At Active Withernsea, we were hugely delighted when Sport England got in touch to say their chief executive Tim Hollingsworth would like to pay us a visit.
If it were a traditional visit, we’d have been introducing Tim to the Withernsea community and the sights, sounds and tastes of our East Yorkshire coastal town – from the soothing sounds of the waves on the beach to the imposing, historic Withernsea Lighthouse that dominates the town’s skyline.
Coronavirus (Covid-19), however, meant the visit had to go virtual and our challenge was to bring the Active Withernsea journey to life on a 90-minute video call.
In true Active Withernsea style, we called in the help of our brilliant photographic ethnographer Les Monaghan to show us the real Withernsea, and creative artist Sarah Smizz to take us on a cartoon adventure.
The visit started with Tim parachuting into Withernsea, illustrating the sights and sounds that he would experience on his approach.
As his tour began we set the scene as to why we were chosen as one of the 12 national pilots – our coastal community, as well as the high levels of deprivation and health difficulties, and low levels of physical activity, made us a good candidate for trying something different.
Tim’s ‘journey’ explored the deep levels of engagement that had taken place in the community, to try and better understand people’s motivations and barriers to being active – including watching videos made by locals, to see what they had to say.
Our own engagement and facilitation development officer, Alex Camplin, shared her story of supporting the Withernsea community during coronavirus.
She and the team supported the community response hub, which served as an outlet to get direct help to those most vulnerable in the town – including helping people shielding due to coronavirus, to get access to food.
Door-to-door visits and check-ins kept the team very busy, but it was important to them that they knew their community was safe and well.
During the pandemic we’ve been conducting a listening exercise, which consisted of a series of phone interviews, Sensemaker surveys and face-to-face conversations.
So we took Tim’s visit as an opportunity for our research and intelligence analyst, Lauren Powell, to share what we’d heard – key findings showed the most vulnerable people in the community had been made more vulnerable and that people found it hard to ask for help.
Our coastal community, as well as the high levels of deprivation and health difficulties, and low levels of physical activity, made us a good candidate for trying something different.
Other highlights of Tim’s visit included reflections from local partners and an introduction to systems thinking by Professor Gerald Midgley.
We also met residents and organisations, hearing about the exciting opportunities the Active Withernsea pathfinder plan presents and how, by using the Active Withernsea principles, we will be supporting the Withernsea community.
Our pathfinder plan is a series of themes developed from community engagement that aims to help increase activity in the community.
Its actions include facilitating more activities for young people, creating more cycling and walking opportunities, making more of the open spaces in the town, providing a scheme to get ideas off the ground and providing opportunities to shape and help people to become more empowered to lead and deliver change in their own communities.
Combining our principles – to inspire the community to lead and shape change in their area, to listen to every voice and to increase participation by facilitating, not dictating – with our pathfinder plan, we will work with the community to increase physical activity and empower them to develop their own ideas, activities, and projects.
We thoroughly enjoyed showing Tim around virtually and look forward to the day we can welcome him to Withernsea in person – parachute optional!