently had the opportunity to speak to the President of Bristol University’s Pool and Snooker Club, Harley Irwin, and Women’s Captain, Beth Strand, about the society’s achievements and upcoming plans for this year.

Pool and snooker are unusual sports: they are as closely linked to fame and fortune as they are to a casual pint and chat in the pub. Harley Irwin notes that: ‘The UoB Pool and Snooker Club is a welcoming and social environment for any casual or seasoned pool and snooker players.’

Harley says that the club prides themselves on ‘our competition achievements, social environment, friendly coaching and charity work for Papyrus UK.' In the last academic year, the club raised over £2,000 for the young suicide prevention charity, and hold a “Snookerthon” in memory of their past treasurer around February each year.

Image courtesy of @uob_psc

When asked about the society’s goals for this year, Harley explains: ‘We won the BUCS Snooker Championship in the 2022/23 academic year. It is essentially the holy grail of University Pool and Snooker achievements.'

‘Our goals for this year are to expand our community [...] to compete and retain our BUCS Snooker Championship title and gain more BUCS accolades. Also, to surpass our fundraising efforts of last academic year.’

The society is also keen to appeal to the incoming wave of first year students. Harley emphasises that ‘freshers should get involved, as our memberships are reasonably priced, we have a friendly and supportive community and are constantly looking for more talent.’

Image courtesy of @uob_psc

It is hard to avoid mentioning the negative stereotypes students may have in mind before joining the club, primarily the attitude towards female pool and snooker players. Harley acknowledges that there are ‘misconceptions’ about pool and snooker, namely ‘that it is not a welcoming environment for women to play in.’

Beth Strand is Pool and Snooker’s Women’s Captain. She tells Epigram:

‘I began attending the society around the end of my first year, encouraged by a male friend whom I often played with in pubs. I've always particularly enjoyed the social aspect of the game - quaint English pubs with rickety old tables where you can break the ice with a drink and play light-heartedly with friends or strangers.'

‘The society is hosted at Allstars, which is a bigger sports club but still has that local 'pubby'-feel to it. It's jovial, loud and busy [...] but it's also not necessarily a place where a woman may feel entirely at ease, and I was a little intimidated at first.'

‘However, the society members were incredibly welcoming and kind from the outset [...] I soon became a regular attendee, getting to know names and faces and quickly making friends. I went every Thursday evening without fail.’

The committee are keen to get rid of the misogynistic stereotypes attached to playing pool and snooker, introducing a women’s only session at Allstars, the first of which will be taking place on 4th October from 5:30-7:30pm.

Beth says that 'the women’s only session this year is simply an opportunity to welcome women who would like to play pool with the club in an environment where they feel entirely at ease [...] I hope the session will show its attendees how fun the game can be, and hopefully make them realise their own skills too!'

She also notes that ‘Like chess, for example, pool is a mental sport’. She points out the irony of male chauvinism in this regard: ‘the suggestion that male and female players shouldn't be able to compete with one another really is the suggestion that the female brain is inferior.'

‘I think really the main problem is the socialisation of pool as a 'male-coded' activity which kind of implicitly gatekeeps it from women and leads to higher levels of scrutiny towards women that do want to enter such a space.'

‘It's a deeply shared ethos amongst the committee this year to change this perception, and I want to really encourage any women who want to give it a go to come along and bring your mates, as it is hopefully the first of many opportunities for women provided by the club. If nothing else, it's a free evening of pool and an opportunity to meet other like-minded women.’

Harley supports this statement, saying that ‘our Club is committed to expanding options for Women to play, socialise and compete in.’

Harley emphasises the benefits of being a member of the Club: ‘I started playing pool and snooker at university and I had no previous experience in playing these, the club has always been so welcoming and committed to building our members’ abilities and knowledge in the sport.’

Regular sessions for Pool and Snooker Club members take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays 5:30-7:30pm at Allstars.

Featured image courtesy of Marcelo Leal / Unsplash

Will you be attending the UoB Pool and Snooker sessions at Allstars this year?