London Sport’s “Space for Girls” project aims to tackle inactivity levels through free dance and boxing sessions hosted at Decathlon’s Surrey Quays store.
LONDON, UK | London Sport has launched the second phase of its Space for Girls project in Southwark in partnership with Decathlon.
Located in the retailer’s flagship Surrey Quays store, the initiative offers a variety of sessions including dance and boxing. The activities are completely free for all participants, with the sessions funded by Sport England’s Together Fund, and the venue, equipment and other resources provided by Decathlon.
The sessions are being held to encourage more girls in Southwark to be physically active and to reduce the high levels of inactivity in the borough. According to Sport England’s Active Lives data, 4 in 10 adult women in Southwark are not achieving the recommended levels of activity for their health and wellbeing. This statistic is even worse for children, with less than half of girls doing enough exercise in the borough.
The sessions held in Decathlon are also being hosted for free in response to the cost-of-living crisis which has seen many Londoners cut down on their activity levels, posing serious risks to their long-term health. A recent report from London Sport has found that 1 in 5 Londoners have taken up free activities as many have been forced to give up gym and other sports memberships.
London Sport is working with activity providers (including Roosters Boxing Club and the PE & School Sports Network) and local community groups to offer a range of sports and other exercise sessions, following consultation to understand what activities local girls are most likely to engage with.
This initiative is part of London Sport’s larger Space for Girls project which looks to activate non-traditional spaces to help teenage girls and young women access physical activity in a safe and welcoming environment. The work happening in Surrey Quays follows London Sport’s recent work in Lewisham where a vacant shopping unit in the Lewisham Shopping Centre was recently transformed into the ‘CommUNITY Space’, a hub offering free physical activity sessions, food and other services to the local community.
The Space for Girls project also aims to build positive active experiences for women and girls, and to overcome the challenges they face when it comes to sport and physical activity.
Two of the biggest barriers to activity for women and girls is around safety and active design. A 2022 report from Women in Sport shows that an alarming 38% of teenage girls (11-16) do not feel safe exercising outside. According to charity Make Space for Girls, (separate to London Sport’s Space for Girls project), there are a limited number of spaces and facilities specifically designed for women and girls. Provision of public areas for activities is mostly made up of spaces like skate parks, BMX tracks, football pitches and multi-use games areas, which are used almost entirely by boys.
Janna Scott, Project Manager for the Space for Girls Project at London Sport, said: “The work happening in Southwark is a great demonstration of how creative and innovative solutions can help Londoners reap the rewards of an active life.
Thanks to our long-standing partnership with Decathlon, we are now able to help even more girls access sport and physical activity. Our hope is that this will help build a healthy active habit for life, and enable more communities to enjoy longer, healthier and happier lives.”
Delphine Mazillier, Head of Social Impact at Decathlon UK, said: “At Decathlon, our obsession is increasing accessibility in the world of sport. One of our social impact strategies is to try to find innovative solutions to break the barriers of sport for certain groups of society. We are very happy and proud to be able to support the Space For Girls’ project in our Headquarters in order to provide access to sport facilities in a safe environment to teenage girls from our local community, encouraging them to create new healthy and active habits in their lives.”
Joe Howard, one of the session organisers at the PE & School Sports Network, said: “Our community has plenty on offer for boys but for some reason the girls always seem to miss out. By providing these sessions we have so far managed to work with over 40 girls on a weekly basis.
These sessions have provided the girls with the opportunity to be active in a safe space with instructors that they are comfortable with. Numbers continue to grow week on week, and we would love to be able to offer them something for every day of the week.”
For more information about the Space for Girls project, or to find out how to better utilise non-traditional spaces for physical activity, please contact [email protected].
About London Sport
London Sport is a charity that exists to help all Londoners live longer, healthier and happier lives through being active.
Our focus is on children and adults in the most deprived communities who face the greatest challenges of inequality. With physical inactivity responsible for 1 in 6 premature deaths, we want to help every Londoner find their way to move more.
We are supported by Sport England and the Mayor of London, and collaborate with London’s local authorities and other organisations to provide better access to sport and physical activity across the capit