- Credit: Nick Butcher
They’ve become the object of bets and debates - Judy Potter’s colourful jackets have taken on a life of their own, as Angi Kennedy discovers
“Some people collect stamps - I collect jackets,” laughs Judy Potter, as a small selection of her large - very large - collection is wheeled into the reception area of Potters Resort at Hopton.
“I would never dare tell you how many I have, but it’s got a few zeros on the end! Brian used to say to me that if I lived to be 100 and changed my jacket regularly every day I would still not be able to wear them all.”
It was Judy’s late husband Brian Potter who came up with a way of turning his wife’s clothing obsession into a fun way of raising money for charity. Brian, who ran the family holiday firm founded by his grandfather Herbert Potter, brought the annual World Indoor Bowling Championship to the resort. When he noticed that Judy’s jackets - a different one for each day of the competition - were becoming a topic of conversation among the guests each year he suggested a fundraising challenge to guess which colour she would be sporting on the day of the final. It was a simple idea but a stroke of genius.
“Over the years we have raised thousands of pounds for charities like the lifeboat, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Louise Hamilton Centre at the James Paget University Hospital through this and the other ideas like selling cushions for the spectators at the bowls,” says Judy. “And it has also given me this wonderful excuse to buy jackets . . .”
Not that Judy needs much excuse - jackets have always been her favourite, although she also collects hair bows, corsages and spectacles. “I don’t possess a dress - I am definitely a jacket person. A lot are from Jarrold’s in Norwich and from London; Basler is my favourite label. When the children left home I converted their rooms to house them!”
Many have sentimental memories attached to them: “I wore this cream and black one for the opening of our Zest Rooms restaurant,” says Judy as she flicks through the dozen she has selected for our photo shoot around the clifftop resort. “The black and white jacket was what I wore when we went to the palace for Brian to receive his MBE, and this yellow one has special memories for me as I wore it to the 2014 World Bowls final which was the last one that Brian went to.”
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With so many to choose from, Judy keeps a log of which jacket she wears each day of the bowls championship so that she can keep her selection fresh for the crowds. And this year money from the “Guess the colour of Judy’s jacket” competition will be added to the Potters Friends Foundation, a community interest company recently set up in memory of Brian, who died in November 2014. The foundation will continue his philanthropic legacy by supporting worthy causes and acts of kindness - including through encouraging the team at the resort to get involved in activities that benefit the wider community.
The Just Retirement World Indoor Bowls Championship takes place at Potters Resort from Friday, January 8 to Sunday, January 24, with the BBC filming some of the tournament and the final. The World Indoor Singles Championship final takes place on the afternoon of January 24, with players competing for prize money of £55,000. Also competing during during the week will be the world’s finest pairs and women bowlers, including Norfolk’s own Rebecca Field. Rebecca, who plays in the Norfolk Bowling Club, Norwich, claimed the ladies’ title in 2013, and says: “Walking out on the blue carpet in the International Arena at Potters Resort is a feeling I find difficult to put into words. It’s the best place to have the honour to play bowls and it’s the only world championship final to be held in East Anglia.”
Day tickets are still available by booking in advance, with prices from £5. Short break at Potters during the tournament start from £119 for an overnight stay including full board and entry to the International Bowls arena. Visit www.pottersholidays.com or call 0333 3207497 to book.