Dear Sir
Letters of significance in reverse order of receipt


10 March 2016


Health checks offer opportunity for leisure providers

As a software solutions provider for exercise referral, the headline [Guardian Society, Sept 2015 - Ref 1] about wasting £450,000,000 on ‘mid-life MOT’ health checks piqued my interest. It proclaimed the examinations are “costly and ineffective”. However, the article failed to address the crucial marketing issue: most people simply don’t know health checks exist. 

Surgeries do not send out health check letters, due to postal costs, and, if they do, they often include incorrect address data so are not received. The Public Health and Wellbeing Department, at NHS Greenwich, also highlighted this issue, as well as problems with telephone data in their evaluation report of NHS Health Check. Here NHS Greenwich cited 44% of individuals where contact was never made due to incorrect phone details or inability to contact on the phone, particularly in the more deprived parts of Greenwich. [Ref 2]

The Royal College of GPs has actively campaigned against health checks but their removal would have a profound effect on the leisure sector, as it would eliminate a pathway for lifestyle and exercise referrals. If this scheme were well managed, both health checks and subsequent referrals should work well.

It therefore behoves us as leisure providers to step in and fill the breach. Indeed, some trusts already are, including Greenwich Leisure, Places for People, Aquaterra and others. Given that participants could be charged between £20 and £50, and currently GPs are paid £48 to do complete a patient health check, there is a financial incentive for operators but more than that it gives leisure providers the opportunity to proffer advice on lifestyle services, including physical activity and diet, with a gym and qualified professionals within the building to assist. The service is seamless.

While there may be some concerns about training and professionalism from health providers, beyond the leisure operator applying to be a health check provider and then some basic training on sharps disposal and blood finger-prick testing for cholesterol and pre-diabetic indicators, much of the health check is similar to a thorough fitness induction process.

The criticism of health checks argues the budget could be better spent but with promotion and sensible management there is no reason why the health and leisure sectors can’t combine their skills for better patient results.  This is clearly highlighted in the NHS Greenwich evaluation which identified 97% of those who accepted the health check invitation did attend, 85% of individuals who attended the health check were identified as overweight or obese, and of the 620 recorded health checks 25% were identified to be at high risk of cardio-vascular disease and 20% at high risk of diabetes. [Ref 3]

Stuart Stokes
Commercial director

Ref 1:,3ONWA,IJKGFZ,D96IF,1 (21.09.15), Denis Campbell

Refs 2 and 3:

24 June 2015

Haven't we heard it all before?

Great editorial but didn't you write it in 1980? The reference would then have been to the ‘Heritage Department’ but, except for the fact that there were at least some financial options then, I reckon most of the principles would have applied.

There was a time when DCMS very nearly made a difference, almost entirely due to one man and a bit of help his leadership elicited from a few colleagues. But this was short-lived, and anyway I think it still got in the way. DCMS has mainly been a gatekeeper to the departments that matter; clearly Health is key, but also Education, the Home Office, etc. To some extent the barrier was DCMS  looking after their turf but, much more than that, it was allowing other departments to side-track any direct approaches, pretty much until ukactive made a difference by by-passing Sport England! Another short-lived hope (or maybe not; we’ll see) was when Andy Burnham went from DCMS to Health, taking an understanding of the ‘invest to save’ concept, that is now our strongest argument, with him.

And there’s the point: we not only went along with all this, we reinforced it. ILAM to ‘continue’ to cover all DCMS disciplines - like it ever did. ‘Sport’ and ‘physical activity’ largely synonymous. ‘Culture’ is not just arts writ large. The recent BBC Radio 5Live debate about testing young children had caller after famous sportsperson caller saying you can’t test five-year-olds for sport. NOT THE POINT! But whose fault is it that the two very different issues are conjoined? Or that we dilute the key issues by trying to keep sport, arts, museums, etc under our aegis? And STILL we haven’t gathered the key evidence and learnt how to use it properly.

What’s the answer? Well, I too have been trying to play a small part in sorting this from about 1980, so I’m probably part of the problem not the answer. But something has to be done. As was the case in 1980.

David Albutt

27 February 2015

British sport: investment suggestion

I read with interest Wayne Allsopp’s article [Aiming high: how, where and why should UK Sport invest? TLR issue 77] in the last issue of the Leisure Review highlighting some of the problems with the funding national teams.

I believe the relationship between UK Sport and Sport England does work, with each having its own strategy to assist Olympic Teams and Sport England having a clear responsibility to support programmes to develop grassroots performance. The present situation can be sorted out by each of the home country sports councils ( N Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England) each having a clear strategy of developing sports at the grassroots level. Each of the four sports councils must produce its own criteria regarding whom they should support. Each set of criteria would be different to UK Sport and provide apathway for those athletes who would like to compete at GB level. At this moment no such approach has been developed.

On the question basketball, UK Sport gave the GB organisation £8 million to achieve qualification for the 2012 Olympics. After the Olympics, having spent all of the £8 million they could only beat China; in 1981 the England men’s team beat China in China with the little funding that was provided by the English Basketball Association!
The 2012 GB Basketball team consisted mainly of Americans with dual nationality. One commentator observed that the GB performance suggested that the players were good individually but could not play as a team. Is this the problem with American players when they try to represent the USA: they are good competitors individually but have no feelings towards their nation?

When UK Sport announced that they would not fund the GB basketball set up, they went into overdrive enlisting the support of various politicians. That approach was successful and UK Sport relented, giving the GB team £1.18 million.

Yes UK Sport have set out performance indicators, which includes qualifying for the 2017 European Championships, but the big problem with the GB set-up is that only one person on their board has any idea of international basketball. After the Olympics the GB team attempted to qualify for the European championships and failed miserably. The lack of direction and bad coaching was the problem, and this has not changed.

Despite all the money the GB organisation has received over the years, they have not encouraged the development of basketball in the UK because they have only used imported dual-nationality players. They have not encouraged new players coming up from the four home countries, and they do not have a pathway to encourage new young players.

I believe it is the responsibility of the four countries to provide a pathway for their players to graduate to playing for the GB team. The English Basketball Association has provided something in the region of 6,000 backboards which have been placed on an estimated 4,000 local recreation grounds with the assistance of Parish Councils. This what the four home country basketball associations should be doing to assist the development of grassroots participation. There is no reason why the four home countries could not resurrect the annual home country championships and look towards competing in the European championships as well.

The lesson is do not give any regional grant money to the GB organisation: they will only use it to import dual-nationals from the USA.

Bernard Warden

28 November 2014

Leading Learning: sharing the accolades

While absolutely reinforcing both the effectiveness of the Leading Learning Programme and the undoubtedly crucial parts played by Sue Isherwood and Martyn Allison, I think they would be the first to acknowledge and agree that the record should note that the programme also owes enormous debt to Andy Sutch, Mark Taylor and Craig McAteer representing the then National Culture Forum from which the programme sprang.

Sorry, no wisecrack to add so I hope for once you can do ‘worthy’?

David Albutt

14 October 2014

Bringing people together

I read TLR over a large mug of coffee and a box of Krispy Kremes every month (one reason, maybe, why my waistline is on the increase rather than decreasing) and thus I came across a letter from an Alistair S Robertson  dated July this year [see below] . Is this the same Alistair S Robertson who once trod the highways and byways of Sefton MBC and walked the halls of ILAM/ISPAL mansion house?

If it is a yes, I’d like to say ‘Hi’ and ask how things are going; if it is a no, maybe he has a facsimile working in our Scottish home nation? While I appreciate TLR is not Friends Reunited, it does reach a distinct readership whose paths have no doubt crossed a number of times.

Carl Bennett
Senior Health Improvement Specialist

23 July 2014

Kit Campbell: hitting the ball on the head

I couldn't help but agree entirely with Kit Campbell on the state of football [Football: the beautiful game no more; see below 18 November 2013]. What an absolutely succinct  and wholly appropriate assessment of what the sport has become. It deserves a wider audience that the Leisure Review (no offence meant); the Guardian or Telegraph spring to mind.

The only thing he left out is which modern day player was his idol and which team he supports!

Alistair S Robertson
Chief executive, Sport Aberdeen

11 December 2013

St Pancras: Barlow not Brunel

A very interesting article [From King’s Cross to Soho: a new understanding of urban open space, Dec 2013] but you might want to correct one fact. I am sure Brunel would have been very happy to have worked on St Pancras but he died 9 years before it was built! William Barlow is the engineer to credit for building the great trainshed at St Pancras in 1868.

Mike Piet
Chair of Leeds Civic Trust Planning Committee

City of culture: names aplenty

"... unlike Derry/Londonderry, Hull has only one name” [Row Z, edition 82], eh? That would be ‘Hull/Kingston-upon Hull', also soon to be ‘Hull Not City Tigers’, I believe.

While I have my pedant’s hat on, you still do that “we aren’t ‘statutory services’” thing. All services have to be statutory or they would be ultra vires. It's the mandatory/discretionary comparison you seek.

On a more positive note, having been involved with the Leading Learning Programme almost from the start, maybe helping a bit but mainly trying to do as little damage as possible, can I add my congratulations to Christine Parsloe for her recent award. And to Sue Isherwood for her inspired directoring of the programme and to the rest of her team for their efforts.

