Author Topic: BCA member demographics  (Read 1039 times)

Offline pwhole

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #25 on: September 04, 2020, 12:26:03 pm »
- maybe it's more a case of stressing the relevance of underground exploration to modern life

An interesting comment ... what precisely do you mean by this?

I guess in the sense that exploration outside the 'ordinary' is a useful and potentially very valuable skill - and underground is one of the few areas of nature that are 'out of the ordinary' to most people - and thankfully within relatively easy reach, without requiring foreign travel. Also that many processes that occur underground are fundamental to our survival - clean water, geological movement, biological activity - even viruses. There's such a huge gulf between underground and overground in terms of perception and senses that I think we're almost beholden to develop both sets in parallel. Art and science then become less separated and can be appreciated more as different aspects of the same subject.

So much of modern life now is pre-packaged and conformist that it's often painful to witness the stasis many people are in, and caving is so profoundly unconformist by its very nature that I think it can have huge benefits in terms of preparing folks for a more 'uncertain' (but possibly much more exciting) future. If there ever is a space industry developed by this country, we'll definitely need skills like these, for example, but probably on the moon rather than here - though we'll definitely need to practice here first! China is training four year-olds to land lunar modules, via video-games at school - that's good, but why aren't we?

I can't think of any other industry that could employ enough people, with enough mental stimulation, and enough career potential to get us out of trouble. Not coffee shops, that is for sure  - although I'll continue to support the coffee bean industry until I can't swallow any longer. In fact it's time for another one.

Instead of: 'Just Eat' as a popular slogan we could maybe have: 'Just Improve'  :)

Offline mikem

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #26 on: September 08, 2020, 01:27:00 pm »
Apparently average age at BMC is now 42 (the answer to life, the universe & everything?), so has increased in last 17 years:
https://thebmc.co.uk/bmc-membership-numbers-latest-update

Offline JoshW

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #27 on: September 08, 2020, 02:36:27 pm »
Apparently average age at BMC is now 42 (the answer to life, the universe & everything?), so has increased in last 17 years:
https://thebmc.co.uk/bmc-membership-numbers-latest-update

But the key thing is how has this increased/decreased over the last X years, and how does this compare to the national average. With people living longer, and staying active longer, I think you'd expect to some extent the average age to increase slightly. Again someone more cleverer than me may be able to offer a different insight

Offline mikem

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #28 on: September 08, 2020, 02:42:58 pm »
Problem there is that 2003 data didn't specify a year, but somewhere in lower half of range from 30 to 45 years...

They have also lost 5000(!) members since the end of last year, which is likely to be mostly in the younger age groups, as they couldn't go out climbing, so didn't need the insurance.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2020, 02:53:18 pm by mikem »

Offline Jenny P

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #29 on: September 08, 2020, 04:49:36 pm »
A comment I heard a while ago is that there are now a whole load of completely new outdoor activities which are very visible and for which particpants get to wear colourful clothes:  kite surfing, hang gliding, para-gliding, mountain-biking, skate-boarding, etc. and these have been taken up by some young people who might otherwise have taken up caving.  The point is that caving isn't "visible" to the general public in the same way as these other new sports, and the only chance most non-cavers get to know about caving is either the few TV programmes specifically about cave exploration (though these are on the increase) or else headlines about cave rescues.

The other problem is that young teenagers are taken caving as an "outdoor activity" by schools and outdoor centres but almost always, when they approach a caving club to ask about continuing the sport, the answer has to be on the lines of "... only if one of your parents comes with you ..." because caving isn't set up to deal with child protection issues.  So, although some clubs are able to help out and do accept young people, these tend to be few and far between.  This then means we can't attract the really keen youngsters who we need to join caving clubs to carry on the sport and be our future.

I don't know the answer to this but the BCA Youth and Development Group is now trying to address the problem and we have a BCA Child Protection Officer who is able to give useful advice.

It's also noticeable that clubs seem to have people joining in their late teens, who are really keen but drop out after only a few years when they either get bored, having done all the longest and hardest caves in the book, or have to concentrate on earning a living.  Certainly my club has had quite a number of older cavers join saying they want to come back to caving again, having done it for a while in their youth and now have time to get back to it.  Those who join, or re-join, in later life seem to stick with it in a way that the keen teens didn't.

Offline JasonC

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #30 on: September 08, 2020, 07:31:33 pm »
.....
  Certainly my club has had quite a number of older cavers join saying they want to come back to caving again, having done it for a while in their youth and now have time to get back to it.  Those who join, or re-join, in later life seem to stick with it in a way that the keen teens didn't.

That was true of me, and as you say, probably many others.  But I wonder how many people start caving in mid-life?  I don't know, but I suspect not too many, therefore it's important to get people hooked when they're young - their caving career may not be continuous, but it's quite likely to re-start when the opportunity arises.

