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Annual Repor t

Promoting and improving the health and wellbeing of communities in Northumberland through the provision of sport, leisure, physical activity and arts

2012 2013


Chair’s Report.........................................................................

Page 1

Chief Executives Report..........................................................

Page 3

Business Development............................................................

Page 5

Blyth Sports Centre.................................................................

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Sporting Club Blyth..................................................................

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Concordia Leisure Centre........................................................

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Sporting Club Cramlington......................................................

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Health and Fitness....................................................................

Page 18

Leisure Development and Inclusion Service...........................

Page 21

Arts Development....................................................................

Page 26

Blyth Valley Leisure Catering...................................................

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Auditor’s Report......................................................................

Page 32


Chair’s Report

It would seem that most of my recent reports comment upon dealing with uncertainty and working in difficult times. This year is no exception with BVAL still facing significant challenges. The economic outlook has still not improved with the North East and in particular the public sector being hit particularly hard. What is pleasing to see however is that the staff and Board have responded to the challenges this year with the service continuing to improve and performance levels improving. The Council continues to face year on year budget cuts and through the leisure review is seeking to reduce costs, improve the service and consolidate the management arrangements. As a response to the review BVAL have opened up discussions with NCL to provide services jointly under a new company called “Active Northumberland”. From April 2013 Active Northumberland will be the brand under which BVAL and NCL leisure services in Northumberland will be delivered. The new organisation is jointly owned by BVAL and NCL and has representatives from each of the respective boards as directors. Hopefully these new arrangements will give some certainty to the staff and customers for the next few years. BVAL has continued to support investment in new and established facilities as in previous years. A new 3G astro turf pitch at Cramlington High School funded from a joint school and BVAL replacement fund, with additional funding from the Football Foundation. This £300,000 investment replaced the existing pitch and has measurably improved the facilities both for school and community use. We have also invested through the SALIX energy efficiency fund in new indoor energy efficient lighting at both Blyth SC and Concordia. This, along with working with the Council to install roof mounted solar panels, has helped reduce our carbon footprint. This year BVAL sponsored the pride of Northumberland Awards and at a well-attended prestigious presentation at Alnwick Gardens a number of individuals and groups with links to BVAL were winners or gained special mention. In this Olympic year it was pleasing to see that BVAL were involved with the torch relay providing one of the daytime stop overs at Blyth Sports Centre. Despite the weather the day was a 2

Chair’s Report

resounding success with good organisation, a schools sports event that the participants will not forget and a great chance for the community to see the torch. As part of this event our Arts Development team captured the day with a series of photographs which now form part of an installation in Blyth Sports Centre. BVAL has continued working towards the transfer of Ashington and Newbiggin Sports Centre staff. This will take place in April 2013 and is really a case of confirming the arrangements that have been in place for the last 3 years where BVAL managed the facilities on behalf of the Council. Alongside this process BVAL have now been invited to be part of the discussions on the design and operation of the new Ashington Leisure Centre expected to open in 2015. As part of BVAL’s integrated approach the support to communities by the Sports and Health development services continues to grow and make an impact. This year was the first full year of operation for the Big Lottery funded “Move On Up” project. With all targets and outcomes being exceeded providing activities around self-esteem, health and wellbeing and employability in some of the most deprived areas of our community. The county wide health referral and community cardiac rehabilitation continues to be managed by BVAL and continues to be well regarded and attended. Although the Arts Development service continues to deliver in the South East of the county there is still some uncertainty around the management of this service. Hopefully this can be resolved in 2013/14. I have picked out a number of significant areas of work that BVAL can be proud of this year but it is important to remember that the day to day operation of the service still goes on with strong use of all the facilities continuing. I would like to thank the staff and board for their continued support and look forward to working with all colleagues next year.


Chief Executive’s Report

This year has seen another pleasing performance in difficult economic conditions. Our memberships and fitness use remain strong whilst public swimming is improving. Our community facing services continue to add value in the health improvement and inclusion sectors. We still face challenges around reductions in Council funding with the consequent pressure on our services. The squeeze on Council spending has been one of the main drivers for the Council to review the management of Leisure Services which has caused a great deal of uncertainty for BVAL. This year however has seen if not the conclusion of the review then certainly a period of reflection where we can expect some stability to focus on the service. This situation has been achieved through the work of BVAL and NCL in offering the Council a number of options for savings and a unified service across the areas we manage. To deliver this we have entered into a joint venture company with NCL called “Active Northumberland”. This is a jointly owned company and will be the vehicle through which all of our services will be managed from April 2013. There has been a huge amount of work put in to create the company and to create the branding and image ready for the launch. This is just the start and next year will see work in pricing, memberships and organisational structures start. The work with Active Northumberland will pave the way for closer working with NCL and ultimately should lead to a merger The value of continued investment can be clearly seen in improvements to facilities that have been achieved over the years but also particularly in these difficult times investment drives increases in use. This is demonstrated by the continued strong performance of fitness and particularly the swimming at Concordia, areas that have received significant investment over recent years. We have also continues to work with partners to improve facilities with the new 3G synthetic pitch at the Sporting Club of Cramlington opening. This £300,000 development has been jointly funded by BVAL, the School and the Football Foundation. The added value of providing an integrated Leisure Service has been demonstrated again by the strong performance of our sports and health development services with a high number of 4

Chief Executive’s Report

community outcomes achieved. With Sports Development building on the interest generated by the Olympics to inspire young people and delivering on the first year of the Big Lottery funded “Move On Up” programme. We saw an increase in the number of GP referrals up to 1,136 individuals attending more than 37,000 sessions. Lifestyle memberships are up to 3,500 generating 300,000 visits. We are organising to take on the workforce from the former Wansbeck District sites of Ashington and Newbiggin this will be a TUPE transfer and will take place in early April 2013. Once this is completed then we will have more involvement in the discussions on the design and development of the new Ashington site. This is a very exciting project which will produce a new £20m centre in Ashington. In the meantime the staff are doing a great job in keeping the old site going. BVAL is making greater use of IT and social networking to market and promote activities. Facebook is now a major communication tool and 2 free apps have been used to help access swimming and fitness information. The use of IT and “smart applications” will increase into next year with some exciting developments within our Gladstone member management and booking system. As usual the efforts and commitment of our staff and Board need to be mentioned. As an organisation BVAL could not deliver what it does without the hard work and effort of our staff and without the continued confidence and support of the Board. Therefore I would like to thank the staff and Board for their continuing hard work and support.