David Albutt

18 November 2013

Football: the beautiful game no more

I enjoyed the editorial [Editorial 68: John Barnes reminds us that it is not all over] and Mick Owen's article [Greg Dyke versus the two-pint player] in the November issue. Both hit some nails firmly on heads but isn't it about time everyone stopped referring to football as the "beautiful game" and the "national game"? Far too much of football – at all levels – is morally bankrupt and quite a lot of the professional and semi-professional game would also be financially insolvent but for rich owners (some of them crooks) on ego-trips or television revenues. Sadly the so-called "powers that be" rely on largely empty platitudes and meaningless "campaigns" (eg Respect, Kick it Out) and no one is doing anything effective to change things for the better. And FIFA isn't exactly giving a lead, is it? How many people would regard it as an organisation with a long standing tradition of being run by wholly honourable and totally incorruptible individuals whose only concern is the long-term best interests of the game?

Professional clubs buy and sell their grossly overpaid top players like expensive cattle and turn a blind eye to their racism, sexism, off-field drunkenness, drug-taking, gambling and sexual shenanigans, spitting and swearing and inability to drive expensive cars properly. A recent newspaper article estimated that, on average, there are 125 former professional footballers serving time in UK prisons at any time for offences ranging downwards from murder. And what have the governing bodies done that has been in any way effective to tackle the way players (both amateur and professional) abuse referees or the cheating that is endemic at all levels of the game? Rugby has very largely managed it. Then there are the bungs and conflicts of interest that abound between players, managers and agents. Finally, the continuing saga of Glasgow Rangers (eg insolvency, assorted people of dubious reputation – some might say crooks – either in or wanting to be in positions of power, etc) is a cracking example of "you couldn't make it up".

So from now on let's all refer to football as “the Ugly Game” or “the National (and international, for that matter) Disgrace”.  At least we'd be correct, even if not politically so.

Kit Campbell

Where do the commercial operators go to support campaigning for the sector?

Noticing that The Leisure Review has been acquiring sponsors (sorry 'partners/supporters'), I’m reminded that among my myriad failures with CLOA was an inability to get more than a few, already enlightened sector suppliers to get their heads around the principle that a stronger sector would go straight to their bottom line. We suffer as a sector pleading for investment – or at least minimum cuts – against the big guns clamouring for the public purse. I believe the health sector spends more time fending off offers from drug companies and others than trying to get blood from stones. Whether CLOA or indeed The Leisure Review is the right activist to support might be a moot point but I don't know where those with a commercial interest go to support the efforts some of us make to get messages across to policy-makers and the holders of the purse strings. The best most offer is to spend on advertising to a shrinking set of potential customers.

SIBEC has been the only regular event that focuses on bringing the two sides together but it has had a tendency to focus on speed-dating and the jolly. Our new event, Active-net (watch this space) will try to do a similar thing but with a better view towards context; and maybe that will wake our suppliers up a bit. Maybe.

David Albutt

31 October 2013

Time to Love Parks

The cost of clearing litter from the streets in England, estimated by Keep Britain Tidy in its latest report, is £1 billion a year. What a dreadful waste of public funds, money that would pay for the entire range of maintenance and the up-keep of all of the estimated 32,000 parks in the country twice over, improving sports facilities and bringing back public toilets in parks and the park keeper! It is also reported that the Royal Parks spend more clearing litter in Hyde Park that they do on planting up its bedding schemes. Time to ‘Love Parks’ by reducing the litter in streets and spending the savings on increasing the standards at all the parks in the UK and maybe in the process our sporting prowess. Such action would create no additional cost to the already stretched taxpayer and meet the overwhelming demand for improved standards of maintenance and facilities. Truly a ‘Love Parks’ policy and strategy.

The Parks Alliance

9 September 2013

Partnerships: making it work

In the previous edition your new and most excellent health correspondent propounded very useful views on partnership. While agreeing with almost all he says (not being sexist here; I rather think I know the identity of this august west midlander), I do have a comment. I'm not sure we can expect all partnerships to have any where near 100% identical or even equivalent objectives. My personal partnership has now passed 35 years without any sort of agreement on football or shopping, to name just two bones of contention. And I'm not about to give up the shopping! So it can be done. I think it's more about understanding partners' objectives and finding a way to find a 'win-win'. The problem would certainly be insurmountable if the objectives were mutually exclusive and also if one partner were to compromise their own objectives just because the other partner had the dosh. In my experience, a lot depends on very early discussions about scope, design, etc. Too many people wait until the bidding process and then, of course, have to bend their will to the specification. I've been involved in designing several initiatives where the invitation to the sector to get involved has had little response, only for the resulting procedure to be criticised as 'out of touch'. Leadership deficit, you know.

David Albutt

21 June 2013

Taking to the streets to address the iniquities of world sport

Brazil is one of the BRIC countries leading the charge on world economic growth. The cost to its environment will be massive and irreparable. The rich will get richer and the poor poorer. But world sport panjandrums don’t care. With around $30 billion at stake, embassy receptions to be visited and sponsors’ lunches to be had, they’ll press ahead with the World Cup and the Olympic Games as planned. And that’s the point: sport has become the victim of an unelected elite and those who use it to enrich themselves and empower their chums.

We all know that Brazilians love sport and football in particular. What they dislike is the in-your-face extravagance, bonkers lavishness and the picking of people’s pockets to pay for it. London was hit with one mighty extravaganza, which is still not delivering the legacy we were promised. Poor Rio de Janeiro has two jamborees and Sepp Blatter’s expense account!  

It is said that up to one million Brazilians will take to the streets in protest in the coming days and weeks. Good for them. We should take to the streets with them and call for a revolution in the governance of world sport. I look forward to seeing you in Cockspur Street.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

19 April 2013


Parks: health-improving community assets

Having read the your recent ‘Deckchairs’ article [TLR editorial, April 2013], the one calling for ownership of a hugely important community asset (CA), I would like to bring to the attention the value of ensuring urban parks and open space remain of organisational interest and within the gift of those responsible for communities. The recently introduced public health outcome frameworks (PHOF) clearly claim parks and open space as important CAs that have strategic value in improving and enhancing the health of populations. The inclusion of “Utilisation of outdoor space for health/exercise reasons” (1.16: Improving The Wider Determinants of Health) raises the value of outdoor space during a time when the ‘ownership’ of that theme is coming under considerable pressure. The PHOF is right in recognising the value of these CAs and, even though the ever-present eddies and impending tide is placing these CAs under significant pressure, we must hold onto them for as long as we can to ensure they fulfil their potential as health-improving environments.  

The ‘biophilia’ effects of open space and parks is well documented. There are many evidence-based reviews of the power of open space to aid wellbeing improvements, over and above the potential for clinical intervention alone. Open space and parks provide an ideal environment for communities to come together, building community cohesion and increasing social capital. I am sure many in the parks sector recognise these things but I have to say I have failed to see these benefits clearly communicated to the masses and even though managers of these resources probably recognise this inherent value they have failed to excite or capture the hearts and minds of those that ultimately have the power to cut spending and investment.

During the industrial revolution, public parks were developed and introduced in all industrialised areas. The benefits were obvious. Clean air. A stroll with family, often in ‘Sunday best’ attire. The chance to connect with people and the natural environment. A chance to ‘clear the mind’. A brief opportunity to exercise. And most of all, a chance to remove oneself from the dirty, cramped and often claustrophobic housing environment many were exposed to.

Isn’t it strange how things come around?

I only hope that someone takes hold of the reins and harnesses the power parks and open space provides during these times of considerable change and challenge. After all, the health of our communities rely on them.
Carl Bennett
Senior Health Improvement Specialist – Long Term Conditions
Public Health Team, Stoke

16 April 2013

Four minutes for nordic walking

I enjoyed your article Four Minutes to Fitness [TLR April 2013].

I agree with the points you make. We’ll be supporting Living Street’s Walking Month in May and Walk to Work week – they’ve been banging their drum for decades. I hope that by us all promoting them through social media we can get the message about active travel out there to a wide audience. And the good news is people have a third option to choose from: there’s walking, cycling and nordic walking. Great for turning a commute into a work out or just making it easier for folk with grumbly joints!

Catherine Hughes
INWA Nordic Walking Instructor and personal trainer
British Orienteering Coach of the Year 2010

9 April 2013

On the money for public health

Following up on Carl Bennett’s article about public health funding [Time to Drop the Sat Nav], I have to say I think he’s on the money. There is going to be no extra public money for the leisure sector for a few years. And when it does come online it will need the evidence that the funding is going to produce results. The key therefore to any business case for funding is “credible” evidence.

Don’t get me wrong, I think regular exercise is fundamentally a good thing; it is an essential building block for a healthy life. The evidence of this is plain to see, but as far as health sector funding is concerned it has never been sufficiently evidenced to get the support it deserves. So if the majority of the public health purse is tied up for two years (or the next re-organisation, whichever comes sooner) then the sector has 18 months to come up with some credible evidence.

If we don’t start now we’ll have less than 18 months.

Happy to discuss any ideas – with anyone!

Richard Ward
Practice manager
Chiddenbrook surgery, Devon


You say Tabata...

I read with interest Jonathan’s article on Tabata [Four Minutes to Fitness] in the latest Leisure Review. As he notes, many of us in the sector have long been aware of the health benefits of Tabata; so too we are aware of its limitations for improving the health of a sedentary population. I agree with many of his points – the science shows it works, but HIT training, like any new regime is no panacea for the ill effects of inactivity – it requires commitment and serious levels of effort to produce its desired effects.  Nevertheless, we have welcomed the repackaged format of this regime simply as one of a multitude of new products in our market which may help to get people exercising and keep people interested in the gym when they may have otherwise lost interest.

Nice that he also references ukactive, albeit to illustrate his perceived hopelessness at the prospect of improving the current state of the nation with regards to physical activity, purely on a name change. Whilst we of course are not suggesting that a new logo will change the world overnight, more accurately, what our new brand does offer us is the change to both recognise the increasingly diverse range of members we represent, and give us the means to accurately communicate what we do to the corporate brands, policy-makers and representatives from our wider sector who we and our members need to be working with if we are ever to make any different to the levels of physical activity in this country. The commitment of our members to some of our existing projects, including our Research Institute and, shows that our members remain with us on this journey, and are interested in more than just members and sales.

