Private family clubs have been around for centuries. London’s Hurlingham Club opened in 1867 as ‘an agreeable country resort’ and has for years been attended by families looking to spend their recreational time close-to-home but worlds’ apart. Unfortunately, as the waiting list has been all but closed for some time, most of us new generation of South West Londoners can’t get a look in.
The Harbor Club, famously frequented by Lady Di back in the 80’s, is still going strong for those sporty types needing a weekend hub where dad can grab a game of tennis while mum gets her Pilates fix (or vice-versa), and the kids take their weekly swimming lesson.
There is however a new generation of club that caters for the family in a different kind of way. But if you Google the rise of these new private family members club they seem to get some pretty sniping press. Apparently, these new hang-outs are ridiculously expensive hubs where social climbing tiger mums keep their precious little ones from mixing with the hoi polloi while aligning themselves with like minded so-called ‘PLU’s’.
Having been a member of family club Cupcake for two years and visited a couple of the other “children’s members clubs”, my take is that these are nothing but a friendly and fun place to hang out and relax in a family-friendly environment. Membership carries a cost, but for that I get access to unlimited classes from ballet and tap to art, French and Big D’s new obsession – rugby! So while she’s happily enjoying her weekly activities, I’m with Little D rolling around in soft-play or joining in an Action Amanda class. Everyone’s happy – and it costs less than what I’d be spending ferrying the girls around various church halls.
Are my daughters hanging out with the offspring of rockstars and royalty as the journos suggest? No – of course not. But they have made a wonderful group of friends and so have I – in a way which has nothing to do with social climbing and everything to do with meeting friends organically brought together by two common interests – our children and our community.
Community, at least in London, is something that I had no real sense of or appreciation for before I had children. I loved the anonymity of City life. But now I love living in a small pocket of London where I can bump into friends in the street or supermarket. Family clubs, like Cupcake, help accelerate this process – and there are a bunch of great ones to choose from.
Although I’m not a member of Maggie & Rose who have outposts in both Kensington and Chiswick (it’s dubbed the Soho House for mini’s), when I popped there recently I was blown away at what a wonderful environment had been created for little wonderful people to grow, develop and socialise.
I also hear nothing but amazing things about Purple Dragon clubs that are now dotted all around the world. The original Chelsea club has everything from simulated golf lessons to swimming on site as well as an abundance of baby/toddler classes. Parents can join in the fun, or take some time out to catch up with work, emails or general life admin without the pressure of feeling guilty.
So, if you haven’t already checked out any of these new generation family clubs, you definitely should. Children can be children in an environment that is purely positive and a happy place to spend time as a family.
After all, if they’re happy, I’m happy!
Love Mummy B