I (and again, doubtless many others) started as a (Venture) Scout, inspired by a young leader and the prospect of underage drinking at the Hunter's, so I think that any effort to encourage young 'uns is to be heartily applauded.

(Though I suppose the underage drinking bit isn't ;) )

Offline Fjell

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #31 on: September 08, 2020, 08:07:01 pm »
For a very long time the main source of really active young cavers has been colleges. Failure to really take this on board in the past is what caused a lot of the problems and decline through the 90’s. To this day a lot of the people who cave outside large clubs are graduates who cave with friends here and abroad.
I decided a while back not to take other peoples children caving. It is too fraught these days and best left to instructors with insurance. Although one of them nearly got one of mine killed in a manner that I still boggle at when I look at it. I didn't even know they had gone (another kids party).

Offline pwhole

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #32 on: September 08, 2020, 08:44:49 pm »

That was true of me, and as you say, probably many others.  But I wonder how many people start caving in mid-life?  I don't know, but I suspect not too many, therefore it's important to get people hooked when they're young - their caving career may not be continuous, but it's quite likely to re-start when the opportunity arises.


It was certainly true for me - I was far too 'busy' at Uni (1983-86) to get into caving, and the beards sported by seemingly all the guys in 'sports societies' were terrifying, but I was in the art faculty, so many of the lecturers were pretty hirsute too. I don't remember many women being involved, otherwise I might have made more of an effort. Though many of the women there carried swords into the canteen, so even that prospect was slightly daunting, but I love a challenge. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, most expressions of interest our club have had lately have been older than University age, with a couple of notable exceptions. Not necessarily middle-aged, but late 30s/early 40s.

Offline Badlad

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #33 on: September 08, 2020, 09:39:51 pm »
Finally got round to splitting this topic from the statement of the BCA chair.  Apologies for those who requested it earlier.

So I think the big questions are,
 
Are we an ageing caving population with not enough cavers entering the sport from the younger age groups so that the population will decline as the older cavers drop of the perch?

Or,

Are we we just an older demographic where the sport just attracts more older people and we can remain a healthy sport this way?

Or,

Are people attracted to the sport when they are older because they had fond memories of enjoying caving when they were younger but were distracted by work, family and less demanding hobbies?

Whichever is the case the need to attract young folk to the sport, even if just for a short time, is clearly necessary.

Or - are there other scenarios playing out?

Offline mikem

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #34 on: September 08, 2020, 10:32:31 pm »
First thing you need there are membership numbers going back a few years...

Offline badger

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #35 on: September 09, 2020, 07:59:33 am »
for what is worth, I think Jenny has hit the nail on the head. I started caving as a scout, then did not continue as started a family, not until my kids had reached an age that I could take them caving did I get back to the sport.
other public exposure to the sport is via the media/TV/films all of which more often than not paint a picture of very tight tunnels, fortunately especially in my case this is not the case, even when you explain to people that caves are not just tight they still come back with but I cant do it cause its tight, TV pictures apparently create a much more powerful picture than a large person saying they are not tight, or there is just some places I cant go. Or they believe every cave trip results in cave rescue.
another issue as a scout cave leader i try to give them a happy experience wanting them to go away raving about how much fun they had. sometimes as leaders we may push people to hard so they end up not enjoying it. a very fine line from enough to too much, also as leaders are we as good as we think we are, how many leaders take young people dressed appropriately for the enviroment? our scouts are always supplied with the same kit as we have (bar lights, on duo's)
fortunately as scouts all the child protection and training is all covered, but for caving clubs its not always so easy and something the BCA safeguarding/welfare/child  protection is working and producing some excellent resource for clubs. So hopefully more clubs in future can have youth sections.

Offline moletta

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #36 on: September 12, 2020, 10:30:50 am »
Maybe some of the outdoor centres involved in caving could offer courses or sessions for U18s keen to do more but too young for clubs / university. Could the BCA fund this as part of a youth development programme?