Thanks also to the managing editor for praising our pro-active approach to last month’s announcement on school sport policy. Having seen most of the report leaked out to the media in the preceding week, we took the decision to issue a statement that Friday to keep our members and trade media in the loop ahead of the full announcement.

Thank you for what is consistently a thought-provoking read.

David Stalker
Chief executive officer

*[Read the managing editor's article and judge for yourself. Ed]

16 November 2012

Oil money: a crime against culture

News that BP has accepted a record-beating criminal fine of $4.5 billion for the ecological disaster it caused in the Gulf of Mexico, and that some of the company’s staff may face manslaughter charges, begs the following question: will the panjandrums of the UK’s arts and sports institutions now cancel their sponsorship deals with the oil company? If not, what will it take to get them to do so?

Leading lights in the arts, including Danny Boyle and Nicholas Hytner, have quite rightly criticised the coalition government’s cuts to arts funding and the culture secretary’s apparent lack of interest in the cultural life of the country, but crimes against the environment are crimes against humanity. Even at a time of austerity, BP’s oil money is an expedient too far. As the world has learned to flourish without support from slavery, tobacco and alcohol, arts and sport must learn to emerge from the culture of fossil fuels, reject the oil industry’s sponsorship money, and cleanse the oil stains from culture.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

15 August 2012

Playing fields: the roots of Olympic legacy

After Olympics success there is understandable concern not to lose the initiative on legacy delivery. But Michael Gove’s apparent disregard for school playing fields is not just of his making, but a legacy he inherited from previous governments of both parties.  Campaigns to protect the outdoor sport and recreation needs of young people dates back to 1925 with the founding of the National Playing Fields Association, re-branded Fields in Trust. Without the vital work of this charity, and other green space champions down the years, the commercial might of developers would have triumphed over community, sport and recreation interests and the playing field estate greatly diminished. It is a sad reflection on the values of our society that we talk about better sports facilities for children in the wake of Olympics glory but still rely on the passion of campaigners to protect existing facilities from the combined visceral power of governments and the bulldozer.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

6 August 2012

Dadaism the Brailsford way

Cycling. The Omnium? No, me neither. But its hypnotic effect is complete (and I have no desire to unravel its Zen-like mystery). Even the word ‘omnium’ is soporific and entirely appropriate. But if cycling’s governing body ever decides to re-name the event, may I suggest: ‘Cycling – From Dada Anarchy To Existential Purity’. Trips off the tongue. No?

Nick Reeves OBE
Executive Director
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

6 July 2012

An example of the loathsome Olympics

Nobody likes to be a spoil-sport and so, despite my ongoing spat with London Olympics' panjandrums about BP's sponsorship of the games, I've tried to be enthusiastic. But a recent attempt to walk a public footpath along the River Thames near Dorney was prevented “for security reasons”, the tyrant's excuse of our times. This officially sanctioned insolence by publicly funded bullies is a loathsome example of how the Olympics ideology has been turned on its head by petty bureaucrats and the self-entitled. Thanks to them the games is both fascist and internationalist, and thoroughly rotten. What should be an inclusive and popular cultural festival is a boondoggle for politicians, business leaders, corporate junkies, me-me celebrities and a greedy elite. And the stadia themselves are a temple to vanity and will be spalled in ten years' time

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

15 June 2012

I hear you Carl Bennett

I have just read Carl Bennett's article [I Can't Hear You, TLR June 2012] and enjoyed listening to a similar voice. I would say that those who need to hear his message are least likely to and only do so when they are shocked or surprised into it. People do not take in statistics until they are one of the statistics or can relate to individual cases. Sometimes desires sound too complex to deal with (usually they do boil down to simple needs) but I believe that we still have to be very careful as professionals providing services that we are not biased ourselves, always checking with our clients that we are meeting their needs and informing their desires.

Andrea Andrews
A2Z Swim

12 June 2012


Olympic volunteers: any problems?

I would be interested to hear if anyone has volunteered for assisting in the 2012 Olympic Games.
I know of two elderly individuals who were first interviewed in Canary Wharf during the early part of 2011. Since then, having enquired numerous times if I/we were going to be required, having put on hold any holiday arrangements and having not applied for any Games tickets, I received a message from one of the numerous Games Team members that I would have to wait until the end of April 2012 for a decision. Then it was the end of May 2012 and the last indication was by the end of June 2012. And I thought the games started in July 2012?

The latest information from the Games London Team 2012 was that I have been offered a post in the Transport Team at Weymouth! So I looked up what the role would be in the transport Team and it was as follows: “You’ll work in a crucial role to help passengers get on and get out of their transport vehicles as safely and quickly as possible.”

So I am to assist as a bus conductor. Well I suppose someone has got to do it. But after working in local authorities and universities' leisure departments for 27 years I thought I had gained enough experience to warrant a more senior role. Maybe they took my age into account when considering the offer. I am 81 so am I right to feel that ageism was taken into account? Or was it because I do not eat McDonald beef burgers – I hate them!

Has anyone else had similar problems?

Bernard Warden

21 May 2012


Our legacy, our responsibility

I’m not sure what scuttlebutt means, or who the “insider” in Sport England is, but your comments about the Sport Maker programme are simply untrue [Row Z edition 65].

I have been facilitating at these events since they began, and I never cease to be inspired by the plans that people make and the work that they do following attendance at the workshop or convention.

Take Javed, for instance – a health professional from Slough who has started a brand new sports club in his local community hall which is being regularly attended by 15+ people each week. He has booked the hall for 12 weeks and paid the hire fee out of his own pocket and simply promoted the fact that sport is available at that time – and watched the community walk in.

There are countless similar stories across the country which go to show that the programme, and 2012 in general, is working to inspire people to choose sport, and I am, frankly, outraged that a publication such as yours, which could do so much to promote a positive outcome from our once-in-a-lifetime Games opportunity should choose to snipe at it.

Why don’t you get behind it and start looking for the positive aspect of a story for a change?

This legacy belongs to all of us, and is all of our responsibility, if we make our living from sport. It is reports like yours, which choose to take the coward’s way rather than get behind something and help make something happen, which will ensure that there is NO legacy from London 2012. So how about you come out to an event and actually talk to the people there – and get a REAL sense of how the Sport Maker programme is inspiring people.

Give me a ring – you’d be welcome at any of the events that I am facilitating!

Trevor Smith
Sportsmith Ltd

["Scutt’lebutt n a cask with a hole cut in it for drinking water on board ship; a drinking fountain; rumour, gossip (esp US sl)." Hope this helps. Ed ]

10 May 2012

2012 v 1948: what we should have learned by now

I write from North Britain moved by both your recent editorials and a certain incipient Olympic ennui to ask how much has changed since the last time de Coubertin’s Games came our way.

In a few weeks the Olympic flame will arrive on our shores and, fanned in select places around our isles, re-ignite that spirit of competition, internationalism and fair play long believed, by we British, to be part of our national character. Or will it? There are certain differences between the current Games and those which were last held here in 1948, when the euphoria following the termination of hostilities fanfared  a world united, a world at peace.

First, we are no longer Great Britain. Wales and Scotland have tried and are trying to cauterise themselves from the body politic, in part, a knock-on effect of BBC announcers' cries of “Another silver for England” when an Englishman does the business and “A gold for Britain” when it's anybody else.

Second, the world is visibly neither united nor at peace; a situation, I moot, which has been aided in no small measure by the internet and the more ready availability of information, which means the under-the-carpet political shenanigans of yore are no longer readily accepted.  And there is the “ever present danger” of terrorism (or freedom-fighting, depending on your POV or nationality).

Third, Hope and a Glorious Future are less easily believed in when you are sliding around in a slough of recession, or, as we are urged daily by the politicians to believe, on the cusp of an upturn in growth.

Fourth, the fashion is now for individuality, and no matter how much Mr C may crow about community and the 'Big Society' (cf Big Mac), it has to be faced that, with the crippling of the unions, the export of industry and a society more based on commuting than working where it lives, we are less community-conscious than in 1948. Look at our town centres. Where are the local shops? Oh yes, that super-duper hypermarket four miles down the road. That must be them.

Cynical? Perhaps, but you have to admit there is a fin de siecle aroma about what's going on at the moment. Can the Olympics reverse that? It should.

Do not  the Olympics remind us that sport can bring all the nations together? Surely sport's celebration of the capability of the human body and spirit is above the political spin-dryer?

James Bryce

26 January 2012

Don't let facts get in the way

Can you implore Row Z to get his facts right. The two fat lads from Stoke actually contested their ‘world championship’ final (PDC version) at Alexandra Palace which, whilst being down south, is definitely not in Frimley Green.

One hundred and eighty!

Iain Maclaren

20 December 2011

No surprise: BP’s sponsorship of the arts

Sandy Nairne, Nicholas Serota and the other cultural panjandrums can squawk all they like: taking sponsorship money from BP is wrong and breaches any code of ethics worthy of the name. How can this country’s most revered publicly-funded arts establishments continue to allow themselves to be supported by an oil company with a terrible legacy of damage to the environment, to communities and to the lives of many people? The cynical atrocities of oil corporations in their pursuit of wealth and power at the expense of people, wildlife, landscapes and ecosystems is being legitimised by the arts establishment. It sullies the arts and undermines the four institutions.

