parkrun at Sevenfields, Swindon showcases the Sustain legacy left by Beat the Street
Stuart Arthur, engagement coordinator at Beat the Street Swindon and project officer talks about the evolution of the Swindon parkrun which has emerged from the Beat the Street game. The town has played the game three times and organisers are working with local partners to deliver a legacy which enables physical activity and community interaction.
“One of the most sustainable projects to have evolved out of Beat the Street in Swindon is a new parkrun at Sevenfields in Pinehurst. During the 2018 game we linked with the existing parkrun at Lydiard Park planning to promote it as part of the sustain plan, it became apparent that as a parkrun of around 500 it was already too big for the venue and any growth would be detrimental in the long term.
We started a working party involving the parkrun race director and SBC Active Lives team to investigate launching a second venue. It became clear that the current volunteer workforce and council staff were supportive but did not have the capacity to drive the development. This project then became part of the long-term vision for Beat the Street legacy and we took the lead role.
The first part of the journey was to hold a Couch to 5K in the park. Although there were many stages before this developed into a parkrun it was a significant marker along the way. It served as a way of both promoting running to the local community and gave us 10 weeks to scope out routes for a potential 5 k course. We started the Couch to 5k in January of 2019 having promoted with BtS branding and social media coverage. The session started at 9.00 on a Wednesday morning, from the school gate, very much aimed at the school mum on the school run. Our relationships developed with the school during the game phase helped with the marketing, the school sent out messages and allowed us to hand out flyers at the school gate, and during the sessions providing us with safe storage of personal items.
Coinciding with our work plan, Sport England funded parkrun to launch events in areas of greatest need. And because Sevenfields is in the middle of an area of LSEG and often overlooked for free, inclusive physical activities we were able to utilise this message with partners.
Over the next few months, we led numerous tasks that go into starting a parkrun, test runs, council permissions, key community stakeholder engagement (both those who would support and object!), recruitment of race director and raising funds to pay start-up costs to name a few.
During the sustain phase SBC recognised the value that BtS capacity could play in its longer-term vision for physical activity programmes and were keen to retain this beyond the initial contract. The EC role and relationships strengthened the link between the Active Partnership & SBC and a role within WASP was developed.
The extended role with the AP ensured that the work initiated by the BtS sustain plan was continued and the workload was not reliant upon an already stretch volunteer workforce.
We had success at every stage and an autumn 2019 launch date was identified.
When BtS returned in 2019 we ensured that the route of the run have beatboxes, even though the first run was after the game phase we heavily promoted the boxes and opportunities around the area to galvanise the community.
Promoting the new parkrun as both an activity and volunteer opportunity was heavily featured as part of the 2019 sustain plan. Sevenfields parkrun has had 36 races and currently averages 116 finishers. The success of the project has been down to the volunteers that organise each week and serve the community, however this would not have been possible without the initial drive from the BtS sustain plan and input at the beginning.
Our work with parkrun has continued further into the 2021 game with parkrun now planning to host a couch to 5k during their normal run time, recognising need to engage new runners at an earlier stage as 5k isn’t a realistic starting point for some.”