The national governing body for aquatics in England has launched a campaign appealing for those from ethnically diverse communities to give their views and experiences – with the aim of helping to make water-based activity more accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
Ethnically diverse communities are under-represented across aquatics, with only 3.4% of diverse communities swimming regularly compared to 5.5% of white communities.
The national campaign, named England Swims, is asking for everyone to respond – including those who can swim but may choose not to, those who cannot swim, those who have tried but have not had positive experiences and those that already enjoy the water.
The campaign will feature across a variety of print and digital channels, encouraging participation in the survey. Alongside this, there will be face-to-face contact in community and faith centres through partners such as Sporting Equals, to help reach those who may not have access or feel comfortable completing a survey online.
Working with leisure partners and councils across the country, the campaign will be localised to meet the needs of the area, such as Bradford Swims and Leicester Swims – as well as within London boroughs, for example, Hackney Swims.
Swim England is hoping to receive the largest response to a survey of its type in the sport and leisure sector to help understand the barriers to swimming for underrepresented groups and communities.
Responses can be submitted by an online survey at englandswims.swimming.org. The survey opened on Tuesday 24 May and closes on Tuesday 21 June.
The results will significantly shape the future of the sector and Swim England’s next 10-year strategy, which will be its most ambitious yet in terms increasing diversity in the water. The findings will also be shared with other sporting organisations.
Richard Hookway, chairperson of the Swim England board, explained the significance of the England Swims campaign and also the importance of the support needed from communities up and down the country.
He said: “This piece of work will go a long way in helping not only us, but the entire sector, to make aquatics more accessible and inclusive.
“We are excited to run this important campaign and we look forward to hearing how we can adapt and improve the experiences for those who do not, or choose not to, enter the water and also those who are involved in aquatics but still face barriers.
“However, we cannot do this without your input and support, so please take some time to complete the survey and share it with your friends and families.
“Everyone deserves to experience the benefits of being in the water – help make a difference to the future of aquatics.
“The water truly is for everyone.”
Swim England chief executive, Jane Nickerson, added: “We hope that the England Swims campaign will inspire everyone to come forward, enabling them to shape how we can make swimming more accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
“Together we can build a future where swimming is enjoyed by all, but we need your help.”
Sporting Equals and Leicester City Council are two organisations supporting the England Swims campaign.
Arun Kang OBE, Sporting Equals chief executive, said: “Sporting Equals is glad to support this campaign to make aquatics more accessible for all communities in England.
“Through our membership, activators and network of associate member organisations, we hope to generate survey responses in our key cities, making sure the survey gets to the right people in the right format to ensure maximum engagement.
“We feel that capturing, reflecting and implementing policies and practices based on lived experiences of the communities the sector seeks to engage, in this case ethnically diverse communities, is integral to delivering tangible change.
“We look forward to supporting this campaign to make aquatics more diverse.”
Jennifer Hudspith, Leicester City Council’s aquatics development manager, described it as an ‘innovative and insightful campaign’.
She said: “It is so important for people to learn how to swim, and to be able to exercise comfortably in water.
“We understand that people from ethnically diverse communities are more likely to be fearful or have concerns about coming to a swimming pool.
“To better understand what those concerns are will enable us to break down barriers, be better at the way we communicate with customers and run our sessions.
“We want everyone to swim, so now is the time to tell us what is needed to ensure all ethnically diverse groups feel comfortable coming to us to swim. Leicester City Council is proud to be a supporter of this innovative and insightful campaign.”