Offline mrodoc

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #37 on: September 12, 2020, 04:16:08 pm »
From my perspective I started proper caving aged 14 by asking my father to take me. He took the whole family (and some school friends) but all dropped out after about 5 years except the two of us. My wife took it up after we married having been persuaded by the late Tim Lyons who she worked with. She still caves occasional but a visual problem means it is tricky for her. We took both daughters caving and they still go even in their thirties although having children has slowed them down (and partners who are not interested). That is a common reason for people to stop their activities - raising a family unless you are very determined,  your spouse supports you and you can afford to of course.  All of them did so because of my enthusiasm so perhaps we need to transmit that more to those around us. The argument that there are so many glitzier things to do doesn't wash with me as both my daughers dive, enjoy walking and one has done  some climbing while the other is keen on coasteering (she did this off her own bat). Both also ski when they get the chance. I know several cavers who also do a variety of adventure sports. Caving is not mutually exclusive to going out and doing other things; I know cavers who hang glide, dive, kayak etc etc.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #38 on: September 12, 2020, 05:11:17 pm »
Locally there was a college caving club and a police cadets caving club. Both have since folded up. I did a lot of early caving with a college caving club though I was far too dumb to be a student. It seems to me that many of these early routes into caving no longer exist. I started caving whilst at school more or less out of curiosity and the fact that a reasonable sized cave was within cycling distance.   I can't say that I was encouraged by anyone. My Dad was a martial arts instructor which I did for a while but was never happy with anything competitive. Caving suited my personality. I belong to two caving clubs but rarely cave with them. The caving companions I met 55 years ago still cave with me . Both were students back then. I did get sidetracked by mixed gas wreck diving for a while until I realised that it had a high mortality rate. We lost eight of our extended group and I suffered a good few close calls. Oddly I never let family influence me even when the children were young. I have a fatalistic view of life. When your numbers up that's it. Just as likely to die driving the car. You might say that my generation was tougher and more resilient than those today. Muck and cold never worried me as our lives were simple anyway. One coal fire to heat our little cottage and a tin bath with shared water. Caving is a darn sight easier today than we ever had it. Sumps just in woolly jumpers and carbide lamps. I guess there is so much more open to younger folk today. We never dreamed of foreign travel when we were young. Perhaps that is part of the problem. The routes into early caving do not exist like they used to. We dare not take school children other than our own for fear of litigation. Our digging group are mostly over 70 or in MR O'Doc's case soon will be. We have one " youngster " who is nearly 50 but cant come every week due to work as we dig on Tuesdays. Routes to Mendip over Summer are horrible at weekends. The M4 is at a standstill again this weekend.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #39 on: September 12, 2020, 05:55:27 pm »
As far as I am concerned caving isn't really a sport it is an activity that is linked to exploring and researching the natural world. If you just underground for the fun of it you are going to get bored pretty quickly. I got keen on photography, digging and the odd bit of surveying as well as being able  to contribute medically in a small way. Caving isn't the only activity that is suffering. UK diving clubs are folding up left right and centre because people get bored after about 3 years. Those who stick at it develop an interest either in history ie wrecks (like the OR), marine life (as environmentalists) or photography or badge collecting (the latter get bored fastest). I have continued diving as a photographer and with an interest in marine life as well as, most recently cleaning up the sea bed. If it wasn't for those interests I would have packed up years ago. It is not a matter of getting people underground, it is giving them a reason to carry on doing it and getting something out of it than exercise. Half the fun of a good trip is the stuff you do at home afterwards.

Offline langcliffe

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #40 on: September 12, 2020, 06:02:10 pm »
If you just underground for the fun of it you are going to get bored pretty quickly.

I must have a high boredom threshold - having fun has been my main motivation for caving for 53 years.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #41 on: September 12, 2020, 10:30:30 pm »
I bet you do more than go down caves otherwise you would not be posting on this forum!

Offline Fjell

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #42 on: September 13, 2020, 09:04:32 am »
I bet you do more than go down caves otherwise you would not be posting on this forum!

There are indeed many sub-cults: digging, hut fettling, committees, arguing, photos, drinking, singing, growing beards like Gimli, throwing sofas around. My current recommended primer is The Detectorists.

I just go caving. Preferably mud free, saves no end of bother cleaning stuff. I like to minimise faffing outside the cave.

Offline Rachel

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #43 on: September 13, 2020, 12:32:21 pm »
It's worth considering that BCA membership stats only tell part of the story. There are plenty of young people caving seperately from clubs, who don't appear in the statistics. I'm pottering down Great Douk this afternoon with a work colleague and her six year old son. Neither are, or are ever likely to be, BCA members. I'm sure there must be many other trips like this, with kids going on trips but never showing up on the BCA radar.

Offline Jenny P

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Re: BCA member demographics
« Reply #44 on: September 13, 2020, 02:13:06 pm »
It's worth considering that BCA membership stats only tell part of the story. There are plenty of young people caving seperately from clubs, who don't appear in the statistics. I'm pottering down Great Douk this afternoon with a work colleague and her six year old son. Neither are, or are ever likely to be, BCA members. I'm sure there must be many other trips like this, with kids going on trips but never showing up on the BCA radar.

True indeed.  Judging from the folks seen underground in Derbyshire, we always assumed that BCA members (i.e. "club cavers"), comprised only about 50% of cavers.  It may vary between regions, depending on the type of caves, how easy they are to access and what equipment might be required.

 

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