What is Meadowlands?
The ‘Meadowlands’ is a grassed space linking a densely developed inner city area of predominantly social housing with a formal Victorian park. The site was perceived as a focus for anti social behaviour and following intensive neighbourhood consultation and the development of a green space strategy, Meadowlands was identified as the only possible site for much wanted community sporting facilities.
The Active Meadowland project has seen the site redeveloped to provide two new MUGA’s, a grass amphitheatre, a trim trail, and various other areas to benefit the local community.
Active Meadowlands sits within the Radford Diamond neighbourhood, which is classified as a “High Priority Neighbourhood” by Coventry City Council. The wider Radford Ward falls just outside the 10% most deprived wards nationally.
There are significant and demonstrable levels of poverty locally:
In Radford Diamond 39.8% of households are in receipt of Council Tax benefit
Over 50% of the local population rent their accommodation compared to 33.8 % across the city
Low levels of car ownership - over 50% of the population in Radford Diamond do not own a car, compared to 33.1% city wide.
These indicators of poverty provide opportunities for Active Meadowlands to build on to promote the health benefits of physical activity integrated into everyday living. For example, the low levels of car ownership result in increased levels travelling to work on foot (18.7% compared to 10.7% citywide) or bike (3.84% compared to 2.84% citywide). A benefit of this is that many local residents are already, by default, taking the first steps towards a more physically active and healthy lifestyle. Active Meadowlands encourages and contextualises this for local residents.
Other barriers to sports participation in Radford:
Affordability - the provision of free sporting and physical opportunities locally without additional transport costs is one way to address this
Ethnicity - within the local secondary school 43% of pupils are of BME heritage, a group statistically likely to be under-represented in sports and physical activity
The location of Active Meadowlands allows the development of culturally sensitive sports and physical activity opportunities which can be targeted at discrete groups within the broader BME population to increase levels of physical activity and fitness.
Developing activity and skills
The programme offers a wide range of activities which include basketball, football, tennis, bowls, walking, tournaments, competitions and events. Holiday schemes attract numbers in excess of 50-60 young people, often travelling from all over the city and other neighbouring towns. The delivery programme lays on an average of four activity sessions per week which are free of charge and available for all to attend.
A dedicated Sports Development Officer was employed to build ongoing community involvement targeting groups with low participation levels in sport. In addition to sports sessions, community sports leadership courses are run to ensure the sustainability of the site. The idea of sustainability will see an increased involvement of community members, who willrun the projects themselves after three years.
In April 2008 a new programme was launched called ‘Sporting Chances’ which aimed to create a new generation of young community coaches. 22 volunteers have so far enrolled in the scheme which has 3 coordinators and a full time manager overseeing its progression.
Impact to date
Many of the regular participants have become much more proactive and now play a major role in facilitating their own activities with minimal input from the staff members.
So far the Meadowlands site has seen:
9 volunteers achieve the FA Level 1 Coaching Badges
2 volunteers achieve their Level 1 Basketball Coaching Badge
2 volunteers complete a Risk Assessment Course.
As well as achieving the goals through the sporting activity at the Barclay’s Spaces for Sports site, the Active Meadowlands project has been attended by a range of different community groups. These include:
the Caribbean men’s club use the site twice a week with regular attendance of around 20 people
‘Coventry mind’ disability group use the site once a week with a good attendance of 12-14 people
adults/young people who are currently unemployed or not in education (NEET Individuals)
The Active Meadowlands site won a regional BBC Power of Sport Award In December 2008, seeing off competition from eight other projects in the West Midlands final.
Building on the success of the Active Meadowlands project, Groundwork Coventry will be using the project as a role model and trying to implement the same objectives when work begins at new neighbourhoods across Coventry, thanks to funding from ‘V’, the youth volunteering charity. Training will be offered to young people aged 16-25 years old. The group will be taught first aid skills, attend child protection courses and learn the skills required to deliver sports coaching sessions.
User experiences - Ray’s story
Ray is a single parent in his late forties. He is a long term resident of Radford and lives opposite the Active Meadowlands site. Prior to its transformation, young people used to congregate outside Ray’s house and target him with abusive behaviour and carry out acts of vandalism to his home. Ray therefore had no confidence that the new proposals for regenerating the Meadowlands would bring any lasting change in the area. He thought that any new facilities would just get vandalised by local youth. Ray’s daughter began attending sports sessions at the site. Ray saw an advert for volunteers to help run these sessions and he began to volunteer on a regular basis. Through this he gained a number of National Governing Body qualifications in Basketball, Refereeing and Officiating, as well as undertaking courses on Child Protection and Aspects of Youth Work. Ray became a member of the projects’ Steering Group and continued to assist with running after school and holiday sports clubs, as well as organising publicity, events and tournaments.
Through the project, and in order to increase his experience, Ray began volunteering to teach sports to children at a number of primary schools across the city. Two years on, Ray gained employment as a full time basketball coach with a private sports company. He has recently given up this job to become a self employed community sports coach gaining paid work through local schools. Ray has been an inspiration to the young people using the site, who now see, through him, their participation in sport as a good route to achieving accredited qualifications and ultimately a job.
User experiences - local Coventry Street Gang
A Radford based street gang caused the majority of anti-social behaviour in the area. The gang was made up of mainly young men aged 17-21 years; its members were involved in serious crimes and disruptive activity throughout the Radford/Coundon neighbourhood. Many of the local youth intervention agencies had failed to engage or rehabilitate them after trying on a number of occasions. Then a few key members began frequenting the ‘Active Meadowlands’ sports project having been signposted to the area by their case workers and the Police.
At the gangs request, and through contact with the Meadowlands staff, a ‘borrowing’ programme was established that allowed the young men to borrow equipment so that they could undertake their own sporting activities on the site. This helped to instil a level of trust between the group and Meadowlands staff and highlighted their excellent leadership and footballing skills.
Some of the members then went on to become volunteer coaches. They ran regular sessions with three groups of young people at the site, to get them ready to play in a city-wide tournament called the ‘Unity Cup’. They helped the young people get to the various venues and organised the necessary equipment. All three teams got into the semi-finals of the tournament, with one of these entering the final played at Coventry City Football Club’s Ricoh Arena. The 11-13 year old team then went on to win the Unity Cup. The gang has now dispensed but some of the members are still volunteering at the Meadowlands site and are about to take their first National Governing Body qualifications.