Utopia is right here in Wakefield thanks to British Gymnastics' funding programme

A gymnastics club in Wakefield is thriving amid the complications of the pandemic, thanks to an innovative funding programme introduced by the sport’s governing body, British Gymnastics.

Saturday, 8th January 2022, 9:00 am
Wakefield’s Utopia Gymnastics Club members at the £320,000 development project made possible by help from British Gymnastics Club Capital.

Utopia Gymnastics Club was originally formed in 2017 in Brighouse and proved a success with 500 members participating each week.

Through the Club Capital project, they were given the opportunity to expand and provide a second dedicated facility for local residents to be able to experience gymnastics and dance, promoting a healthy and active lifestyle particularly for young people – and a new site in Wakefield was chosen.

The site can be found on Caldervale Road and it is Wakefield’s only dedicated gymnastics facility and the first offering artistic gymnastics programmes. It is already a success with almost 500 members joining since it was opened in 2021.

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Utopia Gymnastics was created by ex-Yorkshire gymnast Kirstie Limbert and husband Luke, with the goal of introducing the sport – and more importantly, the opportunity for anyone to participate in physical activity – to the local community.

Going beyond simply providing the sessions, Utopia have focused on an inclusive practice to ensure that gymnastics remains accessible and enjoyable to play a key role in aiding the development of young people.

Kirstie reflected on the club’s approach:

“We are very much a grassroots club, but it’s fantastic to have a new and dedicated facility where you can best deliver community outreach and give every young person the best experience in gymnastics possible.

“We have already seen a really positive impact on the children and young people, particularly with the social and mental health benefit. This site has helped us to serve the community and provide for more young people than ever before – the growth has been about double what we expected initially but it’s fantastic to see the enthusiasm that the local area has for gymnastics.

“We are also working hard to continue developing our relationship with local schools where we are able to go in and deliver sessions to those who may never have had the chance to experience the sport at all.

“We wouldn’t have been able to open without Club Capital. After being turned down by quite a few different lenders, we spoke to our facilities support officer at British Gymnastics who helped us get it off the ground.

“As soon as we heard about the opportunity, we were interested immediately and were just desperate to realise our vision, and I’m so glad we have got there.”

Without the necessary affordable loan, it would not have been possible for Wakefield to have this new facility.

Remarkably converted from an aging industrial unit, the project needed £320,000 to transform dead space into an outstanding leisure space, including an all-new reception, communal area, gymnastics floor, podium pit, as well as an additional dance studio which includes further gymnastics space.

British Gymnastics’ Club Capital gave Utopia the opportunity to develop this dedicated facility in Wakefield, also handing an opportunity to hundreds of young people who before did not have the same access to sport and wellbeing activities.

Dave Marshall, participation director at British Gymnastics and at the forefront of the Club Capital initiative, visited the club recently and was delighted to see the remarkable community outreach since the new facility dream became reality.

He said: “It is absolutely wonderful to see Utopia Gymnastics making the most of their new facilities, and continuing their brilliant work in ensuring everyone has the opportunity to get involved in gymnastics and experience the joys of the sport.

“Gymnastics is considered a ‘foundation sport’ because it has so many benefits that are integral to wider development, whether that’s supporting cognitive development, co-ordination and flexibility, or skills like teamwork.

“We are passionate about supporting clubs and it is extremely important that funding does not stand in the way of clubs who want to develop or move into their own facilities.

“We have been working hard to create as many opportunities in gymnastics through our Club Capital project, as well as providing stability to clubs whilst they rebuild through our Covid Recovery fund, which includes a £1.5 million recovery loan to help clubs who have been impacted by the pandemic.”

Utopia Gymnastics is open to anyone who wants to give gymnastics a try for the first time, to find out more you can visit www.utopiagymnastics.co.uk