At a time of economic restraint there are legitimate debates to be had about replacement funding for the arts but crimes against the environment are crimes against humanity and oil money is an expedient too far. As the world, and indeed Tate, have learned to flourish without support from slavery, tobacco and alcohol, we and they must learn to emerge from the culture of fossil fuels. It is time to halt the tyranny of oil patronage and cleanse the oil stains from art.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

5 August 2011

Plans for planning: a builders' charter and a public threat

There can be no argument that planning is in need of overhaul. But that does not justify a national planning policy framework (NPPF) proposal that puts building above all other considerations, especially environmental ones. And neither does it justify what will become the default response to almost every developer’s planning application: agreement to build. The NPPF is a builders’ charter  crafted by Eric Pickles and by Vince Cable to serve the interests of the construction industry, and is a gift to developers with sharp elbows and the gift of the gab. The NPPF proposals are another tuition fees and forests blunder. They will remove the independence of planning and put it at the service of Vince Cable’s business department. Planning will no longer exist to safeguard the interests of the public or the environment and will put considerations of profit above those of people, spaces and places

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

4 July 2011

The art of Chinese dissent

It is a relief to know that artist and campaigner Ai Weiwei has been released from prison, albeit under the strictest of bail conditions. Yet Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo remains incarcerated. Heaven knows what beastly programme of thought realignment he is being submitted to. Ironically, two of China's most prominent naysaying dissidents have become better known because of the Chinese government's actions to silence them.

The world of art and culture reacted with predictable noisiness. But nothing louder than a 'tut'. The best that the luvvies could do was sign a few petitions and proffer displays of indignation at smart parties.

We are told that Mr Cameron raised the issue of China's record on human rights with premier Wen Jiabao before he signed a £1.4 billion trade deal. Although China's attitude to human rights is deplorable, the Chinese leader was right to remind the world that Britain has a few issues of its own that verge on the hypocritical. Britons are not so squeamish about China's land and resource grab, or its human rights record,  that they aren't eager to consume vast quantities of imported Chinese products. That said, if China wants the benefits of being part of a free market global economy it must learn to engage with its crtical friends in the West and realise that cultural icons like Ai and Liu are an asset to China and not a threat.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

9 March 2011

Making trouble with Mervyn King

Having read your piece, Making trouble with Mervyn King, I’m moved to offer my services. I will heed the call to arms and happily join you, Mervyn and others at the gates of Downing Street at the appointed time and day. Just let me know.

Cameron’s “transformation of public services” is a continuation of an old ideology that goes back to the 1980s and CCT. It’s nowt but a re-branded Thatcherite / Nicholas Ridley obsession with the dismantling of the public sector through privatisation, under the cloak of Big Society.

On another day I might have been sympathetic – generous, even. I might’ve believed that a grafting-on of outside management, including charities, to perk up public service staff to provide services more innovatively, might be a good thing. But now that we know that corporations, charities and community groups will have the legal right to tender for any public service, except catching rapists and murderers and shooting-dead innocent tube travellers (with bids that undercut existing costs by means no more innovative than a monstering of pay, terms and conditions), I wonder that I’m typing this instead of taking to the streets. Cameron’s assault on the public domain is wrong and wrong-headed.

Meantime, people of other nations are demanding more power and freedom. In the UK, the government is mobilising to make sure we have less of both. Hard won freedoms and the right to public services provided by accountable public servants are being sold cheaply. The things we voted for have been ignored, and things we never asked for are coming to pass, fast. Your call for an election now is right. An election in four years time will be too late.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

Read the editorial, Making trouble with Mervyn King, in the March 2011 issue of The Leisure Review

3 February 2011


Coaching in the spotlight

I was very pleased to see the interview with the new chair [Chris Baillieu] of Sportscoach UK (SCUK). The organisation which had done so much to develop new thinking and new ways forward over the last few years seemed to have gone off the radar in the last year after the departure of the last CEO, Patrick Duffy. I am prompted to respond with some comments which I hope Chris will read and reflect upon since, as a former elected member of BISC, former GB national coach and as one of the SCUK tutor workforce wandering around the north of England on their request on behalf of coaches, I have some views on his responses. It may also be worth mentioning that I was on the board of SCUK’s predecessor, the NCF, for a short while so I might claim to have some legitimacy of view with regard to the function and objectives of SCUK.

It is good to hear that he has “a passion” to improve sport. Translating this to improve coaching which is the principal function of the organisation (as in their title) is what I wanted to hear in response to the question. What you were implicitly asked was: “Why you, when it’s clear you are not a coach and appear to know nothing about coaching?” I'm not sure we got a response to that. We got to know a bit about his background instead. I think the readers wanted more clarity about what skills he brought that were relevant to coaching and could move coaching in the UK forward again.

Secondly, I would take issue with the fact that he thinks that the “role of active, skilled and qualified coaches is recognised”. It will take more than a Coach of the Year ceremony for that to happen. A key to turning this round related to your last question (which I will come to). We have always been “begin[ning] to address the perceived value of coaches” ever since I became a national coach in 1976. Coaches at all levels want to see real progress not another review à la Coaching Matters (that at least seemed to be a start but what happened?). It was, however, really good to hear a commitment to support coaches, coach educators and mentors. We need to build on some of the good work done here, including the work done by SCUK, especially in some of the more recent audits and research undertaken into coaching.

It is clear that Chris has a handle on the fact that we need coaches to work in different contexts (eg social inclusion agendas). What I wanted to hear was how he might think he can offer new approaches in training and education in order to do this. NGBs [national governing bodies] could be resistant since they are not necessarily in this business and their coach education schemes are not generally geared to it either. Indeed there is a tension in the funding for NGBs related to providing the next generation of 'excellence' in performance. Not really addressed by Chris.

His response to the question of “drop out” in coaching, which he raised, is one of our major challenges since this is key in relation to the “value” of coaches. If coaches were valued more, and tangibly so, I doubt if there would be the same drop out. I really think his response to the lack of a CEO for such a long time was not the best. Coaches genuinely felt for the first time that we had a champion in the last incumbent. Having a temporary incumbent in place who is not a coach is not helping to ‘champion’ coaches and coaching. This comment should not be construed or dismissed as a personal attack on the current temporary post holder.

I would take issue with Chris as to the lack of direction and commitment to the Coaching Framework. There is a lack of direction and commitment, partly because even in its new phase it is mentioned less and less, and not for the reasons Chris stated. There is a genuine concern ‘out there’ that it has just lost momentum and indeed we know some NGBs have pulled out. 

Finally, I think Chris did himself and coaches a disservice in responding in such a manner to your last question. If these voices (demanding at times) were about an independent voice for coaches “off and on for more than 30 years” then why has nothing been done? If he does actually say he values coaches and coaching then a response about trying to sort it (again) would have been more appropriate. SCUK is not necessarily the body for this in terms of it being ‘under them’; we don’t want foxes guarding the hen house. However, we do want SCUK to help (along with NGBs) as this will make for a more transparent and empowered coaching environment. What are people so afraid of when coaches say they want their own independent voice? Every move over the last 30-40 years to get such an organisation off the ground has been obstructed and one wonders why. Control of the voice of coaches is still with us since some see power and influence (however minimal) transferred elsewhere as a dilution of their own power. However, I will watch with interest to see if what I personally failed to achieve in my coaching lifetime can be achieved by others with regard to an independent voice.

Dr Hamish Telfer

Read the interview with Chris Baillieu in the Feb 2011 issue of TLR.

Sexism in the Sky: the silence continues

Messrs Keys and Gray were well and truly ‘gated’ for their off-air blokish behaviour, and the media spinned and spinned. Over a period of days almost everyone with a foghorn and sharp elbows took a stance and wanted a say. But where were the guardians of sport on this? The panjandrums, the quangos and the governing bodies have all been strangely silent on a mode of behaviour that is endemic and hardly a surprise.    

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

20 December 2010

Localism you can trust

As community-based, independent ‘not for profit’ bodies – many of them employee-owned – with a sound and sustainable capacity in running buildings, managing people and organising a wide range of activities, Sporta members can play an important role in putting the ‘big’ into the ‘Big Society’. 

We can offer a viable model to inexperienced and under-capitalised community groups or potential co-operatives seeking to challenge large private sector companies that claim only they have the capacity to deliver contracted out public services. The Big Society will require a kaleidoscope of provision and it is important that we build capacity in tune with social commitment and social enterprise. Effective local arrangements will vary from place to place. In many instances, local organisations will find that partnerships with sporta trusts can provide a secure base that will enable them to develop their capacity without the need for costly capital investment and professional competence in dealing with copious regulations.

Our members are established social enterprises that are businesslike and innovative in their delivery of accessible and affordable services. As well as operating major facilities, such as swimming pools, gyms, sports grounds, stadiums and theatres across England, Scotland and Wales, sporta members run a number of community programmes and often offer informal support to other smaller community bodies. As major local service providers, they already play a leading role in local strategic partnerships with both councils and private sector organisations.

There is now potential for sporta trusts to play an even bigger part in the Big Society as hubs, hosts and advisers for newly forming grassroots organisations. Our members are used to engaging with the many people who come through their doors seeking to enjoy themselves and make their lives fuller, healthier and happier, so they are well placed to support the expansion of genuine co-operative and community-based provision.

Craig McAteer, chair of Sporta

14 December 2010

A word on equality in sport

Just a brief response to the feature on equality in sport. I am a sports development professional and the chair of a sports club, and we like to think we have a good attitude to equality.