Business Development

Business Development 2012-2013 has yet again been a challenging year for the Business Development team with further changes in personnel in the finance department. As such it has been a year of consolidation and review to ensure all systems and procedures are running smoothly. The unit has continued to play a supportive role in providing administrative and financial support to a variety of projects and developments including: Concordia Leisure Centre Blyth Sports Centre Arts Development Northburn Sports and Community Centre Pegasus Sporting Club Blyth Sporting Club Cramlington Catering Ashington Leisure Centre Newbiggin Sports and Community Centre Dave Stephens Centre / Beach huts Sports Development Creation of ‘Active Northumberland’ With the launch of Active Northumberland in April 2013 the marketing teams focus has been in developing marketing materials to launch the new company and develop partnership workings with North Country Leisure. Alongside maintaining the high standards of communication and marketing information for all current and new programmes, activities and promotions within South East Northumberland. Some areas of note include:

Facebook The number of ‘likes’ have increased steadily, and facebook is now an effective and established tool for communicating and engaging with our customers. Each of the centres now has their own facebook page allowing customers to interact with their local centre at a very personal level.


Business Development

Active in Time timetable management This new software has significantly improved the way we promote and display our timetables for swimming and fitness. Timetables are managed and edited from one source, and any changes to the timetables are automatically updated at the touch of a button wherever the timetable is embedded.

Splashpath and GymJam apps. All of our timetables are now available on 2 very popular, free apps. Customers that download the Splashpath app can get access to timetables and contact details of all swimming pools in the country as well as setting themselves swimming challenges, recording swims and interacting with other users. The GymJam app also displays the swimming timetables, but mainly focus’s on fitness class timetables/descriptions of classes and user interaction.

Sponsorship of the Pride of Northumberland awards BVAL sponsored the Sporting Achievement award at this year’s prestigious Pride of Northumberland awards. Gayle Bloomfield, who rides at the Pegasus Centre won the award, and we were also delighted to see Blyth Lifeguard and Swimming Club picking up the Community Safety Award, as well as Chris Maddox (who works with BVAL’s Ability 2 Play team) winning Student of the Year. Meanwhile Laura Baker, a BVAL employee was nominated for fundraiser of the year. The evening was an enormous success – and BVAL were proud to help celebrate the achievements of local Northumbrians. It is hoped that we may sponsor the award next year.

The year ahead The year ahead looks like it will be another challenge as the organisation comes under increasing financial pressure to work towards a zero subsidy. Marketing looks forward to exciting developments as partnership working with the marketing team from North Country Leisure will continue, particularly in the development of the ‘Active Northumberland’ brand – notably establishing the following –

• • •

Active Northumberland brand guidelines A joint website Regular joint promotions 8

Blyth Sports Centre

Blyth Sports Centre Continued economic pressures both nationally and locally have once again formed the backdrop to the business. In addition to this, there have been added pressures from Northumberland County Council’s leisure review - set up to examine the management of leisure centres and services in Northumberland. Despite this background of uncertainty, Blyth Sports Centre has once again continued to maintain high income and levels of usage. The refurbished Lifestyle Gym has now been open for nearly six years and the membership remains consistently high and even peaking at its highest ever level. It is hoped that the partnership with Alliance Leisure to deliver sales training to all staff will assist in maintaining and even increasing the membership level. Direct debit payments are now the key to sustainable income and the gym and fitness class usage reflects the ever increasing move away from traditional sports towards specific exercise based activities. Usage in the traditional sports continues, on the whole, to show a slight decline, although swimming has been able to once again maintain equivalent numbers to previous years. Staff have once again shown that they are the biggest asset within the Centre and have continued to work hard to provide a very successful service to customers at all times, ensuring that customers receive a quality experience during their visit.

Swimming Encouragingly, this year’s usage figures are comparable with last year, with a slight increase in public swimming. Usage in the pool spa also showed a slight increase from the previous year. Private swimming lessons remained steady, although school usage once again showed a decline.

Staff The previous year saw the restructure of the supervisory group to create new posts for three senior leisure attendants, which were filled internally. This year saw all three senior leisure attendants leave for new pastures, to be replaced with more internal appointments. The centre also appointed, for the first time, an administrative apprentice, who provided appropriate support to the management team of the centre and was successful in completing her level 3 NVQ within 6 months. Again, this was an internal appointment, which led to the Centre partnering with Newcastle College to offer NVQ courses for a further four members of staff in customer service and leisure operations. 9


Blyth Sports Centre

Building Development After quite a lot of smaller internal developments over previous years, this year was relatively quiet in terms of building development. Although the passenger lift had been identified as a priority for renewal as part of the capital expenditure by NCC, work did not commence within the time period identified. The capital money, however, has been rolled over and Otis have been appointed as the contractor to undertake the replacement work, now due to commence at the end of May 2013. Energy and Plant The CHP continues to make savings on our energy costs as well as the environment, although increased energy costs remains a challenge on expenditure. As a part of energy saving measures, NCC installed Solar PV panels on the roof of the main hall and tenders received and the contract awarded for the replacement lighting scheme. This scheme should see significant savings in electricity costs over a five year period, with the scheme being designed with an array of motion sensors and lamps that can be programmed to operate at different lighting levels. Olympic Torch A wet and windy day on 15th June didn’t stop the people of Blyth turning out in force at the centre as the Olympic torch convoy stopped at the Centre for a break for the crew. Advertised as one of the few sites in Northumberland where public could actually get to see the torch twice (upon arrival and leaving), the crowds were entertained with street theatre, entertainment and a basketball master class, whilst inside local schools competed in their own mini Olympics before forming a guard of honour for the departure of the torch bearer. A logistical challenge for the centre to accommodate 40 convoy vehicles, whilst keeping the centre open for customers, proved to be a resounding success with BBC reporting live from the centre, the Facilities Manager interviewed live on Radio Newcastle and LOCOG very complimentary of the service they received on the day. An excellent team effort from planning to conception. Challenges There is no doubt that the forthcoming year will once again be a year of challenge as the economic climate shows little sign of improving. The centre is braced to make significant savings as a result of the Leisure Review by Northumberland County Council. As an integral part of the community, however, the centre will continue along the path of continual improvement and be a major facility within the new Company. 11

