Back in November 2013 Welsh Gymnastics approached Diverse Cymru to seek support and advice on how to attract females from ethnic minorities to participate in gymnastics. It was a conversation that built a strong working relationship between Samira Salter, BME Mental Health Support Worker Diverse Cymru and Rhian Gibson, Chief Executive of Welsh Gymnastics.
The pair agreed that the best approach to engage the young girls was to establish an extra-curricular gymnastics club within Mount Stuart Primary School, which is located in a multi-cultural community of Cardiff.
The first gymnastics class in March 2014 attracted 12 girls (this has now grown to 24, with a waiting list of 20) and following a successful pilot scheme, a decision was made to apply for Call 4 Action funding. In January this year, the project was granted £157,000, which will support the club over the next three years, in hope of reaching 500 women and girls to regularly participate in gymnastic activities in the Butetown area.
The funding will be used to set up more sessions in other locations, both in schools and the community – positive talks have already been held with the Pavilion Community Centre in Butetown to move the club there as it develops. The funding will also support the training of female members in the community in coaching and management skills to ensure the long-term sustainability of the club.
Fast forward to June 2015 and the project is well under way and proving a success, with plenty of scope to grow. The current pilot club hosts participants from a mixture of ethnicities including Asian, Asian British, Arab, Black, Mixed and White, with numerous Butetown communities such as Somali, Yemeni, Sudanese, Congolese, Jamaican and Lebanese all currently represented.
It has even crossed the radar of Welsh Assembly Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths, who paid a visit to the school last week, to see for herself the vast scope of physical literacy that gymnastics helps to nurture. Her visit offered an exciting opportunity for the young gymnasts to showcase their newfound skills, as well as the older BME females, who have joined in as a voluntary leaders, to show their dedication to the project.
With the project aimed primarily at BME communities, Diverse Cymru provided sensitisation training for all Welsh Gymnastics staff involved, with advice on how to overcome barriers. The club is strictly female only, with siblings and female family members encouraged to spectate and get involved, while leggings, T-shirts and headscarves are completely acceptable as attire for each gymnastic session, to help adhere to cultural practice.
With an aim to sustain and grow the ethnic diversity of the participants, whilst significantly growing numbers, the Bute Gymnastics Club Project is moving from strength to strength, helping Welsh Gymnastics to further our reach across Wales.