The Birmingham Community Paddle Sport hubs are an innovation driven by Olympic canoeist Andy Train and supported by British Canoeing in partnership with the Canal & River Trust and StreetGames. The project attempts to reach into the most underserved communities, increase access and encourage participation in paddle sport across Birmingham’s canal network. June 2022 to July 2023 has been about capacity building. So, the opportunity to carry out research to assess reach and impact in the Summer of 2023 via the HAF programme is timely.
Amongst the 1.1 million population of Birmingham, a small proportion of residents have historically taken part in paddle sport activities based on the city’s extensive canal network. The reasons are complex but include concerns for personal safety and fear of criminal activity in the inner city in particular. But more significantly, a lack of role models, ownership and sense of belonging that local people are entitled to use those green and blue spaces has resulted in limited access and an underrepresentation in paddle sport on Birmingham’s canals.
Supported by British Canoeing, Canal and River Trust and StreetGames, the project has received £100k in funding during 2023. This collaboration, or system change approach, has enabled the rapid development of seven community organisations to build capacity and add paddle sport to their local youth, community and family offerings.