Sporting Club Blyth

Sporting Club Blyth The new 3G pitch has proved very popular with local junior football clubs. In its first full year of operation, three partner clubs have fully benefitted from this superb facility and at peak times the car park has been full. However, despite some club usage on a Saturday morning, weekend usage remains quiet. It was anticipated that with the full opening of the 3G pitch, some usage would be lost in the main hall, but overall the usage remains equivalent to that of the previous year. In relation to the gym, the Sporting Club remained steady in terms of gym membership, with usage showing a slight increase on the previous year, although fitness class attendance was slightly down. The staff continue to work hard to increase membership and usage in an area that suffers from the continued problems with the economy. It is hoped that the sales training from Alliance Leisure and a concerted effort from staff can push the membership levels over the next year to an all-time high. Following an Ofsted inspection, the school was put into special measures after ruling the school was failing to give its students the required standard of education. Subsequently, the interim executive board (IEB) has invited Northern Education Trust to be the sponsor of Blyth School Community College with the school assuming academy status. It is unknown at this stage how the Northern Education Trust will view the partnership arrangement that has been established between the school and BVAL, but it is hoped that the new Trust will continue to fully support the benefits that the Sporting Club provides for the community.


Concordia Leisure Centre

Concordia Leisure Centre It has been a tough and uncertain year due to the possible full re-tendering process proposed by NCC that has threatened our company and in turn our centre. Economic pressures have not improved over the last year but we have managed to maintain usage and income in most areas and increase it in others alongside making savings in expenditure where possible in order to make the centre as efficient as possible. In reference to usage five a side has taken the biggest hit on numbers followed by softplay. Swimming has managed to maintain the high levels of usage it saw the previous year and there has been increases in Direct Debit members and gym and fitness class usage. It has been a challenging year and everyone has worked hard to maintain a level of service that exceeds our customers’ expectations, even in the light of limited expenditure, income has increased at the centre. Social Media Our Facebook page has now exceeded 700 ‘likes’ and is now one of our priority methods of communication and promotion to our customers. The installation of self-service kiosks has proven popular with gym users as they can now easily fast track in to the gym, followed by class users then swimmers to name the top three. In total there were 16,617 transactions through the kiosks last year. Swimming Following the refurbishment of the pool area in 2011 it is encouraging to see that in 2012/13 the levels of usage have been maintained proving that the works that were carried out are still popular and fresh. Quest In November we experienced our first Quest Directional Review day under the new and revised scheme. The day and the report that followed were positive and reassured us that we are moving in the right direction to improve on our next full assessment. It is thanks to all the staff’s efforts that we continue to move forward and develop as a centre. Their hard work and support has definitely helped during a time of uncertainty with the NCC Leisure Review.



Concordia Leisure Centre

Town Council Collaborations The hosting of Cramlington Town Council (CTC) is still beneficial to BVAL and allowed us to be there first port of call should they require any assistance, for example deciding on taking on playing fields or not and town square developments. We have now completed two full years of playground inspections, but as of April 2013 they will take this back in house due to the appointment of their own warden. We also worked in partnership with CTC in regard to the Jubilee celebrations which saw the beacon for Cramlington sited on Concordia’s roof. The SLA with Seaton Valley Council for playground inspections will continue next year and there maybe another site to come on line. Staffing There were no major staffing changes this year but tweaks have been made to help consolidate and bed in last year’s restructure. Two members of Concordia’s team were fortunate to be selected as Olympic Games Makers, Steph Browne and Chris Scurfield, at the aquatic centre and Lords (archery) respectively. There was limited support for these posts from London 2012 so Concordia supported their once in a lifetime opportunity by allowing the time off and a small financial contribution towards travel and accommodation. Energy Savings The CHP continues to make savings on our energy costs as well as being friendlier to the environment. The building energy rating also improved again this year and although still in category D, it is only two points away from C. Solar PV panels were finally fitted on Concordia’s roof and time will tell if Concordia sees any benefit from this. A lighting scheme, funded via the SALIX scheme, was designed and implemented which should improve lighting and energy costs across the centre. The lights are designed to be programmable to different levels as required and majority have passive sensors on so that when they are not needed they turn off.


Concordia Leisure Centre

NCC Capital Developments This year saw NCC put a pot of money aside for capital leisure expenditure. Concordia had the replacement of Studio ones floor, remedial work to the leaking roof over the climbing wall and the replacement of two electrical panels that serve the heating and ventilation for the building agreed. The electrical panel work is still outstanding due to the nature of work needing to be carried out when there is no threat of frost, this work has been scheduled for May/June 2013. A wish list for the 2013/14 capital monies has been forwarded to NCC. Next Year Concordia Leisure Centre looks forward to further challenges including the consolidation of roles and structures, the development of the new company and the on-going challenge of continuous improvement. We will strive to embrace the forthcoming changes and carry on providing flawless service to keep the centre integral to the developing town centre and continue to invest wisely.



