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Peterborough already offers a far-reaching range of sporting activities across the city, but the dedicated team at Vivacity is always looking at new opportunities. RICHARD GUNN finds out more and talks to two local clubs already doing a great job

Pick up a leaflet or browse a website about all the sports that Peterborough residents can get involved in, and it’s a pretty comprehensive list, from athletics to cycling, football, cricket, trampolining, badminton, roller-skating, orienteering and… well, we could go on, but you get the general idea. If there’s something you’d like to try, then the chances are that somebody somewhere is running a class or club for it. But that doesn’t mean those responsible for overseeing sports in the city are resting on their laurels. Vivacity, the trust that looks after culture and leisure in Peterborough, is always exploring new options to increase the range even further, with a committed and very enthusiastic team in place to deliver fresh opportunities.

Running that team is Nicky Flanagan, Vivacity’s Sports Development Manager, who along with Sports Development Officers Scott Beasley and Lee Barsby – plus Matt Taylor, the Disability Sports Officer – makes sure that Peterborough stays up to date and full of fresh ideas.

“We had a bunch of students who had never been involved with hockey and ended up enjoying it so much that a few ended up contacting the club to take it further”

‘We’ve got a range of programmes that we’re involved with,’ says Nicky. ‘We have a schools programme and community programme, we do a lot of events, disability sports and various other things such as school holiday activities. We’re behind a range of sports in primary schools – currently 17 – such as lunchtime and after-school pursuits and also provide support in secondary schools around sports leadership qualifications. We also deliver things such as “smash-up badminton” aimed at teenagers in schools to get them active, but in an informal, social environment.

There’s also a close involvement with the Regional College and New College Stamford.’ Scott recently spent two terms doing hockey at the Regional College, with both male and female students and says ‘We had a group of about 20 students, some more sporty than others. All the boys wanted to play football, all of the girls wanted to do anything but play football, so with hockey, we managed to find the middle ground. We were supposed to do it for eight weeks then change to handball, but the guys loved it so much that they begged for it to continue. So we had a bunch of students who had never been involved with hockey and ended up enjoying it so much that a few ended up contacting the club to take it further.’

“We’re trying to identify young people from the sessions who can get qualified to help develop further programmes, making them future leaders”

Outside of term-time, other programmes run throughout the holidays to keep young people active and interested in sports. In the wider community, the team is currently looking at ‘doorstep sport’, with three ongoing programmes in Peterborough seeing Vivacity, the City Council and Cambridgeshire Constabulary partnering together to engage young people from 14 to 19 in football and cricket. ‘They have up to 120 kids come every night,’ smiles Nicky. ‘So it’s a very large-scale programme and benefitting the community.’ In addition, the ‘Us Girls’ programme focuses on dance, health food and sport for girls, at sessions in Hampton. ‘These are all free, and we’re trying to identify young people from the sessions who can get qualified to help develop further programmes, making them future leaders.’ More programmes are in the pipeline and the hope is to launch them soon.

Something that anybody can take part in and enjoy for free is ‘Walking for Health’, due to launch in August and introducing the fitness-conscious walks around the local community. The aim, over the next year, is to introduce ten such walks around the city, running every week and lasting between 30 minutes and an hour. Vivacity also reaches into residential care homes and friendship clubs for the over-55s, with activities such as chair-based aerobics, table tennis and sit down volleyball. ‘We do a lot of things that are fun, silly and social but also have an actual purpose of trying to improve older people’s health, such as exercises that can help them get out of chairs,’ clarifies Scott. ‘It’s not about creating Olympic athletes but helping maintain the level of their everyday lifestyle. The chap who delivers them is 67, but he is the most incredible fellow you’ll ever meet. He used to be a solicitor but now he’s retired, he’s done fitness instruction courses and runs triathlons and marathons at the weekends. He can relate so well to all of the participants. He is your example of how, if you do the right things, you’re still able to stay fit.’

An initiative Nicky has been responsible for is the recent installation of artificial cricket wickets, to try and get more people playing recreational cricket. Locations include… [cont]

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