Olympic swimming star Rebecca Adlington has opened a new re-locatable pool in Bury — which is hoping to see 1,000 women take the plunge into a more active and healthy lifestyle.
The new “pop-up” pool, which is currently located at Broad Oak Sports College, is designed to change the sporting habits of women and girls.
The campaign is also targeting members of ethnic communities who may have previously been discouraged from taking up swimming because of religious and cultural sensitivities, such as the clothing that needs to be worn and the lack of female instructors and lifeguards.
Rebecca was joined by fellow former Olympic swimmer Steve Parry and Minister for Sport Helen Grant at the opening.
The double Olympic gold medallist also took a dip in the pool, participating in a session with pupils at the school last Wednesday.
The 12x6-metre heated pool will be located at the school until June 13, before moving to another location in Bury as part of the “I Will If You Will” campaign, which has received £2.3 million in funding from Sport England and is aimed at increasing women’s participation in sport.
A range of women-only sessions will be held at the pool during this period, such as swimming lessons, aqua fitness and mother and baby sessions.
The Bury East ward has a particularly high black and minority ethnic population and it is hoped that the female-only sessions will encourage women from the community to take part.
Rebecca said: “This whole campaign is about trying to get women into sport and to make sure they are comfortable and confident.
“Girls face a lot of different issues, but it is all about getting involved, especially as some girls don’t like to be competitive. I am not one of those, I am very competitive! A lot of girls just want to enjoy it and socialise, which they can here with other girls.
“My school wasn’t really heavy on swimming, so this gives them the chance to learn a skill and then, if they want to do more, they can. I would have loved my school to have had this pool.”
The Sports Minister said the campaign, launched last May, had been “very encouraging” and the new pool would help to break down barriers.
Mrs Grant added: “We want to deal with some of the barriers that keep women away from sport and this campaign is very important.
“It asks women what they want, whether it is a zumba session, rounders or a swim, in an environment that allows enjoyment and participation.”
Nabila Hassan, who lives in Bury East and is a regular swimmer, said the pool will encourage women from ethnic communities to swim because it is in an enclosed environment.
She added: “If you cover up, you are not supposed to show your body in front of males. We obviously feel more comfortable here.
“The fact that it is women only and there is going to be no one looking over is helpful. Having female instructors is important as well.
“At Castle Leisure Centre they do women’s only classes on Thursday evenings, but for some people that time isn’t convenient. If it is available throughout the day that will be helpful.”
Mafooz Bibi, development director of Bury Asian Women’s Centre, said: “It is about behavioural change within the older ladies.
“It might not be something they want to do but at least they can give it a go. For others it might be something they continue to work with at Castle Leisure Centre.
“This pool is only here for six months and we want to ensure the local community make full use of it while it is in Bury East.”
Council leader Cllr Mike Connolly said: “This is a fantastic facility that is going to make a real difference. It’s going to help our local women and girls take that first step in trying something new and enjoying being a bit more active.”
- For details of the sessions go here or call 0161 764 2224.