Equality should not be done for the sake of it. Our club is in what is called a super-diverse area of Birmingham and in order to serve the sporting needs of that community, and our original mission, aims and to have the best team we can, we need to be ‘actively equal opportunities’ – in terms of race, culture and ethnicity – and this is something that we have strived hard to do. If you are running a canoeing club in Shropshire then there will be less pressure to look at race, as it will be less of an issue. In order to serve the sporting needs of the people in your catchment you may need to look at things in a different way, perhaps developing more women’s sport, considering family activity or childcare, if this will help you to be a better and more successful club, rather than just because you should. It is also important to be realistic about the capacity of a club to do this, and this capacity will only become clear once the mentality of the club is ready to consider these kinds of new activity.

Race is actually one of the easiest to deal with as it only requires an attitude within the club and a minimum amount of cultural awareness (not fear). Aston Sports Club was founded to use sport to break down ethnic and cultural divides in the area – and all it requires is a welcoming and open-minded, colour-blind attitude from the volunteers running the club. Where someone comes from is not an issue and we understand that during Ramadan, for example, we have some people that can’t play or they can’t perform well because they are not eating or drinking during daylight hours (and yet we have always put out a team – thirsty or not). The key to this is to be relaxed about race and culture, and treat any new person who arrives at a club with respect. While this may be easier in a traditionally multi-cultural area like Aston, the trick is still the same in a rural area where perhaps there may be only one or two families from BME backgrounds. If the club is open and welcoming, and there is some recognition that new members, especially those who are from a different race from the rest of the club might feel more awkward, then the club can overcome this easily.

Sadly many clubs are suspicious of outsiders. Imagine the village pub that goes quiet when the out-of-towner comes in; many clubs are the same. Remember that there is diversity of many types and young people who are not related to club members may equally be viewed with suspicion. Clubs that have this open and welcoming mentality will welcome the young and old, the new and established member, the white and the black, the male and the female, those with specific needs, the gay and the straight equally (this last point I believe will be one of the biggest challenges, something that we, as a club and the whole of sport and society, are still working on).

Developing new sections for specific groups means committed volunteers and leaders, as well as this attitude shift – but first is always the attitude shift. I am not sure how to change this attitude across the UK but I think some greater education of sports development professionals would be a good start – and the demystification of equalities skills.

Just tell them to relax. It is all about being open and welcoming to all.

Matt Kendall
Aston Sports Club

3 December 2010

Campaigning for sport: time to join us

In the four weeks since The Leisure Review published Steve Grainger’s response to the Gove attack on the SSP programme a great deal has happened.

A national campaign has been launched and is quickly building momentum. There are 17,959 members of the Facebook Group named ‘Save School Sport Partnerships’. 804 people are following @saveschoolsport on Twitter including MP’s, top athletes and interested reporters.  Young ambassadors are leading the collection of signatures across the country for a petition to ‘Save Our School Sport Partnerships’. The petition will be presented to parliament on
7 December following a demonstration of 2012 young people.  The aim is that this petition will include 1,000,000 signatures.
At a local level young people, parents and teachers are contacting their local MP to express their concerns over the cut. Local media have covered the issue with articles in the local press and coverage on local news. Nationally there has been fantastic support by the media. On the TV we have seen reports on Sky News, the BBC and Channel 4. In the papers we hit the front page of the Observer. There have been further supporting articles in the Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Daily Mail. Olympic and Paralympic athletes have supported the campaign. Darren Campbell has been a fantastic ambassador for SSPs in a number of interviews on the BBC. Gail Emms wrote a letter to the prime minister supported by 75 Olympic and Paralympic athletes urging him to order a U-turn.
The campaign has also reached international levels. The cuts featured in an article in the Los Angeles Times.  The decision by the government has been criticised publicly by the Australian sports commissioner and the Canadian Olympics committee chief executive.
The pressure is building on the government to U-turn their decision. They have shown a complete disregard for the successes of School Sport Partnerships. Their carefully selecting of facts and continual misuse of data to mislead the uninformed is shameful and has rightly been subject to wide criticism.
Our plan is to continue the campaign until a solution can be found for School Sport Partnerships to be sustained as we think sport has the power to change lives and should be accessible to all young people.  I invite your readers to join us.

Sarah Price
Competition and Events Manager
Sedgefield SSP

3 November 2010

Leaders step forward

Martyn Allison's article [After the spending review: what do we do now? TLR Nov 2010 issue] is insightful and challenging. He makes the point very well – now is the time to change fundamentally the basis of our decision-making. We need to rise above the silos. We need to work out what is needed by people who use our services. We need to really have a look at the lack of joined-up approaches that we have. We need to  broker new , meaningful and lasting commitments to innovation and partnership working, not rhetoric and sound bites. The question is, can we do it? I believe there is real talent across our sector. I believe we have the capability to paint a brighter and better  future – and along the way redefine what the system for sport and physical activity looks like. Leaders step forward!

John Byrne
CSP Director, Leicester-Shire and Rutland Sport

27 August 2010

Community sports development in the Big Society

I completely agree with Steve De Wint [Community sports development services: a new vision for delivery, TLR August 2010] on enhancing and raising the profile of the capacity-building potential and role of sports development, as I'm sure would all directors of county sports partnerships [CSP]. It is also very consistent with the Big Society mantra of our new coalition government, which interestingly does not seem to make particular mention of the potential of or for sport. On this basis and given that two thirds of adults say they have no time to volunteer in their communities, I wonder if the Big Society might actually have an adverse impact on sport unless sporting bodies can be encouraged to look beyond their individual sport (and the sporty) to take a genuinely broader interest in their community. They will need more than the sports development capacity-building skills that Steve talks about to achieve this but if it could happen they truly could be at the heart of their communities.

On the other foot, it does seem to me that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport messages are more about direct delivery or the bums-on-seats end of the sports development market, through, for example, new schools Olympics. If we are to deliver on both agendas we will need to keep our multifunctional roles alive.

I notice that Steve has a slight side swipe at the policy of investing heavily through NGBs [national governing bodies of sport] and I would like to put on record that I am pleased that the new coalition government have not scrapped this strategy. Over the last few years we have seen so many changes of strategy in our sector that people have got very dizzy with it all and I have seen many talented people leave frustrated as a result. We need a certain amount of stability to give organisations time to learn and adapt, and to give individuals a chance to grow; ours is very much a people business, which Steve alludes to in his article. It will take more than one or two government administrations to see the changes really take root in our 'local' clubs and sporting associations. With sport moving up the political agenda, the concern is that it could be used as a stick to beat each other with so I for one am pleased that we can continue to concentrate on supporting NGBs to deliver their plans in our localities.

Chris Child
Partnership director
Energize Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin

22 June 2010

The arts: tainted by association

The media’s forensic examination of the impact of the unfolding environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico has largely ignored an issue very close to home and a sector that is keeping its head down. BP is a major sponsor of the arts in the UK, yet the arts community has been quiet on its poisonous relationship with BP.

The erosion of public funding of the arts has forced arts institutions to seek commercial sponsorship wherever they can, and some have been very successful. The support of big business has been a success story resulting in a plethora of block-buster exhibitions and performances that have opened up the arts to a wider audience. But how embarrassed are those institutions that have a close and high-profile association with BP? How do arts institutions like the Tate justify their continued relationship with a company with a track record of breaches of environmental and safety regulations and is the cause of one of the biggest environmental disasters in history? Talk of contractual obligations that must be adhered to simply won’t do. It is the job of art institutions, and artists, to take a lead by making sure they are not corrupted by association with businesses that don’t act responsibly or ethically. Meanwhile, Lord Coe is doing his best to justify the London Olympics' relationship with BP and doing a predictably horrible job of it.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

1 June 2010

Taking issue with Adrian Christy

As an experienced operator of leisure centres that have hosted over 50 international events across more than 30 different sports, I am well aware how seeing top level sportsmen and women competing within their local facilities is a major selling point for the general public. But sports now seem to focus on major venues like the O2, Sheffield Arena and Birmingham NEC. What happened to taking these events to smaller venues like Huddersfield Sports Centre, which could easily fill a sports hall with 1,700 enthusiastic local people?

With that in mind it’s not surprising that most leisure centres, which are between 0% and 30% funded by their local council, have to seek outside funding and become ‘leisure’ operators in order to reduce costs.  Antiques road shows, dog shows and wedding fairs are all events that help keep the prices down for our customers.  These centres have had to diversify in order to survive and many have not received lottery funding, which is – like rocking horse muck –- very hard to find!

I recall that, many years ago, the Badminton Association tried to put a levy on facilities for the number of courts they have, which failed miserably and probably knocked the sport back.

I am old enough in the tooth to still have the scars from making bar staff redundant because the local badminton club, using the sports hall from 7 – 10.25pm, would rush into the bar and order two pints each, but complain when we took the glasses from them at 10.50pm so the centre could close.  And asked to plug a kettle into the sports hall socket to make tea and provide the opposition with sandwiches whilst the café stood empty.

Sports halls were built to 10m high specifically for the odd shuttlecock that was lobbed into orbit.  So perhaps, instead of bemoaning his outrage and knocking innovative leisure operators, Adrian Christy should assist badminton in reinventing itself – a bit like cricket with the 20 - 20 game – so there’s some high impact and excitement that creates a sustainable flow of people, using everyday plastic shuttlecocks that don’t require feathers yanked from some unfortunate live goose in China!

Ian Kendall
CEO Oldham Community Leisure and North West Representative for Sporta

31 March 2010

A football fan asks: MUST we?

So, Nick Reeves wants me to support MUST? [Letters, 11 March 2010]. When I can see copies of the letters that MU fans (including Nick?) sent to their Board saying that taking the manager and best players from the Baggies just because they had the money was wrong, I'll think about it. Mind you, amazingly enough, the Albion were using their own relative riches in the late 19th century to do much the same thing (not from MU, though but, as I think they were playing in Norwich City's used strip in those days!).

