The Power of Community

The Power of Community

At Get Yourself Active, we pride ourselves on sharing the experiences, thoughts and opinions of our wide and diverse community. We love sharing your stories about getting active and what this means to you.

This week, we wanted to share a story from Anna Denham, Get Yourself Active Programme Manager, who has written a piece on her recent trip to visit some of our amazing Together Fund partners. 

Over a recent “Zoom” catch up, my colleague Liddie told me she’d had a brilliant face-to-face meeting. She’d felt energised, enthused and more readily able to bounce ideas around, “I’d forgotten how good face-to-face meetings and visits to the organisations we work with can be”, she told me.

So had I. It had been so long since I’d visited a partner organisation or colleague – something I once used to take for granted – that I’d almost forgotten it was even an option. So, Liddie and I decided that we are going to ‘get back out there’. And visit some of the groups we are working with on Get Yourself Active.

Getting back out there

Last week – with Covid precautions in place – I did just that. I visited two of the small community-based organisations we have been supporting via Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund – now called the Together Fund.

On Tuesday 27th October, I visited Living It Up Events’ performing arts group at St Cuthberts Hall in Bedford. The organisation provides social inclusion support and education for adults with learning disabilities and/or autism. Over 50 adults attend the performing arts group each week, participating in drama, dance, yoga, band practice, karaoke, exercise classes, art, and media.

The Tackling Inequalities Fund had enabled the group to stay Covid-safe during the height of the pandemic by covering the cost of items such as additional tables, pop up screens and room dividers.

I arrived just in time to watch some of the group participating in an instructor-led dance session. Most of the participants were in the hall, but a few were joining in online who we could see on a large projector screen above the stage.

A group of Disabled people are pictured standing around performing yoga in a room filled with Halloween decorations

Everyone looked to be having a great time – dancing and singing to a range of music and generally having fun. Fizz, the group’s Project Manager, showed me around the centre, introducing me to lots of people, who were all happy to have a chat. I even got a sneak peek into the radio broadcasting room whilst they were live on-air and bought some quirky, arty greetings cards that the Living It Up Crafty Crew had made.

It was great to tour the facilities, meet lots of people, and watch so many different activities, including the very fun dance session.

On Wednesday, 28th October, I attended Always Bee You’s Halloween event at the Southern Maltings in Ware.

Always Bee You enables over 35 adults with a learning disability to enhance their health and well-being and become a part of their local community by offering work training, social skills, and sporting activities.

Thanks to the Tackling Inequalities Fund the organisation was able to hire a venue and provide themed Yoga sessions delivered by Yoga Antics, thereby supporting local community enterprises during the pandemic, in addition to providing physical activity for their participants. In some instances, they were even able to offer some one-to-one Yoga sessions and sessions via Zoom.

As people arrived at the Halloween event, many in fancy dress, Jo, the group’s Director and Founder, introduced me to many people – volunteers and participants – and I really enjoyed speaking with them all and hearing about how much they love coming to the social events. After people had arrived and settled in, Loren from Yoga antics led those who wished, through a Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone Yoga session, complete with music, props, and sensory experiences.

Anna Denham, programme manager is pictured smiling behind a mask, next to two young Disabled people. On her left, a young woman is dressed in a denim dress, and on her right a young man is dressed in a black tracksuit. They are having fun

I love yoga, having discovered it during lockdown last year, and couldn’t wait to join in. Loren was so skilled; you could be forgiven for not realising that the story-themed poses were Yoga asanas. And there was no expectation or judgment; people did as little or as much as they could and were actively supported to make adaptations as necessary. It was genuinely fantastic to join in a session where people could participate in the right way for them.

Another clever yet straightforward touch was that the group practised their yoga in a circle, really adding to the sense of community and equality. Following the yoga, food and drink was available, and entertainment from a brilliant local radio DJ who knew how to get everyone to join in the fun.

Looking ahead

I really enjoyed both visits. It was great to finally meet Fizz and Jo, whom I’d been in regular contact with over the past year, ‘in real life’ and meet their colleagues, volunteers, and the people they support who are at the heart of both projects. Everyone I spoke with or with whom I exchanged a smile made me feel welcome. I could see that that welcome extends to everyone who participates in the activities – not just when they turn up to sessions, but beyond.

We were introduced to both these organisations by Community Catalysts. As I drove home from Ware on a cold October evening, I realised that was exactly what I’d witnessed in both organisations – community. People meet over dance or yoga, but ultimately, it’s the community spirit that keeps them together and coming back for more. And as for feeling energised and enthused from going out to visit our partners? It felt so good that the past eighteen months had almost melted away. I can’t wait to do some more.

We are keen to continue our focus on groups underrepresented in Disabled people’s sport & physical activity. If you work with or are an organisation supporting, Black, Asian, or other Minority Ethnic (BAME) Communities, women and girls, and/or communities from lower socioeconomic groups, to become more active.  Please let us know at tacklinginequalities@disabilityrightsuk.org Tel: 0203 687 0771