Sporting Club Cramlington

Sporting Club Cramlington The Sporting Club has continued the success of the previous year and improved its membership numbers and its Direct Debit income month on month compared to the previous year. Gym and fitness class attendance has again performed strongly but other areas of usage have struggled. The Sporting Club underwent its first Quest Directional Review day under the new and revised scheme. The day and the report that followed were positive and reassured us that we are moving in the right direction to improve on our next full assessment. The progress and improvements at the SCC are thanks to the staff’s hard work and commitment. This year, earlier than planned, saw the removal of the artificial astro pitch and the building of a new 3G synthetic pitch, complete with new floodlights. This was made possible due to the renewals fund that SCC and Cramlington Learning Village set up and a Football Foundation grant. The facility will be officially opened during Easter 2013 half term and it is hoped this will be by a Newcastle United footballer, and will provide excellent press coverage. The up to date 3G area should allow more use and less downtime compared to the out of date astro surface that was often closed due to poor weather. BVAL/SCC entered into a partnership agreement with two local junior football clubs: Cramlington Town and Cramlington Juniors, both of these clubs made a small capital investment towards the pitch and will benefit greatly from the development of young footballers by the state of the art training facilities that have been made available in the area. A successful 3 day football tournament was hosted at the Sporting Club over the August Bank Holiday weekend. This brought 60 teams and thousands of people over the weekend to the Sporting Club to play and spectate. There is a hope this can be repeated next year. A new and exciting sport has based itself at the Sporting Club this year, Cycle Speedway, utilising the unused area that was designed for athletics. Although in its infancy the club has a lot of enthusiasm and commitment to find the funding to site a permanent Sport England specification track at the Sporting Club. In March they laid a temporary track which allows them to race in the respective cycle speedway league. The Sporting Club will continue in its success of improving usage and members over the next twelve months, despite the current economic climate. We will embrace the challenges and changes that next year and the new company will bring to make sure the Sporting Club remains an important fixture of Cramlington sport and leisure activity. 18



Wansbeck “Wansbeck” 2012-13saw the ‘interim’partnership between Northumberland County Council and BVAL cemented in a more permanent arrangement, with the effective postponement of the Leisure Review.In addition to facilitating the continued managerial support to the existing facilities, this also confirmed ourinvitation to join the working group of the new Ashington Community &Leisure Facility, now planned for the old ASDA site in the town centre. In bringing BVAL to the table as the facility operator, it has presented the opportunity to contribute to the discussions and assist in shaping the development of the concept. This is an exciting time for Ashington and it is pleasing to report that BVAL will play a significant role in this project. Whilst our‘Wansbeck’ colleagues remain in the employment of Northumberland County Council, the plan is to conclude a TUPE transfer earlyin April 2013. Although the team remains positive aboutworking for BVAL and the anticipated move to a new building, they also recognise the need to achieve significant savings in the coming years. A staffing re-structure at Ashington, similar to Concordia and Blyth Sports Centre, hasalready made a contribution to that aim, but the key appointments of both Charlotte Dodson and Andrew Laidler (as Assistant Managers) have also built the foundations of a new management platform, upon which to build the success of the new facility. Charlotte brings a wealth of experience from the private sector and Andy was an integral member of the Gateshead team, who steered the recent development of several of their new facilities. Ashington Leisure Centre With the new Ashington Community & Leisure Facility project moving forward, the challenges in Ashington have become two-fold. On the one hand, contributing to an exciting new leisure opportunity, and on the other, maximising the capability of an aging facility in guiding it towards what will hopefully be a seamless transition from one centre to the other. We anticipate another 2 years before the opening of the new facility, sometime in 2015. Our investment in the health and fitness programme paiddividends, with ‘Lifestyle’ numbers more than doubling since BVAL’s involvement. There are now nearly 600 customers happy to pay a regular monthly direct debit, which shows a significant increase from the 250 we started with. Attendance at fitness classes also climbed, with average weekly attendance figures now at over 400 (from 150). The introduction of new Les Mills programmes and further investment in Keiser bikes, demonstrated a commitment to our health& fitness programme.



Ashington Leisure Centre cont. General usage in other sports held steady with small increases in swimming, 5-a-side and badminton. However, indoor bowling, squash and snooker numbers fell slightly. Concerns have been expressed by customers that these activities will not be accommodated in the new facility and this appears to be reflected in the declining use of the existing site. Ashington Leisure Centre also attracted a significant number of events and once again hosted regional trampolining and badminton competitions, as well another excellent triathlon, which took advantage of the centre’s proximity to the adjacent Peoples’ Park. The May Bank Holiday has become a key date in the triathlon calendar and attracts athletes from all over the UK, many of whom choose Ashington as their first triathlon. The challenges identified in previous years (that the bar & catering service was unable to contribute a profit), were included in a report to NCC and subsequently became part of a wider Customer &Cultural Services review. However, as this didn’t reach a conclusion before end of the financial year, the issuesremained unresolved. It is anticipated that following the proposed TUPE transfer, BVAL will seek to address the situation in April 2013 and agree a more appropriate strategy for the longer term. It is expected that the bar in the Institute building will close and whilst the customer base is very small, BVAL still needs to be prepared for any negative responses from the local community. One or two long-established groups have already made alternative arrangements; most notably the Ashington Folk Club having moved to the neighbouring Portland Arms. Ashington Leisure Partnership BVAL provided administrative & secretarial support to the Ashington Leisure Partnership and advised on discussions with Northumberland County Council on its future role and the options for the existing Institute Road site, once the new facility is open. ARCH provided some suggestions for discussion and a dialogue between the organisations continues. The Partnership recognises the need to cement a relationship with a leisure operator, so BVAL continues to work closely with them.



Newbiggin Sports and Community Centre Newbiggin has enjoyed significant investment from NCC’s capital fund this year, with 3 key projects being completed. The main hall roof was successfully replaced with minimum disruption and has now established an indoor facility that is no longer ‘weather dependant’. The air conditioning plant servicing the gym was also replaced and a refurbishment of the run-down toilet facilities has significantly improved the overall visitor experience. There now only remains a requirement to assess the condition of the changing rooms and confirm a timetable with a contractor, to complete the list of investment projects agreed with NCC. As a result of this work, the centre enjoyed reasonably good support from the local community with most activities thriving. Add the introduction of Les Mills classes and Keiser bikes and as with Ashington, numbers attending health and fitness sessions are extremely good. It is however, disappointing to report the departure of the Newbiggin Boxing Club, who moved to alternative premises. Whilst the centre will hopefully offer them a venue for ‘shows’, their move signals the need to restore the original squash court and perhaps pave the way for discussions for the further development of squash. The ‘Wansbeck Suite’ attracted several very successful weddings and a significant number of bookings are already in the diary for 2013-14. Charlotte Dodson’s appointment presented us with an opportunity to review our wedding package offer and establish a much more effective and productive relationship between ourselves and potential clients. Newbiggin has the potential to develop into a wonderful wedding venue and Charlotte’s ideas and attention to detail will play a significant part is realising that. Other events this year included a series of dance shows and another very well-attended ‘Holistic Harmony’ day. However, as with the bar in Ashington’s Institute, the bar and catering service continued to face increasing pressure to deliver a year-end profit. The function suites may attract a significant number of successful events and celebrations, but the poor levels of ‘day to day’ income present challenges against very high staffing costs. NCC’s ‘single premium rate’ for evenings and weekend work, makes it extremely difficult to return a profit on anything other than the very busiest of events. ‘Bar and catering’ at Newbiggin will be one of the first services to be reviewed following the TUPE transfer, as we seek to establish a more realistic foundation upon which to build function trade. The building has extremely well-appointed ‘social’ facilities, but there remains little opportunity to develop the business whilst faced with such high baseline costs.