Much as where many clubs are at now is to be deplored – not least as there's absolutely no chance of most clubs doing anything much any more – it's a bit much when such complaints come from people who were happy enough to see their club leading the big battalions in taking the lion's share for decades.

So, let's see MUST arguing for a system that doesn't guarantee that they become even more ensconced at the top: proportionate allocation of all income except gates and merchandise, perhaps, to all levels of the game; some sort of draft that favours less successful clubs; quotas for home produced players; salary caps – maybe MUST is for all of this, in which case fine, but it certainly isn't being advertised.

David Albutt
Policy Officer, CLOA

11 March 2010

Raising the standard for community football interests

I know it's a big ask, but lifelong allegiances must be suspended – for just a moment at least. I urge football fans everywhere to welcome the MUST campaign and follow the lead of Manchester United's supporters. It’s time to reclaim professional football from the money-men, from big business, from the millionaire footballers and from fatuous self-regarding pundits.

Lest we forget, football’s roots lie in those working class communities that were mostly hell-on-earth and where the rich got richer on the backs of men, women and children who toiled and slaved for not much more than bugger-all.

Most of the clubs we know today were founded by local church leaders and philanthropists with the sole aim of improving the quality of life of those without hope or opportunity, to provide respite for exhausted bodies and minds, and to facilitate social interaction. The founders of the game had a high moral purpose – they had values and vision. They could see that the clubs they created could and would become the vehicle for community cohesion and healthier lifestyles.

But, gradually, the sport has been hijacked from those it is meant to serve. Blighted by cynicism on and off the pitch, an afternoon of football is no longer affordable for many people and is synonymous with the greed that has created global economic collapse. At last capitalism is in the dock. And those who control the game – the owners, the governing bodies, some managers and many of the top players – have been exposed for alienating the public and for bleeding football dry.

If the sports minister is serious about involving supporters in the running of clubs then he must order a root and branch review of the game and how it is run. But there can be no argument that it’s time to give the clubs back to the people. One radical way of doing this is to establish clubs as charitable trusts, constitutionally established to serve the needs of local communities. Those who seek to profit from the game must be run out of town for good. The green and gold scarf of MUST should be adopted by all true lovers of the game and its history as the standard and the mark of a wider campaign to reclaim football. Those who wear the colours are its standard-bearers.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

[See Mr Reeves' article on this subject in the December 2007 issue of The Leisure Review.]

3 March 2010

A downhill slide towards sporting self-congratulation

Is democracy a barrier to timely action on climate change? According to a recent online poll 62% of those who responded think so. And, according to another poll, more people believe in angels than climate change. Meantime, Bono has written another editorial for the New York Times telling us how to live our lives. Does he, I wonder, remove his stupid sunglasses when he’s drafting these self-regarding pearls of wisdom? It’s vital that we know.

But, get this: Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams is giving up on public transport and has headed straight for a car show room. The slippery slope to celebrity status will surely lead to an OBE, telly ads (Fox’s glacier mints, the new suckie health-sweet, is my bet), Strictly Come Dancing with Brucie on the Beeb and a seat on the board of some self-appointing, self-defeating  quango. Then, the ultimate – an Amy Williams Action on Climate Change Foundation.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

28 October 2009

Art and the environment: cashing in on the greenwash?

Independent newspaper art critic, Tom Lubbock, in his wonderfully pithy review [Independent, 'Who’s fooling who? 14 October] of Damien Hirst’s new paintings at the Wallace Collection, tells us what most of us already knew. If you’re famous enough and wealthy enough you can get away with almost anything. I don’t know if the artist claims to be an environmentalist of note, as well as a painter worthy of our attention, but I recall that it was the Independent’s sister title, the IoS, that recently tried to convince us that Damien Hirst is not only a leading green but among Britain’s top 100 environmentalists. Remarkably, Hirst was ranked higher than those with a much greater claim to recognition, and who have been campaigning on green issues for years. If a serious newspaper wants to showcase green leaders and have its Top 100 list taken seriously, it should avoid the self-regarding famous who can afford to buy the green-dream and celebrate the work of real environmentalists instead.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

5 October 2009

Researching Youth Sport – or a review of the blindingly obvious!

I read with interest your summary of the above conference, and I’ve got to say I read it with an increasing sense of despair. I’d like to summarise the bits I remember from the piece:

1) The view of talent in society – enjoyment decreases the further you advance in sport because of the way society deals with successful sports teams and individuals.
2) Gifted and talented – the hawthorn effect is alive and well
3) Reflective Practice – if you think about what you do it can change your views and behaviour for the good – even better if you can get your team to think about what they can do to improve.
4) Families – the family unit picks up the tab for performers in sport – financially, emotionally and socially.
5) LTAD [long-term athlete development] – rather than developing the science to support the development of the player pathway spend your time presenting the argument that insufficient evidence means it can’t be true.

Surely if we are going to make progress as a nation the scientific community need to be a bit more applied in its research; a bit more solutions-driven and a lot more positive in the way they present. Identification of a problem is nearly always the easiest bit to achieve. What I need to know as a coach/manager is the best way to solve the problem.

My challenge to science is to stop playing semantics, tell me something I don’t know, and when you do make sure it aids the solution rather providing further proof of the problem.

Richard Ward


23 September 2009

Sport Unlimited

I felt it important to respond to the article published in latest edition of Leisure Review regarding Sport Unlimited. The suggestion that Sport Unlimited is “...another high-profile, low substance, headline-grabbing initiative” is unfair. Sport Unlimited aims to engage those harder-to-reach less-sporty young people in a range of non-traditional sports and is an important element of the drive to offer all young people five hours a week of high quality PE and sport. Sport England, as part of their lead responsibility for community sport, are working hard to position Sport Unlimited to achieve the greatest impact and I wish to correct the assertion that the Youth Sport Trust is somehow not supportive of Sport Unlimited or that we see this a purely as a Sport England responsibility. Furthermore, the Youth Sport Trust has not declined to speak at any Sport Unlimited events. In fact, we are working in partnership with Sport England to ensure that school and community sport work together to meet the needs of all young people.

Steve Grainger
Chief Executive
Youth Sport Trust

Sport Unlimited 2

I read your article “Hyperbole Unlimited” in the September edition of the Leisure Review with concern, not only with regards to the number of factual errors contained within the piece, but also due to what I consider to be its misleading nature.  I thought it would be useful to clarify several points I felt were misrepresented in your article.

Firstly, it would be worthwhile to point out that Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust work closely in partnership to support the delivery of the Government’s ambition to get children and young people doing 5 hours of sport a week.  The Trust covers school-based activities, and Sport England is responsible for club and community sessions.
Our partnership working model is strong, and the two organisations champion each other, through a robust and collaborative working relationship. Furthermore, the Youth Sport Trust has never refused to speak at a Sport Unlimited event organised by Sport England. In fact Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust often actively share the stage, mostly recently at a national event in July to outline the work and achievements of Sport Unlimited to date.

I also consider your assertion that the five hour offer can only be delivered in schools to be flawed.  Whilst schools have a vital role to play, the offer will only become reality through a mixture of both school and community provision.  What’s needed, and what Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust are seeking to deliver, is a wide menu of provision which is accessible, attractive, affordable and appropriate to the needs of all children. I believe that Sport Unlimited provides these requirements in an effective and measurable way.

Sport England is proud of what Sport Unlimited has achieved in its first year and I am confident the scheme will deliver the required number of participants set out in our joint objectives.  To reiterate, the scheme aims to get 900,000 young people along to these taster sessions and at least a third (300,000) to commit to their chosen sport once the ten weeks are up.  So far, independent monitoring, including validation checks, undertaken by Sheffield Hallam has confirmed that Sport Unlimited is effectively reaching out to the harder to reach less-sporty youngsters.  In the first twelve months over 200,000 young people accessed the high quality taster sessions, and over 177,000 completed their ten week courses.

I am assured by the quality of our monitoring undertaken by Sheffield Hallam and would be prepared to investigate and challenge any examples of false and / or misreporting as mentioned in your article.  
It is also important to clarify that the County Sports Partnerships’ leadership of Sport Unlimited is not funded from Sport England’s core grant as you incorrectly reported. Each Partnership receives an additional grant for delivery of the programme. In addition, results are not just based upon the volume of youngsters who participate in the course, but also the sustainable effects that this delivers. This has been demonstrated by the encouraging early transition figures, reported by Sheffield Hallam, showing a third of youngsters, who completed their 10 week courses, continue their participation via clubs and other vehicles.

The real key to success behind the scheme has been to ask young people what they would like and then to do all we can to provide it.  It is through partnerships and initiatives like these that Sport England is confident that we will deliver a lasting sporting legacy for 2012.

Mike Diaper
Executive Director for Children and Young People
Sport England

24 July 2009

Saving Greenwich Park

I read with interest your article in Water and Environment Magazine: Can Games be Green? [reprinted in August issue of The Leisure Review].

I belong to a protest group NOGOE (No to Greenwich Park Equestrian Events) and wanted to follow up on your excellent article about the London Olympics. Our case for opposition is complex and can be read on our website: . Our key messages are to do with potential environmental and archaeological damage to this World Heritage Site, and waste of resources in building temporary facilities that leave no legacy for the sport.

Interestingly the London 2012 website makes a big play about green credentials in respect of the Olympic Park in Stratford. However all these green principles are being blatantly disregarded in relation to Greenwich Park: constructing a new course, building a massive stadium, additional water and sewage for stabling 200 horses, etc - all facilities that already exist in equestrian venues near London. We did a special feature on this issue in our 18 April Save Greenwich Park blog.

