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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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Social responsibility: Steel Warriors

A year after the launch of its first outdoor gym made from melted down, confiscated knives, Steel Warriors has won the support of the Co-op, which has pledged to fund the roll-out of a further 20 calisthenics gyms, as Kath Hudson reports

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 8
Pia Fontes and Ben Wintour have brought The Co-op in as sponsor to support the growth of the Steel Warriors gyms
Pia Fontes and Ben Wintour have brought The Co-op in as sponsor to support the growth of the Steel Warriors gyms

Our partners have been very generous, but we can’t expect them to continue to make a loss, so we’re about to start a fundraising push. We’re hoping to get as many gyms off the ground as possible. At the moment the first one is making an impact on a local level, but we want to make a real change.”

This is what Steel Warriors founder Ben Wintour said one year ago in an interview with HCM, so it’s incredibly cheering to see that his vision has become a reality and that one gym is about to become many.

Former PR executives, Wintour and Pia Fontes, teamed up to launch Steel Warriors in response to reading the frequent reports of stabbings in London. Everything about the business was outside their experience, but they successfully won the support of steel fabricators and gym builders – who even agreed to work on a pro bono basis – as well as the Metropolitan Police, who committed to hand over the two thousand knives they confiscate on the streets each month, to be melted down to create the gyms.

“We looked at the reasons why teenagers were carrying knives and found that one was for protection and the other was to flex their muscle,” says Wintour. “So we looked at alternative ways to meet these needs. Calisthenics is becoming quite a thing in prisons and seemed a good place to start.”

Now the Co-op has come on board, with a funding injection which will pay for up to 20 more free community gyms across the UK, in areas impacted by knife crime.

Two new gyms will be built this year, which will feature gym instructors providing training sessions for different abilities to share skills.

Making a difference
Co-op’s head of community propositions and planning, Sarah MacKenzie, says the initiative will raise awareness of the physical and emotional impact of knife crime, violence and abuse in communities. “This partnership is about much more than providing just money, it’s about co-operation to make a bigger difference,” she says.

“Across the country, Co-op has connections and colleagues in local communities which we will bring to bear to activate the gyms. Local training instructors and sports groups will be invited to use the gyms for free and Co-op will connect local youth groups working to access the facilities.”

This is one of a number of initiatives organised or supported by Co-op to activate communities and tackle knife crime, including no longer selling single knives at its stores. “Safety and security is a key priority for Co-op. We know violence and crime is about much more than statistics and it’s not about the cost to business, it’s about the human cost, its impact on people’s lives and the communities in which they live and work,” says MacKenzie. “As a community-based organisation, we see the impact on social issues in our stores and we’re committed to working together to do all we can to protect colleagues and make our communities safer.”

Wintour is delighted about the partnership: “We’re really glad to be working with the Co-op and our supporters to get more gyms built and to grow our vision into one that offers pro-active support to communities nationwide.” Fontes adds that collaboration is the key to tackling this problem. “There’s no one person or organisation that can solve this issue alone. We believe the key to doing that and to finding ways to reduce knife crime is co-operation.”

The first Steel Warriors opened next to a youth centre in Tower Hamlets last year and has been embraced by the community, with everyone from children to older Bengali women in their hijabs feeling comfortable using it and the more accomplished filming their moves and vlogging.

Going forward, the new gyms will continue to be built by the original engineers, Heyne Tillet Steel, with a variety of designs to accommodate both beginners and experts, with some unique and exciting new bar set-ups.

Supporting outdoor physical activity

Through its Local Community Fund, Co-op has donated £7.5m to projects that promote community physical activity across the UK, with those organisations promoting sporting and outdoor skills being a key focus.

To date, £4.8m has been shared between 1,900 projects run by groups such as scouts and cadets and a further £2.1m to 850 projects which promote community sport, such as football, rugby and disability sports.

Community spaces have also received significant support, with more than £600,000 being shared by more than 200 projects, including sports centres, recreation clubs, playing fields, playgrounds, and skate parks.