Cleasewell Hill Healthy Living Centre Colleagues at Northumberland County Council have yet to decide on a long term ambition for Cleasewell, so for the moment, BVAL continues to assist with keeping the existing programme running for the very few remaining customers. Our caretaker, Alf Margison, does an excellent job, but with only two evenings a week accommodating a declining programme, the future of Cleasewell will hopefully be agreed very soon.


Health & Fitness

Health & Fitness During 2012-13, the Health and Fitness Service has continued to provide innovative services and build on previous successes. In challenging times, the service is working hard to ensure that customers are offered high quality opportunities to take part in a wide range of physical activity options. The service is responsible for the management of health and fitness at the four BVAL sites,Ashington Leisure Centre and Newbiggin Sports and Community Centre. It also has a shared management arrangement for the delivery of health projects with North Country Leisure in other areas of Northumberland. Lifestyle Gyms The six Lifestyle gyms continue to perform strongly, withover 182,000 gym sessions being undertaken by participants. The BVAL sites have high quality Precor equipment, with the Fitlinxx IT system available in three of the four gyms; whilst in Ashington and Newbiggin there is Technogym equipment with the Wellness IT system. The plans to build a new leisure centre mean that there are currently no plans to refurbish the Ashington gym, despite the equipment now being 9 years old. Lifestyle Fitness Class Programme January 2013 saw the introduction of industry leading Les Mills fitness classes at Ashington (Body Combat and Body Balance) and Newbiggin (Body Attack and Body Pump) and a new Les Mills 30 minute workout programme CXWorx at Blyth Sports Centre, Concordia and Newbiggin. Studio cycling has been introduced to the Sporting Club of Blyth and new Keiser bikes have been a welcome addition at Ashington Leisure Centre. Although participation in Zumba has peaked and is now falling, class participation across sites remains high, with over 95,000 participations in fitness classes during the year. Sessions are continually monitored to ensure that the programme reflects customer demand. Lifestyle Membership Scheme The Lifestyle membership scheme offers the opportunity for users to purchase a package allowing unlimited use of fitness facilities at the centres. The memberships are multi-site, with cheaper single site options for the smaller sites, which do not have swimming pools. BVAL has entered into a partnership with Alliance Leisure to train staff and implement a new sales procedure. Lifestyle membership levels have risen during the year and in March 2013 rose to over 3500 across sites. In the currently financial climate, these levels of membership are very encouraging.


Health & Fitness

GP Exercise on Referral Scheme BVAL manages the GP exercise on referral scheme in Ashington, Blyth, Cramlington,Morpeth and Newbiggin. The scheme is commissioned by Public Health and continues to go from strength to strength, making a real difference to the lives of many of its participants. There were 1,136 referrals to the scheme in these areas during the year against a commissioned target of 1,020 referrals. Participants in exercise on referral and associated exit routes attended more than 37,000 physical activity sessions during the year. Partnership working with North County Leisure Trust means that exercise on referral is much more standardised across Northumberland. A robust evaluation of the scheme has taken place and the results will be published in a peer reviewed journal during 2013. Momenta Weight Management Programme During 2012 BVAL has taken part in the pilot of Momenta; a new 13 week adult lifestyle change weight management programme. Initial results were very encouraging and BVAL has now entered into an initial year long agreement to introduce Momenta into the health and fitness programme. Community Based Cardiac Rehabilitation BVAL continues to work in partnership with Northumbria Foundation Trust to deliver Phase III community cardiac rehabilitation. Phase III is staffed by both a cardiac rehabilitation nurse and fitness staff, and involves twice weekly supervised exercise sessions and weekly education / advice sessions at each venue. Current venues are Blyth Sports Centre, Concordia Leisure Centre, Morpeth Riverside Centre and Ashington Leisure Centre. BVAL also offers Phase IV cardiac rehabilitation in Ashington, Blyth, Cramlington, Morpeth and Newbiggin. These sessions encourage participants to make physical activity a life long lifestyle choice. There is also a homebased cardiac rehabilitation service at phase III delivered by BVAL staff. Cardiac Rehabilitation Instructor Training BVAL co-ordinated and delivered a British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Exercise Instructor course at Blyth Sports Centre during 2012. Further courses are planned for the coming year Walking for Health The Walking for Health scheme is a programme of volunteer led weekly walks throughout Northumberland. Over 10,000participations in walks were undertaken in the BVAL area and over 20,000 throughout Northumberland.



Health & Fitness

Walking cont. Funding has been secured until April 2014, but long term funding remains uncertain. The service is working hard to find future funding to maintain the programme. Staff Training All contracted members of staff are qualified to at least Register of Exercise Professionals level 3 standard. Training this year has concentrated on increasing the number of class fitness instructors and the variety of classes that they are able to teach. This focus will continue in 2013-14. The Year Ahead The Health and Fitness Service has performed well during the 2012-13 year and this needs to be maintained in the coming year. The financial climate remains challenging and it is still unclear how the move of Public Health from the NHS to local government will affect future commissioning decisions. The service will continue to look for opportunities to develop new programmes.


