The British Club of Bahrain is one of the world’s oldest expat clubs and boasts a multicultural membership and family-friendly atmosphere. Kristian Harrison spoke to the club’s Chairman, Chris Woodrow, ahead of King Charles III’s coronation and discussed the club’s plans for the historic occasion and his own personal honour bestowed upon him by the new monarch.
Founded in 1935 in the heart of Um Al Hassam, the club comprises more than 1,500 members and 60 nationalities. Founded by Sir Charles Belgrave, one of the pioneers of Bahraini-British relations, it has a long and distinguished history in the Kingdom.
The club delivers on its motto: ‘Your home away from home,’ with its variety of dining outlets, tennis and squash courts, a gym, swimming pool, snooker room, library and more. The club’s garden area with a giant screen and twice-weekly live music fosters a friendly atmosphere which caters for all ages.
Mr. Woodrow has been in Bahrain for 17 years and is the COO of a large development company based in Amwaj Islands, managing a portfolio of luxury residential properties, hotels, hospitals and mixed-use developments.
He has been part of the British Club Executive Committee for 13 years, initially as a House Member before moving on to the position of Deputy Chairman in his third year. He is now in his ninth year as Chairman, the longest-serving in history.
For his meritorious service to the British community in Bahrain during his historic voluntary tenure, he was awarded the British Empire Medal on King Charles III’s International New Year’s Honours list.
“I feel extremely humbled and proud to have been awarded the British Empire Medal,” he says. “When the British Ambassador called me to tell me, I was stuck for words, which is pretty unusual for me!
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the great team at the British Club, the staff really go above and beyond to make everybody feel welcome and part of the family.
“The British Club is a very special place, very dear to me, being a member for so long and having the privilege of chairing a club in such a fantastic country has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve met many life-long friends at the British Club and no doubt will meet more in the coming years.
“Whilst the British Club is a non-profit organisation, we still need to generate profits for the upkeep of the club and to continually strive to improve the facilities for our members and guests, so it’s a big responsibility for the Executive Committee and our staff.
“I’ve been here as Chairman through the most financially successful years at the club, but also through the very worst times with COVID-19, where with careful management, the club successfully navigated some pretty challenging times. Many will not be aware, but the British Club and its many sections have donated generously to Bahrain-based charities over the years, which has been a great privilege for me to have been involved in.
To celebrate the historic coronation on May 6, the club will be hosting a Coronation Street Party on May 5, which is open to all and will feature inflatables in the pool, a bake-off challenge, family games, a photo booth, British food menu and live entertainment. The following day, there will be full coverage of the coronation from 9am, with a British breakfast buffet and themed afternoon menu.
“From the feedback the club is getting, there is a real buzz in the air about the coronation,” Mr Woodrow believes. “This is an event that very, very few people have experienced before and the club will be fully branded and sure to generate an amazing atmosphere!”