Since 2017, Co-op has also been a supporter of parkrun, which organises 630 weekly, free, timed runs across the UK and earlier this year launched a £1m fund in Wales to enable groups with a community and environmental focus to safeguard spaces and become more sustainable.

Co-op is funding 20 free outdoor calisthenics gyms
About the Co-op

Steel Warrior’s new sponsor is an ethical retailer with a groundbreaking approach dating back to its founding in 1844.

The Co-operative Group is a UK consumer co-operative with a diverse range of high street and trade retail businesses, including food retail and wholesale; electrical retail; financial services; insurance services; legal services and funeral care.

With 4,200 locations, it’s the largest consumer co-operative in the UK and is owned by more than 4.5 million active members who are democratically involved in setting business strategy, deciding how social goals are achieved, and sharing profits.

In 2016, £19m was returned to members and their chosen local community causes.

The group has more than 70,000 employees across the UK and is an ethical retailer, allowing women the same democratic rights within the society as men since its founding. It was the first major UK retailer to champion Fairtrade and pioneered easily interpretable nutritional information on its own-brand food, plus the raising of animal welfare standards, installing renewable energy generation and investing significantly in community projects.

Co-op’s MacKenzie hopes for real change
Co-op’s MacKenzie hopes for real change
All of Steel Warriors’ gyms are made from the thousands of knives police confiscate from London’s streets
All of Steel Warriors’ gyms are made from the thousands of knives police confiscate from London’s streets
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/340228_648070.jpg
A year after the launch of Steel Warriors’ first outdoor gym –made from melted-down confiscated knives – the Co-op is funding 20 more
Pia Fontes & Ben Wintour, Steel Warriors Sarah MacKenzie, Co-op,Steel Warriors, outdoor gym, Co-op, Pia Fontes, Ben Wintour,
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features

Social responsibility: Steel Warriors

A year after the launch of its first outdoor gym made from melted down, confiscated knives, Steel Warriors has won the support of the Co-op, which has pledged to fund the roll-out of a further 20 calisthenics gyms, as Kath Hudson reports

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 8
Pia Fontes and Ben Wintour have brought The Co-op in as sponsor to support the growth of the Steel Warriors gyms
Pia Fontes and Ben Wintour have brought The Co-op in as sponsor to support the growth of the Steel Warriors gyms

Our partners have been very generous, but we can’t expect them to continue to make a loss, so we’re about to start a fundraising push. We’re hoping to get as many gyms off the ground as possible. At the moment the first one is making an impact on a local level, but we want to make a real change.”

This is what Steel Warriors founder Ben Wintour said one year ago in an interview with HCM, so it’s incredibly cheering to see that his vision has become a reality and that one gym is about to become many.

Former PR executives, Wintour and Pia Fontes, teamed up to launch Steel Warriors in response to reading the frequent reports of stabbings in London. Everything about the business was outside their experience, but they successfully won the support of steel fabricators and gym builders – who even agreed to work on a pro bono basis – as well as the Metropolitan Police, who committed to hand over the two thousand knives they confiscate on the streets each month, to be melted down to create the gyms.

“We looked at the reasons why teenagers were carrying knives and found that one was for protection and the other was to flex their muscle,” says Wintour. “So we looked at alternative ways to meet these needs. Calisthenics is becoming quite a thing in prisons and seemed a good place to start.”

Now the Co-op has come on board, with a funding injection which will pay for up to 20 more free community gyms across the UK, in areas impacted by knife crime.

Two new gyms will be built this year, which will feature gym instructors providing training sessions for different abilities to share skills.

Making a difference
Co-op’s head of community propositions and planning, Sarah MacKenzie, says the initiative will raise awareness of the physical and emotional impact of knife crime, violence and abuse in communities. “This partnership is about much more than providing just money, it’s about co-operation to make a bigger difference,” she says.

“Across the country, Co-op has connections and colleagues in local communities which we will bring to bear to activate the gyms. Local training instructors and sports groups will be invited to use the gyms for free and Co-op will connect local youth groups working to access the facilities.”