Leisure Development and Inclusion Service Leisure Development and Inclusion Service WOW!! What a year 2012 was for the Service and country in general. 2012 was an unprecedented success for sport in the UK, with the highlight being London hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Make-a-Move team did their bit by ensuring local communities benefited from the ‘Olympic Effect’ by offering a comprehensive programme of sports activities for people to have a try. In a year dominated by the Olympics the achievements highlighted below provide a flavour of what proved to be an excellent year for the service. 2012 was the first full year of the Big Lottery Funded Move On Up project, the grant of £300,000 over 3 years supports 6 full-time posts who are the bedrock of the Make-a-Move team. The project has already exceeded expectations and made significant progress at achieving some challenging high level outcomes in South East Northumberland’s most deprived communities. The milestones set for the first year have been surpassed by some way. Feedback from participants suggests the project has already made a difference to their lives by improving health and wellbeing, self-esteem and employability. The Service underwent a maintenance assessment as part of Quest (UK Quality Scheme for Sport and Leisure). The comprehensive assessment scrutinised all elements of provision, including Delivery, Strategy and People against the new outcome focused framework. We are delighted to announce the Service achieved the excellence standard against the stricter criteria of the newframework. For the 3rd year in a row the service was recognised by Northumberland High Sheriff for its valuable services to the community, the award and a cheque for £500 was accepted on behalf of the service by two young volunteers; Chris Maddox and Sarah Cavner (PHOTO ATTACHED) at a plush awards ceremony at the Police Headquarters. The Services comprehensive volunteering programme which brings numerous benefits to the local community was acknowledged by a number of funders including the Joicey and Sherburn Trusts. The grants secured which total £3250, helped train and qualify 177 volunteers in a range of areas including Arts, Sports, Fitness and Dance. Twelve young people from Blyth and Cramlingtonachieved Bronze Level Arts Awards, part funded by BIG Dance and delivered by the Move It team.Forty nine of the volunteers have gone on to gain employment or access further education.


Leisure Development and Inclusion Service The apprenticeship programme has been a huge success, 7 apprentices have graduated from the programme, all of whom have successfully completed an NVQ in Sport and Activity Leadership and an NGB of Sport Level 2 qualification. Four of the apprentices were also successful in a Guinness World Record attempt at the ‘Fastest Tennis Ball Pass’. Three of the apprentices have went on to gain employment with BVAL and another two have enrolled on to a degree course. Ability 2 Play (A2P)has continued to grow over the last 12 months, with an increase in participants and activities available. The programme delivers a range of needs led interventions targeting disabled young people and their families. A2P Cricketers represented Northumberland in the first ever County Team to compete at the National Finals in Derby. “It was the greatest day of my life. I never thought I would ever represent my county at anything and get to compete against teams from all over the country” Jamie Allsopp on representing Northumberland. The introduction of a “Stay All Day”holiday programme option has resulted ina record number of attendances. Participants are kept busy enjoying a full day of activities ranging from horse riding to ice skating, the all-day option allows participants more time to socialise and interact with other young people, whilst their parents and carers are able to enjoy some ‘me time’. The Pegasus Centre home of the Morpeth Riding for the Disabled Grouphad another fantastic year andis now truly realising its potential as a centre of excellence for disabled riding. The Centre caters for all ages and abilities. One of the Centre’s Para Dressage riders Gayle Bloomfield, has been named Female Personality of the Year in the prestigious North East Disability Sport Awards. The programme of activities at Northburn Sports and Community Centre continues to expand with the exciting refurbishment of theMulti Use Games Area (MUGA). The Banks Group kindly donated £10,000, which helped to resurface the MUGA with a 3rd Generation state of the art surface. A wide variety of sports and community organisations now make use of the centres excellent facilities. Northburn is the home for a number of successful Charter Standard football clubs, providing the full spectrum of football provision. The Centre has successfully hosted a number of high profile events.



Leisure Development and Inclusion Service Northburn provides a base for the Services ‘Move It – Community Dance School’.The Move It Team presented the spectacular ‘Christmas Cracker’ and‘A Night at the Movies’ Dance Shows, with a sell-out audience of over 200 parents and relatives enjoying the performances of over 100 young people. Working in partnership with BIG Dance the shows were opened by ‘Bionic Funk’ and ‘New Art Club’. The team also delivered a range of dance activities as part of theBIG Dance week in July which was part of a national celebration of dance. The programme included a World Record Attempt (with over 250 young people packed into Concordia Leisure Centre dancing to the same routine at the same time!), free workshops in a variety of different dance styles, a Dads & Lads project, Dance Shows and performances at the ‘Summer Scene’ an outdoor event in Ridley park, Blyth. The service uses sport and physical activity as a vehicle to educate young people about a range of issues that affect their lifestyle. ‘All About Me’ and ‘MEND – mind exercise nutrition do-it’ were successfully delivered, which involved addressing self-esteem issues in young girls and obesity and weight issues in 7-13 year olds respectively. An exciting development for next year involves the Service working in partnership with the new Northumbria Healthcare team to deliver the Get Active Northumberland weight management programmes. The Service is delighted to announce that after years of hard work Morpeth Harriers now have a fit for purpose brand new6 lane synthetic athletics track and changing pavilion. The project costing nearly £1.5m is located at King Edward’s the VI School, Morpeth. The Track is well used by the School, local community and the Harriers. It is hoped that the investment into the much needed facilities could help to support future Olympians. The Northumberland Athletic Network continues to build momentum and deliver an excellent programme of athletic activities for clubs and participants across Northumberland. The Network which is hosted by the servicehas had significant impact on the number of people participating in Athletics. The new 3G synthetic surface at the Cramlington Sporting Club is now complete thanks to a grant of nearly £200,000 from the Football Foundation. The Centre had a prestigious opening event in March where Peter Beardsley ex Newcastle Legend and England International officially launched the facility. The Centre has already received rave reviews from the School, local clubs and the wider community.

