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Community stalwart

Community sport hub in Perth & Kinross thrives thanks to community champion

Sport and physical activity in Auchterarder continues to thrive thanks to the dedication of local resident, Denise Jackson MBE.

Having dedicated over 30 years to community sport in Auchterarder, Denise knows what it takes to bring communities together and understand their needs.

Her love for sport began when growing up in Northern Ireland during the ‘troubles’ as she said: “Sport was one of the few activities that was able to continue within schools and the community providing a safe environment for all.

“Sport has been incredibly good to me, and I have seen first-hand how it can have an impact on someone’s life.

"Especially in rural communities, sport and physical activity are so important in bringing people together, and it has been incredibly pleasing to make this happen in Auchterarder.”

In 1987, a few years after moving to Auchterarder, Denise founded Auchterarder Gymnastics Club. Having taken on many roles within the club over the years, including Head Coach, she was instrumental in the club’s fundraising efforts to build a dedicated gymnastics facility adjoining the new sports facilities within the Community School of Auchterarder. The gymnastics club now welcomes over 400 gymnasts providing classes for all ages and abilities. Her tireless work resulted in an MBE for her services to gymnastics in Scotland.

Auchterarder Community Sports & Recreation

Now the chair of the local community sport hub, Auchterarder Community Sports and Recreation (ACSR), Denise is very much the driving force on the hub’s purpose of bringing sport clubs and community organisations together to expand, develop and enhance sport and physical activity across the community.

Community sport hubs are a National Lottery-funded programme and central to sportscotland’s commitment to ensuring everyone gets the best out of Scotland’s world-class sporting system.

ACSR operates with a board of trustees and has three working groups: – Parks and Community Greenspaces, Core Paths and Participation.

 

Denise heads up the Parks and Community Greenspaces with their current focus on re-developing the main park, with the aim of installing a mountain bike skills area and pump track with potential support from the sportscotland Cycling Facilities Fund and an upgrade to the children’s play park to make it bigger, better and disability friendly.

The Auchterarder core path network offers more than 50 miles of routes for walkers, cyclists, and horse riders to enjoy. The core paths working group run at least two monthly path tidies which include general maintenance to ensure the paths can be enjoyed by everyone, with up to 20 volunteers attending each tidy. With the COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns impacting on the hub’s many activities, the upgrade and redevelopment of the path network has played a huge role in encouraging the community to stay active during a difficult time. 

Participation is the third working group which continues to ensure a broad range of sport and physical activities are on offer for everyone in the community. Alongside activities run by the more established clubs within the hub, a free summer sessions programme was recently delivered for 6 to 13-year-olds over the summer school holidays, offering a variety of different sports. The successful #ThursdayThoughts sessions have restarted, encouraging people from within the community to come together every Thursday for a coffee and a chat. The community area within the refurbished Park Pavilion has been available for community groups who have been unable to access other local facilities during the pandemic.

In the pipeline over the next few months are boxing taster sessions, which will begin in January, and a new and a new Auchterarder sporting heritage project is in the planning for Springtime.

Gemma Simpson, community sport hub officer for Live Active Leisure said:

“It’s people like Denise, and the people she is able to encourage to work alongside her, that make Auchterarder Community Sports and Recreation a fantastic community sport hub to work with.

“When so many other sports clubs and organisations went into a forced hibernation during the pandemic, Denise ensured that ACSR was not going to miss out on any opportunities, helping people to restart activities by offering space within the local pavilion, when other local facilities remained shut.”

An extra pair of hands

Denise was instrumental in securing funding from the National Lottery Communities Fund to fund a development manager post for the hub.

Tim Hart was appointed in January 2021 and has worked closely with Denise in promoting the hub and increasing participation in sport and active recreation across all ages and abilities within Auchterarder.

Tim said:

“Coming into post, I was really inspired by both the volume and quality of the achievements of the hub – and Denise is very much the driving force behind so much of this.

"Starting a new role during the pandemic, in an area I did not know well, has been tough – but Denise has been fantastic in bringing me up to speed on everything going on, while helping me to learn about the local community and about the hub’s ambitions.”

“It has been amazing to discover how well-connected, and how highly respected, Denise is within in the community. Although we are only 10 months into my new role, hopefully my appointment is providing some additional support to Denise and the Trustees – and is helping ACSR to develop some more of their great ideas into a reality, which in turn is providing maximum benefit for the local community."

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