Enhancing community spaces with Sport England

We know that the conventional sport facilities in our villages, towns and cities are well sign posted and enjoyed. We are discovering however, that these aren’t necessarily accessible or suitable for everyone. Organisations like Sport England who concern themselves with people’s wellbeing, are looking at the sporting landscape we have and the spaces left in between. Being physically active is not just confined to the gym or traditional sports venues. This is what Sport England are tackling with their Activate Your Space fund on Crowdfunder. 

A great example of this is found in village halls and community spaces, where people of all ages can partake in activities and social experiences. It’s often the case however, that these buildings do not cater for the needs of everyone who would like to use them and were some of the hardest hit by the impacts of coronavirus.

Ansty Village Hall

Ansty Village Hall in West Sussex has a 100 year history of hosting activities including; arts and crafts, gardening clubs, cricket and football clubs, snooker and darts teams, afternoon teas, skittles and race nights. This 100 year old building’s facilities haven’t however been updated and this has impacted its ability to meet the needs of the people who live in the area.

This community has therefore embarked upon the re-development of the site to replace the previous village hall with the new ‘Ansty Village Centre’. This new building, situated in the same recreation grounds as before, will be a state of the art facility, fully accessible to everyone who needs it and therefore intrinsic to the whole Ansty community and surrounding areas.

Crowdfunding has played a major part in uniting the people of Ansty and the surrounding areas. On the 16 July 2020, The Ansty Village Centre Trust successfully raised £15,640 ( + est. £1387.50 Gift Aid ) from a crowd of 389 supporters. The aim of the crowdfunding campaign was to raise money to install an Audio Visual system and Hearing Loop, a technology that will open the space up to those hard of hearing and improve the space’s capacity for lectures, theatre, exercise classes and enhance the social space for all the sports clubs on site. £2,000 came from the Sport England ‘Activate Your Space’ fund, an investment ‘into community organisations crowdfunding for capital (building or refurbishment) works that will enhance spaces within their local area’. This fund has a particular focus on those less traditional spaces for sport. It recognises that not all activity happens on the pitch and that the spaces communities have access to, can cater for many things to promote health and wellbeing.

John Thorpe, the project’s lead, was impressed by their crowdfunding campaign’s ability to reach outside of their existing network. The incorporation of this new technology into their space is attracting fresh interest, one example being the use of the hall for lip reading classes. “The placement of the hall in a rural setting, between the area’s main towns; East Grinstead, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill, means we can attract a new demographic of people, those who don’t necessarily want to go to the big sports centres for their activity”. They are working towards what they call a ‘spoke model,’ where these opportunities are opened up throughout rural areas, away from the centrality imposed by towns. “That way people don’t have to travel so far to reach these services, they can become more available and offer an interesting alternative”.

“We believe that footfall could be boosted by over 70% and that’s a very conservative estimate. Currently we are engaged with about half a dozen groups who use the space and we aim to double this in the first year, when we open in February 2021”. 

When asked about who supported the campaign, John believed that about a third came from the families of their established sporting community, a third from the village itself and a third from further afield. They knew that the original sporting community would be the easiest to access and they wanted to use this campaign as an opportunity to engage new residents from the 50+ new houses built in the area and the older residents too, who knew the current hall to be in need of repair.

Crowdfunding has raised the profile of this project significantly. The 389 supporters who backed them are a source of great pride, a precedent of a community led approach which will shape this centre’s future and its legacy.

Crowdfunder has teamed up with Sport England to offer up to £10,000 in match funding to projects just like this

If you’ve got a similar project to enhance the spaces in your local community to get people active, start crowdfunding today.