It looks like we will not be able to offer fencing sessions in November because of the new lockdown rules that were announced by the prime minister on 31st October and which will be applied from 5th November.
It had been our hope to be able to offer something for junior members whilst Oxford was in COVID Tier 2 since there are specific exemptions under that scheme for activities for younger people. We do not think that this will be possible now. We will keep abreast of the guidance from British Fencing and the government and make announcements here as soon as we know more.
We held our first ‘proper’ Tuesday club session on 1st September. Whilst it was less-busy than we’d normally see on a regular Tuesday night, 6 fencers (one bubble) arrived to train. I’m posting this update to let you know how we got on and what we think of the various new rules.
Thank you to everyone who took some time to complete the survey that we posted last week to understand your thoughts about returning to fencing. I wanted to give you an overview of everyone’s opinion because this informs the way that the club will begin to operate again. We’ve been working on a risk assessment for club sessions, and will be sharing it with the school this week to make sure that we’re all happy. I will also make a post here with that once we’ve finalised a couple of small details.
What people are planning or hoping to do
The majority (78%) of you are planning to return to training as soon as you can, or will wait until the social distancing rules are relaxed a little further.
In addition, 87% of you would like to return at a similar level of commitment/frequency, with a small number feeling that other commitments would mean they could come less-often.
Fears or concerns about returning to club
Many of the respondents to the survey expressed concern about catching COVID-19 from club kit, or lack of proper social distancing. There were also concern regarding whether it would be safe to resume fencing, and how we would manage club sessions (warm-up, fighting, lessons) and the extra requirements that the new rules will call for.
The vast majority of respondents to this survey stated that they had their own kit, which makes managing the club kit somewhat easier than it could have been. We have a plan to allocate club equipment to members who don’t have their own and will detail how this will work later. We’ve also been thinking about how to handle the electric boxes and weapons and have a strategy for this too. I will publish this once the risk assessment is agreed with the school.
Face masks have been mentioned as a way to reduce the spread of the virus, but there has also been evidence published in the July 2020 edition of The Sword (page 26) which suggests that they are risky to wear during fights because they prevent efficient breathing. The club is going to ask you to wear masks where possible, and we will be issuing guidance on this soon. The majority of respondents were willing to provide a mask themselves, so this will be the option that we will choose.
What we hope to offer
There are many aspects to a regular club session, and unsurprisingly, there was a lot of variation in what you’d all like to see. From the responses, we will aim to provide warm-up and footwork exercises, fighting/sparring on the electric equipment, and lessons in some form. These may all need to be modified to take account of the new rules, and we will be able to tell you more about this soon.
What you’re looking forward to
Everyone’s looking forward to getting back to fencing again, meeting our friends and doing some training. Like you, I can’t wait to be back in the fencing hall doing some sparring and footwork practice.
As part of planning for how we will return to fencing sessions, we are conducting a survey to see what our members point of view is. Your answers will affect how we move the club back towards regular sessions, so please do take a couple of minutes to share your feedback.
An update about the club and what we’re up to at the moment.
We’ve had some fun social hangouts on Houseparty over the past few weeks. These are announced on the club Facebook page, and have been held on Friday evenings at about the time that we’d be in the club. Please come along to the next one!
As you’ll have seen in the news, the government is keen for schools to return in the next couple of weeks after half-term. Rye St. Antony have indicated to me that they would be willing for us to use the hall in June. HOWEVER, British Fencing’s guidance (https://www.britishfencing.com/covid-19-update-may-18/) and our committee are clear that we can’t go back to fencing yet because it will be difficult or impossible to maintain social distancing measures whilst in a fencing bout.
Once the guidance from BF changes, which will be based on events in the country as a whole, we will be able to think about restarting sessions. We’ll also need some new procedures and probably new risk assessments to satisfy the new rules that will likely be in place. If you’d like to lend a hand with these (or have some experience in these matters), please get in touch!
I’m aware that many of you have been continuing to pay monthly membership fees, or have an annual membership that’s still running. Thank you for your continued support. Because the club has essentially no outgoings when we are not running sessions, it is our intention to credit everyone who’s remained a member during lockdown with membership extensions once we are at the other side. If you’d prefer to cancel recurring payments, you can do so by logging in to the admin site (https://oxfordfencing.tidyhq.com) and turning off Auto Renew on the “Memberships” tab of “TidyHQ Account Settings”. You should also receive an email before the payments are taken telling you how to do this.
The club usually holds its AGM in June. This year, since such a meeting is essentially impossible to hold, we will instead hold an Extraordinary General Meeting when we return to Rye. We will announce this two weeks beforehand, in line with the club constitution. On this subject Anne, our treasurer, has announced her intention to stand down at the next AGM/EGM, and we will require someone to assist with managing our accounts from then. This is not a particularly onerous task since almost everyone pays their fees by credit card, so the bulk of the work is paying invoices for lettings and coaching via online banking. Anne or I would be delighted to explain the work in more detail, which would also suit a parent of one of our junior members.
Because of new government guidance designed to reduce the spread of the current coronavirus pandemic, the school has cancelled all lettings for clubs. This means that there will be no club sessions until the regulations are eased. We haven’t been given any indication of when that will be.
My apologies to everyone who wants to fence, Tim Stephens Chair, Oxford Fencing Club
I’m aware that many people are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak that is currently happening. Here’s what the club’s position is as I write.
We’re following Public Health England guidance, so until that changes we’re planning to go ahead with the sessions as normal (which includes the beginners course that is planned to start on 20th March). As far as measures to minimise the risks from the coronavirus outbreak, we have:
Wet wipes to clean out the club masks before use. Once a mask is issued to course participants, it’s theirs for the duration of the course; no-one else will be using it and all kit is stored in a numbered bag so you can find it easily each session. We will make some of the spare beginners bags available to regular club members who don’t have their own masks so that they can keep their chosen mask separate and reduce the risk of transmission.
Hand-washing is available in the toilets and in the “kitchen” area adjacent to the sports hall entrance. Please make sure that you wash your hands on arrival and departure.
One of the traditions in the rules of Fencing is that competitors shake hands after a bout. British Fencing have suspended this rule and advise that fencers avoid handshakes — we have implemented this in the club.
We have a relatively large space in the hall, so please try to make the most of this to help everyone stay a reasonable distance apart.
If the government guidance changes (e.g. regarding gatherings of people, or school closings), the school have told me that they will cancel our bookings and the club will not be able to run. If this happens, we will post updates by email, on the club website and on Facebook. Please check before you head out.
Finally, Mark is keeping tally of who’ll be at a particular session using the Facebook group, so if you’re planning to come please let us know there so that we can be confident that there are some others to fence. Tim Stephens Chair, Oxford Fencing Club
By popular demand, we’re holding an introductory Epee course starting on 6th March for 4 weeks. This should be enough to get a regular foilist or sabreur up to speed with the differences between their usual weapon and the epee. Malcolm will lead the course, and tickets are available here.