Seven years and ninety seconds

“You have no more than ninety seconds to summarize your group’s discussion.” This is one of the phrases I have uttered at least a hundred times over the years. How many exactly? My gosh, the idea of this club popped out of my head in the summer of 2011. When we first sat down in the empty room of the art gallery seven years ago, I had no vision of 15-20 member groups filling up a bar room with their voices every second week. Today, if we walk down to CDFŰ, we have our flyers all over the place, and we are considered a top priority event there. A lot of people have at least heard about us. Every season somebody walks in saying: a friend of mine recommended this club to me. Not to mention the ones who simply googled ‘English club Budapest’, and they somehow ended up here.

The quintessential TAKE FIVE equipment: name tags, mushroom lamps, colored envelopes with the topics, laminated guidelines, and last but not least, the bell.

TAKE FIVE is a dream come true – one we did not even know we had. Nevertheless, this long road has its bumps and cracks too.

In January we were compelled to assemble a crisis team to unravel the reasons behind the ridiculously low attendance. I would say it was the first time we truly hit rock bottom. In such moments in our lives, it is good to have a childhood friend around. Besides a number of minor changes we agreed to make, Zoli – who has been a faithful partner in crime since kindergarten – “raised his hand” and verbalized the very essence of our existence. His words soon became our slogan, which we had never actually had before: come for the language, stay for the company.

This moment served as a sort of turning point to me (with the string and brass sections intensifying behind my back), since throughout these years I have kept focusing on English, and hardly ever stopped for a minute to contemplate how significant the rest is. As of now I have no doubts: TAKE FIVE is primarily a social event, and as a side project we provide a place for people to practice the language.

Especially during the last two years we have begun to broaden our horizons or, shall we say, expand our comfort zone and take on new ventures. In 2016 we organized two exclusive sessions for two groups of high school students, and in the winter of 2017 we announced our first Christmas charity campaign. In the meantime, our community is becoming more and more colorful by the month. We are opening up new channels in two particular directions. First off, a remarkable number of teenagers have joined us recently, with the youngest having been 13 years old.

What is more, we are proud to have welcomed three people with autism in the past two years. This is not the right time to discuss in detail what this extraordinary condition is about. It is enough to say that if they leave this place satisfied and they are ready to come back for a second time, that is the most valuable feedback we could ever possibly receive.

It is also life-changing to witness how shy and/or introverted people come to the club, and eventually spread their wings slowly but surely. I as a teenager would have been scared to death if I had been asked to talk in front of complete strangers. This is not the case with 16-year-old Anna who, quite similarly to my 14-year-old student Ambrus, sprang to her feet and took one of the hot seats to present a summary of her group’s discussion. In the above photo, two proud teachers are looking back at her, one of them being her form teacher and my colleague at the school, Ildi. Let us pause for a second to celebrate: it was the very first time in the history of the club for a student and their form teacher to appear together.

As far as our future is concerned, we have our evil plans, and not all of them are yet to be revealed. One thing we are willing to share with you: at the end of this season we will begin to award badges to our recurring members, as a way of expressing our gratitude for their loyalty. For starters, once you have attended the 10th session, you become eligible for our silver-blue badge, and your name will appear on our site. (If you so desire, of course.) In case you have been a hardcore member in the past years, you will receive a special golden-red badge. All badges will be awarded retrospectively too.

Over the course of seven years we have built up something amazing, which we could not have done without your support. We have our own format for the sessions, we have rituals, we have inside jokes, we have online forums, we have a reputation, but most importantly: we have a lovely and accepting community of enthusiastic people who either join us to brush up on their English, or join us to socialize, to make new friends. We can only hope that most of you come for both.