Leisure Development and Inclusion Service Through an innovative partnership withBlyth/Bedlington School Sport Programme enabled the service to deliver over 400 sessions in local schools with attendances of over 10,000 pupils. Young people benefited from expert tuition from BVAL’s qualified and experienced coaches. Young people from across South East Northumberland had a fantastic time in the school holidays thanks to superb action packed holiday programmes. In the summer holiday alone over 4,500 youngsters had a great time getting active in the sun (or more often than not the rain!). The Make-a-Move team have supported a range of clubs with their development aspirations through funding and accreditation advice and guidance. The service supported Blyth Town FC secure a whopping grant of £150,000 to extend their clubhouse and MUGA. Some of the many other clubs who have been supported over the year include Swimming, Volleyball, Boxing, Triathlon, paddlesportsclubs etc. The Outdoor Activity programme has enriched the lives of people who have benefited from expert tuition in climbing, archery, moutainbiking, paddlesports, team building and boot camps to name but a few. The programme is extremely popular with local schools and is a huge hit with young people in the holidays. One of the undoubted highlights was the successful completion of the Wansbeck Source to Mouth Challenge in June. The gruelling adventure undertaken by local youths who had been referred into the service involved travelling from the source of the river Wansbeck to the North Sea by human locomotion only, which included Nordic walking, climbing, mountainbiking and canoeing. Whilst tired, all of the group successfully completed this exhilarating experience and managed to raise a significant sum of money to support a local youngster undergo a life changing operation. The Valley Moves project which is funded by Seaton Valley Parish Council has been a huge success with over 6060 participants regularly accessing a range of activities including Boot Camps, Circuits, Boxercise, Salsacise and Zumba to name but a few. The project also works in partnership with the Youth Service to deliver diversionary activities at times when anti-social behaviour is prevalent. The Active Families Programme is a targeted intervention aimed at families with babies and young children in Seaton Valley. Family favourites include the ‘1st Step mother and baby exercise class’ and the ‘Buggy Fit Boot Camps’.

Leisure Development and Inclusion Service As part of the year-long programme of cultural activities to celebrate the 2012 London Olympiad, the service, with the support of funding by Northumberland County Council delivered a comprehensive programme of sports taster sessions entitled ‘Give It A Go!’ Communities in South East Northumberland were able to access 277 free sports taster sessions across a range of sports with a massive 1289 people taking part. 2012 will live long in the memory as a fantastic year for events. The highlight surely must be the visit of the Olympic Torch to Blyth Sports Centre. To coincide with the once in a lifetime visit of the Torch to Northumberland the Centre hosted a fantastic day of activities for schools and the local community. Legendary sporting figures including Fab Flournoy were on hand to present trophies, medals and certificates to all of the young people who took part in the event. Other high profile events organised by the Service included the Beach Bash Bosh event in partnership with the Youth Cabinet, Picnic in the Park at Carlise Park, the Jubilee Archery Contest at the Pegasus Centre, a Family Fun Day at the Riverside Country Park in Prudhoe, the Seaton Valley Children’s Festival and the Winter Festival in Ridley Park. The team are looking forward to another hectic year in 2013/14!

Arts Development

Arts Development Introduction Arts Development is responsible for projects and programmes that encourage high levels of participation and appreciation of the arts in South East Northumberland. We also aim to grow the creative culture and economy of Northumberland through generating and supporting locally produced work, building local audiences and to give priority to work by and for young people. Since April 2012, Queen’s Hall Arts oversees Arts development for Northumberland. Our mission is to provide high quality arts services in Northumberland that will enrich communities and support artists, developing a creative future for all. BVAL remain a key partner of the arts development in South East Northumberland in support, strategy and delivery. The department is managed by one full time member of staff with responsibility for both strategic and delivery functions. Programmes are funded by Queen’s Hall Arts, Arts Council England, Northumberland County Council and Blyth Valley Arts & Leisure. At a glance... There were 40 medium to long term arts programmes; An estimated 37, 521 people took part or attended in arts and cultural projects. Overall there were 73 community groups and 49 schools supported; 497 volunteers took part in leading or helping with projects; 601 regional artists/arts organisations were employed and supported in the delivery of projects; Good news stories We have carried on our commitment to support young people in skills and carrier development by working a further year with a very talented young Creative Apprentice. Our apprentice this year completes her level 3 NVQ whilst supporting both delivery and organisational aspects. This is part of the Creative Apprenticeship scheme with Gateshead College and The Sage and links with the strategy to keep young arts professionals working in Northumberland

Arts Development

Good news cont... The South East Northumberland Arts Award Pilot Project successfully supported 55 young people in achieving their bronze Arts Award. This pilot was a research and delivery project to assess levels of engagement in the award and to proactively support 6 pilot schools in developing an accredited framework for young people to develop as artists and arts leaders. This has been a partnership project between BVAL, QHA, NCC, Arts Council England and Arts Award -Trinity College London. 20,000 voices with the support of QHA & BVAL have established 3 successful community choirs within Blyth, Newbiggin and Cramlington. With the aim to increase public singing, well-being, confidence and intergenerational activity, Against the backdrop of beautiful Ridley Park a glorious garden provided the setting for a celebration of the sheer energy of summer. Over 2000 people attended Summer Scene Festival on Sunday July 15th at Ridley Park, Blyth. With 21 visual art and dance workshop sessions on site and 4 dance performances (all collaborations with young people) there was a total of 1158 participants. The lead up to the festival involved working closely with 146 young people and community group members and 4 schools. Dance, live art and visual installations in Ridley Park with Big dance & Olympiad themes and activity. On Saturday 8th September 2012, a spectacular and thoughtful new pathway commissioned by New Hartley Community Association and BVAL to commemorate the 150thanniversary of the Pit Disaster was officially opened to the public. For the first time the complete names and ages of the 204 men and boys lost in the disaster are brought back to the site 150 years later from that fateful day. Designed, constructed and site managed by Artist Duo, Rob Walton and Russ Coleman. The design and research included workshops with 2 primary and middle schools, new Hartley art club, Local care homes, local individuals and and the community association. This project was funded by Seaton Valley Council, R.W Mann Trust, New Hartley Community Association, BVAL & QHA. Newbiggin Youth Arts Hub successfully gained funding in December 2012 with a new partnership between Northumberland YMCA. This is an exciting new development from the Newbiggin Mary Portas Town Team supported by Arts Council England and Rio Tinto Alcan. We are very happy to announce that a Youth Arts Hub will be developed out of the Arts Centre on Woodhorn road. This will give a voice for the young people of the area and a dedicated Arts space to create, express ideas and issues and challenge perspectives on Newbiggin, youth culture and the arts.