I hope this stimulates some ideas for an article in your own magazine.

Sev D'Souza
NOGOE Media Relations

6 April 2009

Who's the Dada now?

Just when I thought we’d blown the popular myth that Picasso is the greatest artist of the twentieth century, and that we’d moved on to the Dadaist trickster, Marcel Duchamp, the National Gallery tries to revive it. With some aplomb I must admit.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

15 December 2008

Taking issue with access

In an otherwise generally well-balance magazine I was a bit surprised by Mr Owen’s one-sided article on access to rivers.

Mike’s presentation of the Salmon and Trout Association as a bunch of toffs who have “outbursts” on their website about canoeists is not very fair. Where are his links to the S&TA website at the bottom of his articles?

He seems to be putting across the view that everyone should have a right to cross someone’s land to get into a river free of charge! Most of the fishing done on rivers in this country is paid for. Angling clubs rent and buy land, and their members have to pay for the privilege of using those rivers. Most angling clubs expect their members to turn up for work days to carry out repairs to the banks and clearing the rivers.

The S&TA doesn’t suggest that access should prevented at all. It only states that those that want to use the river for their leisure pursuit do so in a way that doesn’t damage the environment, stop others from enjoying their legal activity and all groups make a fair contribution to the upkeep of the waters.

If Mr Owen ever wants to go out fly fishing I’ll happily take him.

I’ll even lend him some tweed breeks.

Oliver Booth

5 December 2008

Museum mystery

I was wondering if anyone in the extended leisure community could answer this question for me: why is it whenever my peers and I visit one of the many art galleries in and around Manchester, the other people in the gallery (most especially those in uniform) look more than perplexed, check what the weather outside is like, and finally appear to come to the conclusion we're in there looking for people to mug and spend the rest of our time there keeping at least 8ft away from us at all times? (Hint: I'm closer to 20 than 30...)
Helen Rose

6 August 2008

Floam-flecked and challenging

There’s nothing like the subject of ISPAL to provoke a foam-flecked rant. Like your previous correspondent on the subject, Vanessa Bone, [see correspondence below] I too regret that there is no longer a professional body pushing hard for an integrated approach to leisure that includes the arts, heritage and libraries etc. And I wonder what the ‘P’ is doing in ISPAL? Just what is ISPAL’s remit?

Nick Reeves (former FILAM)
Executive Director,
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

7 July 2008

Sport England’s new direction

I've been out of sport development for a couple of years but at least some habits never change. From the sidelines I witness the launch of another strategy but this time it’s not my job on the line. It’s much more important than that  –  it’s sport and physical activity up for grabs. Will this plan deliver? It might, indeed I hope it does. The high-level principles are hard to fault and it makes the right sort of noises (especially for the chief executives of national governing bodies – I bet they've already been out to order their new car).

But the omens aren't good. For English sport to develop  –  I mean truly develop (you know: make progress, offer better opportunities than it used to, be better here than in other countries, etc)  –  there needs to be a consistency of purpose over a long period, an enduring approach and philosophy, and one that lasts. The evidence shows, to me at least, that four years isn't enough. It’s not enough to grow an athlete; that takes fifteen years. It’s not enough to develop a sustained participation base; that takes decades. Why? Because the ‘systems’ that underpin sport are complex, they are cultural and they need time to work through.

So I’ve a few questions for Sport England. What proportion of the next four years will be spent developing sport (versus time spent reorganising)? Will the plan be maintained if we get a new government or a change of chief executive? How long will the national governing bodies and the other delivery organisations get to sort themselves out after Sport England has completed its reshuffle?

If your answers aren’t “100%”, “yes” and “enough time” respectively, the plan won’t work.

So to sum up I’d like to thank those involved in the strategy for a well-written and nicely published document (if only strategy writing was an Olympic discipline). Your real challenge is to be patient, have faith and maintain direction  –  not to find a scapegoat and write another plan.

Richard Ward

2 July 2008

Sport England's new strategy: what are the odds?

Is the fact that county sports partnerships (CSP) are not mentioned (in the executive summary at least) due to the fact that they are such an integral part of the delivery system in England and therefore a ‘gimme’? Or should CSP colleagues be actively looking at ways to reduce the formation of beads of sweat from accumulating on the forehead?"

With the exception of that rather worrying omission, I broadly welcome the 'pure sports development' approach of the strategy and just hope that we can now be left to get on with implementing its aims and objectives with no further alterations until at least after London 2012. What are the odds of that happening?

Ian Jackson
Senior Competition Manager - Suffolk

9 May 2008

The question of the 'C word'

And whilst we’re on the topic of conferences, is it just me, or is this summer’s annual beano by ISPAL giving some of us former ILAM aficionados every justification for staying away?  As a culture wallah, I would still fetch up over the years to meet with a diversity of people beavering away in leisure.  Indeed, most times I could also enjoy the opportunity to ‘address the nation’ (sorry that’s bore the pants off) on a range of inter-disciplinary topics (Cultural Strategies, Cultural Pathfinder…).  The chance, too, to hear the occasional inspiring session from a keynote speaker (and I have great memories of Huw Irranca-Davies talking about the value of the ‘c’ word) was a major draw.

So imagine my disappointment on opening the ISPAL envelope urging my attendance to find that 2008 is going to be devoted to ‘Forecasting the Future of Leisure’, with a totally sporting diet of events, and not a nod to heritage, arts, libraries...  Absolutely nothing there for someone even of my catholic tastes (and, yes, I love lots of sports – can watch people do them for hours on end, especially those hunky blokes with baby bonnets and funny-shaped balls).  I can’t be the only one, can I, who is so vexed with the replacing of an organisation that wasn’t broken with one that only has three wheels on it?

Yours more in sorrow than in anger

Vanessa Bone
Partner, Creative Cultures (and a former FILAM)

15 February 2008


The ruck: a considered view with a Malbec perspective

John Eady's letter regarding the 'neutering' of the ruck in rugby union sparked a debate amongst some colleagues and friends. We had a similar conversation over several bottles of a rather powerful Argentinian Malbec (Co-op's finest) and came up with various ideas, some similar to the team fouls idea and some so ridiculous that even rugby league administrators would find them hard to adopt.

However, some relevant points came out:

1- If the team foul approach was in place, would teams put minimum bodies into the ruck area? This would clutter the midfield and give us very much a hybrid rugby league game.

2 - If the referees used the yellow card in the way it was intended to be used (for persistent foul play), then they would probably issue enough cards for this to happen naturally. But they don't, so why would they support a rather more contrived foul structure?

3 - In the recent ARC championships in Australia they used some ELVs [experimental law variation], one of which was the use of hands in the ruck ONLY by players on their feet. The general consensus was that this produced much quicker ball, more people competing at the ruck and so more space in midfield. After a few weeks the number of yellow cards per match dropped to an average of 1.2 per game (less than the Premiership and National 1). Would this be better than a 13 v 12 game?

I appreciate the frustration that Mr Eady (possibly a scrum-half?) has with the the current situation but the laws only work if supported by the players AND the officials.

Richard Thomas
Hudson Global Resourcing


1 February 2008


Are the Surrealists in charge of the art world?

The British Council, the body responsible for promoting the very best of our culture abroad, is to close its art department. This came as something of a shock to me and I’m still trying to find out why. And, was any one consulted on the closure? It would seem not. Public consultation is deeply unfashionable right across government. You only have to look at the Government’s position on airport expansion to know that. It thumbs its nose at local people and climate change by announcing its decision to build new runways then has the cheek to consult. How barmy is that?

But we’ve been here before. You may recall the Government’s decision, a few years ago, to dispose of the Regional Arts Boards (aided and abetted by Arts Council, England) when (to the discomfort of our arts panjandrums) they got too big for their boots. A decision was made and leaked before the formal public consultation got underway, rendering the consultation impotent and therefore pointless, and the whole business of public consultation held to ridicule.

With many of our public galleries and museums pretending to offer free public access, with the Natural History and Science Museums pretending not to be amusement parks (my feature article in your pages, Mad About Museums, refers), with public funding of the arts in turmoil and now the British Council’s arts programme under threat, I’m convinced that arts policy in this country has been outsourced to the Surrealists (yes, there are groups still active in London and around the world) who have de-camped to the Treasury and the DCMS. Because this is the kind of mind-bending lunacy that Andre Breton and his chums would have been proud of.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director
Chartered Institution of water and Environmental Management


Change the rules or bring back the ruck!

Despite England reaching the final of last year’s Rugby World Cup it was a disappointing tournament in that rule changes designed to make the sport more palatable to a wider TV audience, in particular the neutering of the ruck led to defence-dominated games in which sides were not effectively penalized for slowing down 2nd phase ball. While understanding the need to ‘sanitize’ the game, without corresponding measures to counterbalance the advantage given to the defending team, the more attractive facets of back play and ball handling will disappear. Our suggestions are:

A structured ‘team fouls’ process for offences such as slowing the ball down, handling or offside at the ruck (and related ‘professional fouls’). After the first transgression, yellow cards would be issued for each and every subsequent offence, even if it means the offending team being reduced to 12 or 11 players for a brief period of time.

A change in the offside line at the ruck from behind the rear feet to one metre behind the back foot – allowing slightly more space for the attacking team to develop greater forward momentum.

Drastic? Maybe but unless something is done soon, rugby union’s transition to rugby league with lineouts will be virtually complete!

Responses on a (email) postcard please…

John Eady
Chief Executive
Knight, Kavanagh & Page


30 November 2007

Is it just me...?

