The Sports Trust – the future
The Sports Trust (formerly Shepway Sports Trust) has been an integral part of Folkestone’s regeneration. The charity was set up in 2013 with the aim of providing a wide variety of sport to many people in the town. Local schools have benefited from the use of coaches, training and facilities, not to mention inter-school competitions. The charity’s Active sessions: Active Pride, Active Self and Active 50s work with many different parts of our community in Folkestone. The main ethos is to provide the means for people to enjoy getting moving and keeping fit. Their 2024 Moving Forward Survey is out for people to give their thoughts and Dan Hulme, the Trust’s CEO, spoke to Folkelife about the charity’s focus for the next few years.
“If you look at what the Sports Trust has achieved since it was first set up in 2013, it’s done an amazing job. Our plan was to specialise in removing barriers to sport for school children, which we are pleased to have achieved. This year, as our school plan continues, we’ve had the biggest buy-in from local schools yet. That shows us that schools, post-Covid, are still wanting to invest in sport and understand what we’re trying to achieve. A big part of that has been our relationship with the local sports clubs as these have the coaches and the desire to see that improvement in their individual sports. The schools have the children and have benefited from school visits from many different disciplines.”
making sport accessible to all
“One of the drawbacks we’re currently seeing is the cost of transport to bring children into Folkestone. We also run hugely successful holiday clubs, which are free to those receiving free school meals. On the one hand we can show that these are really popular as they’re fully booked. But if you think about it, that means that more and more people are in need of these free facilities due to the cost of food and services rising beyond their means. We’re committed to serving the community, making sport accessible to all, especially those who might not be able to afford it on their own. So our mission continues, to reach as many people as possible. We just need to fundraise to make sure that those who can’t afford it can still have the same access as those who can.”
pillars of excellence
The Sports Trust focuses on five pillars that sit at the heart of their work. The schools and local club work has already been mentioned. The club sports extend to the wider community and links to the third pillar – Active Self, Active Pride and Active 50s. “I want to make sure we’re creating the same connections and opportunities from our Active sessions as we do with our school connections. We’re committed to supporting our communities to feel the benefits of living active lives and, by creating the same pathways to clubs and other groups, we have seen dramatic positive improvements locally. Building connections with clubs, groups and our Active members means we can help support those existing spaces to be more accessible to our wider community whilst tackling social inequalities.
“These three pillars have developed over the years, meaning we have recently introduced a fourth pillar focusing on the sports facilities which provide opportunities for the schools, clubs and local communities to access sport. We have the Three Hills Sports Park with the new athletics track which opened in the summer of 2023, and F51 providing world-class facilities for skateboarding, bmx, boxing and climbing. The profits from these facilities, and the Sea Sports Centre is our route to sustainability. That profit goes straight back into the charity to make sure we can deliver our mission. We’ve invested in this heavily and have developed our team so we have the in-house expertise to deliver a world-class facility across the board.”
the fifth pillar
“With the four pillars bringing together our community through sport, the fifth is about moving those forward. We are a ‘repository’, for want of a better word, of excellence and this needs to be in all aspects of our work. Our access to the coaches and the facilities is first class, and we are building on being sustainable in an environmental sense too, as well as financial. We have worked on, and continue to work on our diversity and inclusivity. In all these areas, we want to share our experience and excellence with the schools, clubs and community we work with. With our expertise we can help each of our partners thrive and flourish.”
hearing from the community
“We have these first-class facilities but it’s important to know that we’re still serving our community. Every 2 years we send out the Sports Survey which asks how people are being active and what other services they would like. It means that we can be reactive. We can hear what our community wants and respond to it. The 2024 Survey has been released and is open until the end of February. Once we have the responses we can then set out our next objectives.
“The world has changed a little due to Covid. People are being active, but in different ways than they were pre-pandemic. Also, with other events that have happened we are more aware of peoples needs. I’m thinking here of women running at night. Recently we put on a ‘Reclaim the Streets’ night which started from the Three Hills centre. We had a huge group of women who wanted to run, and could do so together. Also in attendance were the police and other community groups to understand the needs of our runners and how they could support them.”
open to ideas
“What I think is most important is these conversations continue throughout the year. If you miss the survey, come into one of our settings and talk to us, or contact us via social media. If there is a community need for helping people get active and stay active, and if we can help, we will.
“Pre-pandemic we also used to celebrate our community’s sporting achievements. It was great to see everyone together, celebrating the wealth of talent we have here in Folkestone and across the Marsh. I’d like to see that happen again. People will have grown up, but we’ll see new faces in the next generations coming forward as elites in their field. This has always been one of those moments to celebrate and thank all the volunteers, coaches and professionals who have invested so much in working in sport across Folkestone. I’m looking forward to it already.”