Arts Development

Good news cont... Spellbound has returned to South East Northumberland Libraries with immense enthusiasm and response. We’ve worked with quality children’s authors, illustrators and story tellers to bring the energy and fun of literature into the library spaces. We’ve currently reached 7 communities with 11 workshops and have a further 3 communities to reach with more opportunities to participate in the fun! Even our adult writing course for beginners went down a storm. This year has been an exciting celebration of the Cultural Olympics. The Torch Relay celebration event in June saw over 800 people at Blyth Sports centre participating in a rich programme of entertainment, arts and sports. BVAL also had the pleasure of supporting a talented early stage artist in residency capturing the event and social impact in photography. Ridley Park Family Winter Festival took place on a chilly winters day on Sunday Feb 24th but that did not stop a estimated crowd of 3000 attending. There was something for everyone including music from the newly formed Northumberland and Scottish pipe and drums troupe, an amazing and crowd pleasing light and sound performance from acclaimed performers Spark! fire performances from the young and talented Five Ring Circus; performances from 6 young people’s community dance groups; a whole 110 beautiful snow drop lanterns were created and also added flare to the Spark! and illuminated balloon parade; an Ice Rink was an unusual and popular addition as well trampolining; fun run challenge; children’s crafts and face painting. A hardy audience of 60 also remained past 6.30pm for the outdoor cinema screening of the regional short Northern Flame and Madagascar 3! During March, 5 primary schools (938 pupils) took part in the Kathakali dance workshops and performance. KATHAKALI is a classical dance and theatre that has mastered the art of visual storytelling for over 500 years and provides an extraordinary opportunity to experience nonwestern theatre & culture for pupils of all ages and abilities. Schools also benefited from receiving free education packs. The Smooth Sundays programme of free music has expanded to include Newbiggin as well as Blyth bandstand. This shows our further commitment to the use of open and historic spaces. This years programme reached an audience of just under 2000 with 6 regional acts including emerging new talent and supporting Northumbrian cultural heritage of colliery brass music.

Arts Development

Good news cont... Doorstep Pictures mobile cinema programme has grown from strength to strength with the expansion to North Northumberland community venues. Doorstep reached 10 venues screening film across South East Northumberland with 73 screenings. Northern Flame, a community film celebrating the Olympic Torch Relay, by MagicIF, Northumberland County Council also screened in 4 venues showing our increasing commitment to regional film production and support. The partnership with Queens Hall has strengthened the programme with additional funding support from Northern Film and Media.

A look ahead to Year 2013-14 Queen’s Hall Arts will be increasing it’s Arts Development team from July 2013 to help create exciting developments and opportunities for South East Northumberland and county wide. Some great news for the Arts in South East Northumberland with ‘Creative People in Places.’ Our area has won an amazing £2.4million award from Arts Council England; one of only seven places across the country.The investment is to inspire more people of all ages, to get creative and work alongside artists of all kinds over the next three years and beyond. QHA is a consortium member with Woodhorn as the main lead. The popular Blyth Renewables Festival is back for 2013 on the weekend of 29th-30th June. Taking place on Blyth’s Quayside, the festival aims to highlight the importance of renewable energy, showcasing the growing cluster of renewable energy related organisations around the estuary. It will include a rich entertainment and arts programme showcasing creative talent from the region. New Creative Futures Scheme to launch later in the year for young people/companies. This aims to support CPD and encouraging locally emerging artists to create and work within Northumberland. New cross sector partnership between Leisure and Care. BVAL, QHA & The NHS Foundation Trust will work in collaboration to create new touring exhibitions and Artist in residency pilot.

Blyth Valley Leisure Catering

Blyth Valley Leisure Catering The difficult economic climate has placed significant pressure on our catering service and with sales down further, the catering company has been unable to make a financial contribution to BVAL. With the consequence being that effectively BVAL has subsidised BVLC, some major decisions will need to be considered in early 2013-14 that seek to address the problem. Whilst we have reviewed the operation on a number of occasions, a fundamental overhaul of the service may be the only course of action open to us. Concordia Leisure Centre Concordia’s cafe has witnessed a drop in income and whilst every effort has been made to address the problem, the general economic downturn and competition from neighbouring facilities have contributed to an increasingly difficult situation. Tony and his team have worked hard to deliver an excellent service, but the reality is that customers are simply not spending money over the catering counter. Blyth Sports Centre Marylyn and her team continued to make efforts to boost income, with a range of innovative ideas and promotions. However, trade remained slow and like Concordia, it has been a very difficult year.Although many customers appear to enjoy Blyth’s café experience, we will need to review the offer and consider alternatives, if the service is to continue. ‘Wansbeck’ The story is perhaps even more acute at Ashington and Newbiggin, as the bar and catering service has made a loss for some considerable time. A report was submitted to Northumberland County Council in October, recommending the closure of the Ashington Institute bar and a review of opening hours at Newbiggin. However, as the report (part of a wider Customer and Cultural Services review) was not implemented as the financial year ended, BVAL will seek to address the problem early in April 2013, following the proposed TUPE transfer. Newbiggin’s ‘Wansbeck Suite’ attracted several very successful weddings and a number of bookings are already in the diary for 2013-14. It has the potential to develop into a wonderful venue, but whilst the function suites may attract events and celebrations, the poor levels of ‘day to day’ income present challenges, set against very high staffing costs. NCC’s ‘single premium rate’ for evenings and weekend work, makes it extremely difficult to return a profit on anything other than the very busiest of events.

Blyth Valley Leisure Catering

‘Wansbeck’ cont.

The building has extremely well-appointed ‘social’ facilities, but there remains little opportunity to develop the business until such high baseline costs can be addressed. Vending As expected, vending continued to do well and remains the significant contributor to the overall business. Stock is distributed from Concordia around our sites and each facility has reported good takings.

BVAL Annual Review 2012 / 13  

BVAL's Annual Review 2012 / 13

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