Having just returned from the Scottish Sports Development Conference, which saw two days of high-profile speakers, good-quality training sessions, innovative case studies, motivational speakers and all in all a very well-run event, as a normally optimistic person why is it that rather than feel the usual after-event elation, I am feeling a little down and despondent?

Here are three possible explanations. First, an ‘unwell’ minister for communities and sport left MSP Keith Brown to deliver the ministerial address. After six months in power, with the Commonwealth games in the bag and an unparalleled profile for sport and physical activity, would the new government announce a new vision accompanied by new commitments and new resources? Unfortunately not.

Rather depressingly, the ministerial address seemed to be an almost identikit/groundhog day speech from that delivered to the VOCAL conference three months earlier, leaving delegates to ponder whether this new administration has yet to grasp the magnitude of those things that are holding back participation in sport and physical activity in Scotland. Perhaps more pertinently, when it does figure these out, will it be prepared to do anything substantive about them? I’m thinking of the poor state of grass-roots facilities infrastructure, lack of specialist PE teachers, the loss of £12m in funding in the run up to the 2012 Olympics and the slow, ponderous decision-making process and snail-like implementation; it has taken almost five years (and still counting) of trying to implement two hours of high-quality PE in schools.

In what is becoming a traditional annual mantra, “we recognise the important role sport has to play in creating strong communities... etc”. The big ideas transpired to be more community clubs, opening up access to school sport facilities (nothing wrong with these but not necessarily new or big ideas) and, oh yes, scrapping SportScotland. Although there was little flesh on the bones of the last statement, the writing appears to be on the wall as the ‘bonfire of the quango’s’ gathers pace.

The second explanation? The potential abolition of SportScotland will mean the dismantling of strong partnership arrangements with local authorities built up over a number of years, a new funding distribution mechanism that may or may not work being introduced and the sweeping away of an agency that provides ‘open door’ guidance, advice, support and advocacy for the public sector and sports governing bodies. Whilst SportScotland may have some shortcomings, there does not appear to have been any assessment (robust or otherwise) as to whether or not this is a good idea, nor an alternative coherent strategy for how these functions will be picked up. Will this really benefit sport in Scotland going forward or is the Scottish government just taking a punt?

Finally, and I guess most worrying, is the apparent industry malaise and general indifference to all of the above. We need to be wary that we do not get drunk on the fantastic success of the 2014 Commonwealth Games bid and assume that all is well with the world. Unfortunately we don’t have a strong, active and respected professional institute or campaigning body to provide an alternative response to a shrug of the shoulders. And it shows.

This year’s conference was entitled ‘Challenging the Culture’. Perhaps ‘Revolutionising the Culture’ may be apposite for 2008? Let’s rediscover some of the passion and fire that have accompanied sports development conferences of yesteryear and encourage a new generation of outspoken voices who demand that politicians who bask in the glow of sporting achievement should grasp the moment and take bold and historic decisions to bring about the step change improvement that is still desperately needed.

Tim Dent
Director, The Sport and Leisure Consultancy


Parks and health: the killer fact

Reading Ken McAnespie’s letter [TLR 26 October], I was reminded (not that I’d really forgotten) that parks also have a special part to play in healthy living and that much more should be done to make the case. I read something recently which spoke robustly of the health benefits of parks (which are being ignored) and is worth noting. The killer fact is this: what the NHS spends on treating MRSA-type diseases, which they give us, is about the same per annum as the value of the output of the entire landscape sector. But, more to the point, the NHS gets a boost of around £45 billion per annum while parks continue to suffer budget cuts imposed by a government that fails to recognise the health benefits of good parks and green spaces. If the NHS could clean up its hospitals the savings could be used to promote their contribution to the healthy lifestyles that would prevent many serious illnesses and take the pressure off our hard-pressed health services.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management


26 October 2007

Positioning the role of parks

Those involved in one-off projects are regarded with respect. Those who are left behind to caretake are not. Historically, more enlightened societies respected the role of the caretaker or keeper. Nowadays we seem to assume that it is a demeaning sort of role and something that anyone can do. But worse than this, within the parks world even the designers and the managers are still seen as caretakers and maintainers.

An architect designs a building and the landscape, and moves on to another, leaving behind either a great asset or a monstrosity. The landscaper or parks manager rarely has a say in what it looked like in the fist place but is expected to manage and maintain it regardless. Who is the party that earns the more money and is generally the more respected by society at large? After all, how hard can it be to guard or maintain something that doesn’t change? But therein lies the rub. What we are ‘caretaking’ does change. It alters with the season, it alters with fashion, it alters through natural growth, it alters with legislation, and so on.

Sadly, what we have not been able to achieve in the past twenty years or so is to convince the purse string holders that the role is not just a maintenance role and that the management aspect of it is extremely diverse and complex. It is, and always has been, a role which includes the management of the land, but more than that it includes management of conflict (dog walkers v footballers, bowlers v young children) and the management of staff.  And the skills required to fulfil the role are just as extensive.

I have been involved with local government and the private sector for around thirty years and I cannot think of another area of work that has such a widespread portfolio. Nor do I know of many jobs that require such widespread knowledge. That is not to disparage other lines of work, they too are valuable, but it is vital that we manage to convince the right people (namely those who decide how much is going to be spent on any given service as opposed to another) that it is the respect and position within the ‘job hierarchy’ that is wrong. Correcting that is where I believe our efforts within the industry would be best placed.

Ken McAnespie
KMC Consultancy


5 October 2007

Museum access: a continuing debate

I write in response to Vanessa Bone’s letter in which she responds to mine on the vexed question of museums and galleries funding and free public access. Ms Bone kindly invites me to live in the real world and to accept (presumably) that it’s fine (and therefore dandy) for museum and gallery directors, backed by their self-important trustee boards, to charge – pretty much regardless of ability to pay – for access to one-off exhibitions in order to subsidise their permanent collections (much of which is rarely seen).

Well, actually, it is not okay by me and I for one urge that we aspire to a different sort of reality and one that the residents of the very worst of our sink estates might welcome. But, in any case, I can’t possibly allow Ms Bone to deprive me of my dream of (really) free public access to all publicly owned museums and galleries regardless of whether the exhibits on display are part of the permanent collection or temporary ‘block-busters’.

I note Ms Bone’s well-known and oft-rehearsed point that our public museums and galleries have been starved of cash by successive governments (aye, and by philistine governments at that) and that our curators must shrug their shoulders, accept meagre funds and become commercial. But I, in turn, suggest that the public should not continue to accept this mad, sad state of affairs. We (the cultural sector et al) should campaign more robustly (although any sort of campaign would be good enough for now) on the case for universally free access to all of the collections held in trust for the public and to all of the temporary exhibitions hosted and organised by publicly employed curators. It might require that some of us actually do something (but, never mind, it’ll be cathartic and we’ll feel all the better for it). Something very British like writing letters to the press and to our local MPs perhaps. Which is fair enough. But, I’ve got something else in mind involving direct action of the sort beloved of those two great radical journalists and politicians of yesteryear, John Wilkes and William Cobbett. Men who thumbed their noses at other people’s reality in the interests of a fairer and more inclusive world.

Nick Reeves
Executive Director
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

For Wilkes, Liberty, the 45 and Cobbett


21 September 2007

Free access no myth

I, too, would like to commend your brave new venture – makes a refreshing change from the tedious Leisure Opportunities with its exciting spa ‘n’ brewers agenda.

Really must take issue with the writer of the first letter to your publication, who needs to live in the real world, frankly.  Yes, our national museums and galleries are free and attracting more visitors than ever – but in exchange for this more open access policy, just how big was their increase in Government funding?  You guessed it – absolute zero!

Given the huge amount of both temporary and permanent collections which you can still see in the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and both Tate Galleries free, gratis and for nothing, I do not begrudge them charging as much as they can possibly grab for the odd show.  How else, Mr Reeves, do you think they can make some money to cross-subsidise the stuff they have to give for free?

And don’t get me started on the huge range of community activities they put on, for schools and groups from deprived neighbourhoods.  Damned good value at twice the price, I say!

On Saturday 9 September I did not go to the Dutch portraits but instead enjoyed the ‘Work, Rest and Play’ exhibition in the National Gallery and had my senses well and truly assaulted at the Beck’s Fusions pod in Trafalgar Square – both even more interesting than dead people in oils and FREE.

Vanessa Bone
Creative Cultures


7 September 2007

The myth of free access

Firstly, congratulations on The Leisure Review, a title worthy of camparison with John Wilkes's North Briton.

However, I write to debunk the myth that our nationally funded museums and galleries are charge-free zones. They are not. A visit to the National Gallery's new show of 16th and 17th century Dutch portraits costs an adult a tenner. Not a huge amount for me but I was saddened to see on my recent visit to the show a number of people turn away having convinced themselves that ten quid was better invested round the corner in one of Soho's many boozers. After all why pay to see one of Frans Hals's smirking buxom trollops when you can ogle scores of the real thing just a few yards away in Greek St for much less?

Apart from catering for a metropolitan cafe-culture elite (like yours truly) I was under the impression that the real point of such exhibitions was to 'get at the sinners' and to educate and illuminate an art-sceptical public. Fat chance of that while museum and gallery direrctors continue to discourage the proles with a charging policy that is more illuminating than the art on display.

Nick Reeves     
Executive Director
Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management





Letters in the Leisure Review

As befits the ethos of a traditional magazine in a modern publishing format, we bring you the Leisure Review letters page. This stands as the antithesis of 'below the line' discussion and what it lacks in interactivity we hope it claws back in interest, vigour and wit.

If you have views, questions or comments regarding the state of the leisure industry, its future or your role in it please e-mail the editor via the contacts page with 'for publication' in the title line..

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