The city of Birmingham, with one of the poorest census track in the UK and with a large migrant community has to deal with severe challenges in terms of considerable differences in lifetime expectation and health amongst its citizens, depending on the neighbourhood they live in. To overcome this, Birmingham decided to deliver its sports services in a different way namely by no longer building and constructing new capital intensive facilities, but rather using ‘what is already there’. This is also a consequence of the budget cuts in a period of financial austerity. As result, Birmingham decided to roll out the Active Park programme with free activities in more than 80 parks and green spaces across the city.
The activity started in 2014, following on from the huge success of the pilot during summer 2013. Each year between April and October the citizens are able to participate in a wide range of free physical activities.
The Birmingham Active Parks programme offers free sessions e.g. Zumba and Thai Chi at various parks across the city with the aim of encouraging people to enjoy being active in a sociable and inclusive atmosphere. One can find his activity and location via special finder. It aims to tackle health, financial, ethnic inequalities and social inclusion. It helps to bring some previously underused parks into use. Volunteers play a very important role in the programme, as they value the parks as a ‘community asset’, and act as custodians of the local environment.
“Active Parks” is a strong brand now, managed and administered by the Wellbeing Service and Birmingham Open Spaces Forum, through its staff and dedicated trained session leaders. The programme successfully involves the cooperation of various stakeholders from public sector organisations, NGOs and private companies. The programme is financed by the Birmingham City Council, Sports England and Coca-Cola Zero Parklives programme, supported by The Parks and Ranger service, various volunteers and Friends of Parks groups.
Results and impact
Building on the success of the award-winning free physical activity Be Active scheme, Active Parks now operates in many locations, offering a wide range of activities and much more. In 2014 scheme was expanded as part of the Coca-Cola Zero ParkLives and in 2015 were included more free activities in Birmingham parks than ever before – 27 in May 2017 on more than 80 Birmingham locations, mostly parks and sports areas/facilities. Since 2014, there have been 114,000 participants taking different activities in these parks. Over half of these live in the most deprived areas of Birmingham. Due to previous success, parks activities continue in the following years also through winter months.
The benefits of being involved in this activities are: learning or developing a new skill, becoming an active part of the community, motivation and sense of achievement, boosting your career options and employability opportunities, spending a quality leisure time, tackling inactivity and obesity, social benefits – meet new people and make lasting friendships, inspiring and motivating others, and access to training opportunities.
Birmingham scheme was awarded many times; it got also a Government health award. It boosts public health and expands the number of people using Birmingham’s parks and other open spaces at the same time. Like so many other programmes, though, its success is down to the staff and volunteers.
Type of activity
Programmes promoting activity
Regular outdoor trainings/courses
Physical activities in natural and cult. ecosystems
Place: Birmingham, United Kingdom
Territorial level: Local
Organizer: Birmingham City Council through a partnership with the following organisations: Friends of Parks, Birmingham Open Spaces Forum, Birmingham City Council Parks, ParkLives, Sport England and StreetGames.