In hopes of saving their beloved lawn bowls club, three elderly Australian women shimmied and shook to create a Beyoncé parody video extolling their passion for the sport and their decades-old organization.
Their goal was to get the attention of their local council, which has threatened to destroy their club grounds to make way for a new sports stadium. They thought perhaps if they were lucky they could even raise awareness among locals in Melbourne, where the club is based.
But what 72-year-old Wyn Hewett, and 82-year-olds Terry Foster and Janine Hall of Chadstone Bowls Club didn’t realize was their video would fast become a runaway hit, going viral across Australia ― and beyond.
In just three days, their clip, “All The Bowling Ladies,” has been watched more than 800,000 times on Facebook. A Change.org petition they launched has been signed by more than 6,000 people.
“It’s just amazing,” 58-year-old Denise Wallish, a club member who came up with the concept for the video, told HuffPost Australia this week of the clip’s success. “I think people get it, they get that it is morally wrong and they want to support it.”
Wallish is on the committee that’s fighting to save Chadstone Bowls Club ― lovingly called Chaddy Bowls by its members ― from demolition. According to Australia’s ABC News, Stonnington City Council nominated the club’s grounds last year as the preferred site for a new $20 million netball and basketball stadium. Wallish said she decided to spearhead the creation of a video in hopes of getting the council to pay attention to the club’s objection to the plan.
“We’ve got to get into modern times ... so I rejigged the lyrics to [Beyoncé’s hit ‘Single Ladies’] and asked a couple of the girls if they’d be up for a bit of fun,” Wallish told HuffPost Australia.
Of the three women in the video, only Hall had even heard of Beyoncé. But the women were more than willing to learn the rigorous choreography to save their club.
“It’s all for the bowls, that’s what we care about,” Hall, who was left with sore knees after the shoot, told The New York Times, adding that she’d be “devastated” if Chaddy Bowls was no more.
“The bowling club is not just a just sporting outlet. For many people it’s their connection with their community,” Wallish told ABC. “We have a man in his 90s who said he would chain himself to the fence to save it.”
The mayor of Stonnington, Jami Klisaris, said no final decision has been made regarding the Chaddy Bowls site. She added that the council would listen to the concerns of the community and consider the needs of the bowls club and its members.
Interest in lawn bowls, once a hugely popular sport in Australia, has dwindled in recent decades. A game that involves rolling weighted balls to get close to a smaller ball called a “jack” or “kitty,” lawn bowls is now played mostly by the elderly, specifically older men.
“For some of those elderly men bowlers who are widowers or divorced, the bowls club are the reason they get up in the morning,” Wallish told the Times.