Ignite Bristol, a network of Bristol-based inclusive organisations spearheaded by Access Sport, hosted an inspiring multi-sport activity afternoon last month to engage local disabled girls and non-binary young people.

Held at Brunel Fitness Centre in Bristol, the festival was organised in partnership with community sports clubs and organisations from around the city.

Around 20 girls and non-binary young people attended the Activity Afternoon, some with the support of family and others attending independently. The afternoon involved a selection of inclusive activities to participate in, including basketball, kinball and yoga.

The event was free for all participants; activities were carried out by qualified and experienced coaches, with further support from volunteers acquired by partner organisations.

All the activities were pan-disability and were adapted to ensure that everyone could enjoy taking part in activities. The groups were kept small, establishing a calm and non-overwhelming environment. These small details created a space where the young people could feel comfortable and push themselves to move outside their comfort zones.

With 37% of participants doing an hour or less of exercise a week, and none of the participants reaching the CMO guidelines of 30-60 minutes of exercise a day, the importance of providing more inclusive opportunities for this demographic was apparent throughout the day.

All clubs involved are part of the Ignite Bristol Network and therefore committed to getting more disabled people active in Bristol.

This was the first spin-off event from the Ignite Bristol Multi-Sport Festivals. It provides a new opportunity to encourage specific demographics to participate in sport and hopefully inspire ongoing participation.

One parent said:

"My daughter would never have tried wheelchair basketball had Access Sport not offered this inclusive and welcoming opportunity. As an autistic girl with a physical disability, she struggles constantly with the fear of not being good enough to try sports. Through disability inclusive sessions she has found a lifelong love of climbing, and now from this event, a new desire to play wheelchair basketball, as well as a more positive attitude to physical exercise in general”

As a charity, we are ambitious to reach 50% female participation across our work. Alongside Sweaty Betty, Women in Sport and Nuffield Health, we recently launched a research project looking into the barriers that preclude disabled teenage girls from accessing sport and physical activity. The full research report will be launched on 15 May 2024, but initial findings highlight that there is still a lot of work to be done in this space.

Fran Burns, Community Development Officer and University Placement Student, said:

“I am so grateful that during my 6 months at Access Sport, that this is my second Ignite Bristol event. It is so fun to be involved in the organising and delivery process of what was expected to be an amazing afternoon. Seeing disabled young people experience joy through learning new skills and engaging in sport is something I really appreciate and relate to. I am so happy that the young people had such a positive day and could introduce themselves to exciting and inclusive sporting activities.”

We are grateful to everyone who attended the event, especially the staff and volunteers from WECIL, Bristol Autism Project, Auti-MS and Cerebral Palsy Plus, who supported us throughout the day.

And a big thank you to the incredible coaches who came down and led such exciting and engaging activities. Lastly, a mention of appreciation of the support from Sweaty Betty Foundation, who provided lovely incentives for the participants after the event.

For more information on Ignite Bristol and future events, please click on the below link.

Ignite Bristol>