This is one of a number of initiatives organised or supported by Co-op to activate communities and tackle knife crime, including no longer selling single knives at its stores. “Safety and security is a key priority for Co-op. We know violence and crime is about much more than statistics and it’s not about the cost to business, it’s about the human cost, its impact on people’s lives and the communities in which they live and work,” says MacKenzie. “As a community-based organisation, we see the impact on social issues in our stores and we’re committed to working together to do all we can to protect colleagues and make our communities safer.”

Wintour is delighted about the partnership: “We’re really glad to be working with the Co-op and our supporters to get more gyms built and to grow our vision into one that offers pro-active support to communities nationwide.” Fontes adds that collaboration is the key to tackling this problem. “There’s no one person or organisation that can solve this issue alone. We believe the key to doing that and to finding ways to reduce knife crime is co-operation.”

The first Steel Warriors opened next to a youth centre in Tower Hamlets last year and has been embraced by the community, with everyone from children to older Bengali women in their hijabs feeling comfortable using it and the more accomplished filming their moves and vlogging.

Going forward, the new gyms will continue to be built by the original engineers, Heyne Tillet Steel, with a variety of designs to accommodate both beginners and experts, with some unique and exciting new bar set-ups.

Supporting outdoor physical activity

Through its Local Community Fund, Co-op has donated £7.5m to projects that promote community physical activity across the UK, with those organisations promoting sporting and outdoor skills being a key focus.

To date, £4.8m has been shared between 1,900 projects run by groups such as scouts and cadets and a further £2.1m to 850 projects which promote community sport, such as football, rugby and disability sports.

Community spaces have also received significant support, with more than £600,000 being shared by more than 200 projects, including sports centres, recreation clubs, playing fields, playgrounds, and skate parks.

Since 2017, Co-op has also been a supporter of parkrun, which organises 630 weekly, free, timed runs across the UK and earlier this year launched a £1m fund in Wales to enable groups with a community and environmental focus to safeguard spaces and become more sustainable.

Co-op is funding 20 free outdoor calisthenics gyms
About the Co-op

Steel Warrior’s new sponsor is an ethical retailer with a groundbreaking approach dating back to its founding in 1844.

The Co-operative Group is a UK consumer co-operative with a diverse range of high street and trade retail businesses, including food retail and wholesale; electrical retail; financial services; insurance services; legal services and funeral care.

With 4,200 locations, it’s the largest consumer co-operative in the UK and is owned by more than 4.5 million active members who are democratically involved in setting business strategy, deciding how social goals are achieved, and sharing profits.

In 2016, £19m was returned to members and their chosen local community causes.

The group has more than 70,000 employees across the UK and is an ethical retailer, allowing women the same democratic rights within the society as men since its founding. It was the first major UK retailer to champion Fairtrade and pioneered easily interpretable nutritional information on its own-brand food, plus the raising of animal welfare standards, installing renewable energy generation and investing significantly in community projects.

Co-op’s MacKenzie hopes for real change
Co-op’s MacKenzie hopes for real change
All of Steel Warriors’ gyms are made from the thousands of knives police confiscate from London’s streets
All of Steel Warriors’ gyms are made from the thousands of knives police confiscate from London’s streets
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/340228_648070.jpg
A year after the launch of Steel Warriors’ first outdoor gym –made from melted-down confiscated knives – the Co-op is funding 20 more
Pia Fontes & Ben Wintour, Steel Warriors Sarah MacKenzie, Co-op,Steel Warriors, outdoor gym, Co-op, Pia Fontes, Ben Wintour,
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As an industry, we still underestimate the power of a truly varied fitness regime - and the growing appetite for it, especially among emerging customer segments.
Opinion: Collaboration vs aggregation - what’s the difference?
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Nautilus - Glute Drive
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Inspired by the increasing trend of glute exercises seen in various and dangerous executions in the gyms today. Read more
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Click on a catalogue to view it online
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Diary dates
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