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THE FIRST MEETING of The British Beard Club took place at The Cockpit pub in Blackfriars, London on 13th February 2009. About twenty were expected, including myself and my partner, but on the day several people sent profuse apologies for having to miss the occasion for health and travel difficulty reasons. I wish those gentlemen a speedy return to health and restored vitality.

We arrived at the pub early at about 6pm, to find Peter and his wife Suzanne were already sitting there with foaming pints in front of them. There were around twenty other casual drinkers, but this pub has a nice "local" atmosphere, rather than just being a City Bankers' after-work venue. Shortly after we sat down with our drinks, two local London Beardsmen, Ian and Dan, who happen to know each other through the soon-to-close Mybeard.org Internet social forum, arrived together.

There was a family party of American visitors to London sitting close by, and they were very interested to hear the explanation of why there was beginning to be a more than average proportion of bearded men in the pub. I explained the reason for our meeting, and I was asked to give them some of my TBBC contact cards which they wanted to give to two of their friends back in New York with chest-length beards. We all nodded our approval.

Up to this point, present were four full beards, a bushy goatee and one lady. Next to arrive was the Punch and Judy man, Professor Eek. The Professor is a large jovial man with a motorbike and an impressive set of whiskers, but "regrettably" a shaven chin. He was quickly followed by Bill, a full-bearded American living and working in London, known to several of us through the Internet "Beard Boards".

The pub was beginning to get noisier, but everyone was pleased to meet and talk. Next to arrive were three Beardsmen from outside London; residents of the more rural parts of real Essex, away from the suburban overspill areas. Frazer, Charlie and Henry had braved their despised urban concentration of London to be with us, and sample the real brews on offer. The meeting's quorum of twelve was completed by the arrival of one other facial hair aficionado. Tom is a stalwart member of The Handlebar Club, blessed with excellent twirled moustaches, but he has chosen to eschew further facial foliage.

The British Beard Club quorum
Back row: Frazer - Professor Eek - Henry   Middle row: John - Ian - Dan - Charlie - Bill
Front row: Peter - David

Although there was probably more general discussion about the ways of the world, beer-drinking and foreign travel, some ideas for the constitution of The British Beard Club emerged from talking with those present. There are two vaguely opposing views about how formal the Club should be, and what membership qualifications should be applied.

One group felt that to qualify for full membership, an existing chin-emerging beard of "tug-testable" quality and coverage should be present. Other facial arrangements such as generous five o'clock shadow, stubble beards, pencil line beards and shaven chin styles would be welcome but those growers would remain with an "associate" membership. These ideas do seem quite appropriate for competition quality beardsmanship.

The other view was that the Club should be a "loose" association of bearded friends, who meet up from time to time for drinks and perhaps a meal, and maybe gather informally to support various events that may happen, charitable or otherwise. The idea of a committee, officers and membership fees was not liked by this group, who felt that any man with an interest in growing facial hair, whether full-bearded or not, should be welcome to join and participate in all activities.

It was also suggested that in order to feel that one "belongs" to The British Beard Club, whatever its type of constitution, a good-quality badge or insignia would be desirable. This could include a woven or embroidered "patch" for sewing onto a blazer pocket, or to a leather or denim jacket, as well as being offered embroidered on a Club polo shirt, rather than a printed T-shirt. Also a banner or flag would be needed for those of us attending this May's World Beard and Moustache Championships in Alaska, USA, to march with.

To raise funds for the Club insignia or regalia, a membership fee was suggested, but I think this can only be charged if the Club is established on a legal basis as an Unincorporated Association with a Committee and officers. I propose to create a questionnaire page on the Web site to canvas for your collective opinions on whether you would just be prepared to pay 10 - 20 for a Club Patch or Polo Shirt itself, and which of the two constitutional camps you prefer.

Although this particular venue is friendly and welcoming, and the bar staff on this evening both had generous moustaches and were happy to accept some promotional material I left with them, those present felt that an alternative pub might be tried for the next meeting. Several suggestions for London pubs in the Victoria area have been noted, and although a date for the next meeting was not discussed during the evening, it would seem that Friday evenings are always rather busy in City of London pubs, whereas a Saturday night in Victoria might be quieter. Could we consider the second Saturday in March as the next meeting date - 14th March? The venue is to be announced and/or voted upon.

Other possible future Club activities discussed were a visit to the Broadstairs Folk Week in early August, and a Bearded Dinner (or Lunch) taken at some not-too-expensive restaurant chain like Pizza Express, Wokmania, Wagamama or Bella Pasta. You may have other suggestions?

A good time was had by all who attended, and everyone had useful and friendly conversations. From about 10pm the meeting broke up gradually, leaving only the Essex Beardsmen at The Cockpit to finish off their pints and make their way to Liverpool Street Station. Photos on this page were taken by Susanne, Pete's wife using his camera, and are their copyright.TBBC

Best Bearded Regards
Beard Art Copyright © J.O.D.Hood 2008 www.jodhood.comText Copyright © MMIX THE BRITISH BEARD CLUB - Photography Copyright © MMIX P&S Horlock