Vicki Read has been working on ParkLives for 3 years as an instructor and is now the project co-ordinator with ParkLives from Coca-Cola GB. Here she explains 5 things that she’s learnt since joining the team.

I’ve been involved with ParkLives since day one, back in 2014. In fact, I was the first person to ever instruct a ParkLives session! For those who don't know, the scheme offers fun, free, family-friendly activities in local parks and green spaces up and down the country. 

It was 6:30am and I was stood outside waiting for everyone to arrive. And only 2 people showed up! This was disappointing at the time, but fortunately word spread and the sessions just grew and grew. Those who came told their friends and family and by the end I had around 45 attendees coming every week!

It was after this first session that I caught the ParkLives bug. I’m now responsible for managing 13 parks in Newham, with instructors and activities in all of them. That’s 125 activities taking place Monday-Sunday, with 2,000 people a week taking part in these activities in the summer months.

All in all, I would say there are 5 things I’ve learned from ParkLives.

1. A feeling of local community is really important

The same people come back to our sessions again and again. These same people tell their friends and family, who come along too. We get great feedback from people who say what a difference it’s made to their lives and wellbeing.

While I’m walking around Newham I see so many people who say hi. It’s a lovely feeling of community that you wouldn’t normally get in a big city.

"I do feel that I’m making a difference to my community. Even if it’s a very small difference. I’m incredibly proud to be working for ParkLives."

2. It brings families and friends together

I have been very fortunate to meet people from all walks of life, and from all over the borough. I have had one family attend my ParkLives bootcamp every week. They come from all over and use the sessions to meet up and spend some quality family time together.

People also meet new friends at the ParkLives sessions and go for a coffee and a chat afterwards. It really helps to bring people together who live in the area but who might never have met otherwise.

Vicki Read ParkLives Coca-Cola

3. There are loads of fantastic parks that are underused

What I love about ParkLives is that it’s reaching people who wouldn’t normally be using their local parks.

I recently received one of the best compliment letters we’ve had in 3 years. It was from a mum who has discovered ParkLives this summer, and now takes her kids to a different park every day. Her kids have learnt to rollerskate and she’s now learnt how to Zumba and Samba. Plus, she said she’s discover parks that she never would have visited before without ParkLives.

I showed the letter to the rest of the team and I think for the first time it really hit home what a difference we’re making to people.

Vicki Read ParkLives Coca-Cola

4. People love to get outdoors when they can

Anyone can take part in ParkLives, no matter what their age and ability. And that’s what makes it fun and varied for the instructors too. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t done any exercise since school, or if your general level of fitness is low, you can find something to suit you and start gradually. The main thing is to be outside enjoying yourself and making the most of your parks.

"When I first started, people would constantly come up to me and ask: ‘what’s the catch?’ And I had to tell them that there isn’t a catch! It’s 100% free, you just have to turn up and get stuck in."

5. I actually like early mornings!

Anyone who knows me is shocked that I love getting up early now. I was never a morning person before. But when you’re doing something you love, it’s easy and doesn’t feel like work! I’m outside in the fresh air, with fantastic people, enjoying our beautiful parks.

Vicki Read ParkLives Coca-Cola

Find out more and get involved with ParkLives from Coca-Cola GB.

Have you been to a great #ParkLives session? Tweet and let us know: @CocaCola_GB.

About the author

Vicki Read
Project manager for ParkLives from Coca-Cola GB. Vicki has been working with the scheme since its launch in 2014. She has worked with Active Newham as a general manager for one of their local leisure centres.