Other Sport / Bristol Co-operative Gym

A home for Bristol’s only member-owned gym

By Ellie Pipe, Tuesday Apr 19, 2022

With just days left to go, the team behind Bristol Co-operative Gym are hoping to raise the final amount needed to realise their ambitions.

The only member-owned gym in the UK was launched in 2016 with a mission to create an inclusive, supportive space for people to exercise free from assumptions around identity, appearance and ability.

Led by volunteers, the enterprise has gone on to train with more than 1,000 people, many of whom say they wouldn’t feel comfortable in a conventional gym.

Bristol Co-operative Gym moved to a new permanent space in St Anne’s House last October, from where the team have welcomed 200 new members from the local community, offered free weightlifting classes to young people who are not in education, employment or training and provided free memberships to refugees and asylum seekers.

But they need to raise £30,000 in order to turn the space from a “ disused office with some weights in” into a fit-for-purpose gym that would enable them to realise their ambitions to make the space fully accessible and inclusive.

Speaking about the vision for the gym, the team said: “We’re the only cooperatively-run gym in the whole of the UK. We were started up to provide an inclusive, supportive space for exercise, free from assumptions around identity, appearance, and ability.

“We’re fairly limited by our current setup, so we have worked with our co-op members to design a dream gym. We’re not aware of any other gym that has been designed by its members in a collaborative way like this, so we’re very proud of this unique approach. The designs we have will make our gym fit for purpose, as well as accessible to more people in the community.”

Bristol Co-operative Gym has already reached its initial target of £27,000 and now hopes to hit the stretch target of £30,000.

The Crowdfunder page states: “Our new home is a former council building and still feels like an office. The floor is uncomfortable and dirty, sound insulation is poor, and we have no storage space. Some of our equipment is no longer fit for purpose after being stored in a damp cupboard in our previous venue over the lockdowns.

“As a result, we know that we are not reaching some of the people we set up to train with.

“Your support will help us build a gym that reflects our values and make our current space accessible for more people.”

The team behind Bristol Co-operative Gym want to build a gym that reflects their values and make their current space accessible for more people – photo: Bristol Co-operative Gym

With the money raised, the Bristol Co-operative Gym team plan to:

  • Improve the layout of their studio so it’s more suitable for beginners and members with mobility issues or neurodiversity
  • Adapt the space so they have increased control over light and noise levels to better manage sensory stimulation, as well as offering the option of a more private training area for members who prefer that
  • Store equipment in a way that is clearly labelled and easy to access for all members
  • Replace some of our equipment with items that are more adaptable to all abilities and body shapes

The stretch target will allow them to make more structural alterations to the building and replace rundown equipment.

Find out more via www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/bristolcooperativegym#start

Main photo: Bristol Co-operative Gym 

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