MPs come out to play, as ParkLives from Coca-Cola GB hosts a special session outside the Houses of Parliament on National Fitness Day to celebrate the launch of its second year report, showing how the programme of daily, free activities has expanded nationwide.

Just when you think summer’s over the sun comes out for one last unexpected heat wave, and it couldn’t have picked a better day – the launch of our ParkLives second year report. Outside Parliament in New Palace Yard, a very special and private green space, an ensemble of session leaders from ten major cities around the UK are putting on a taster session of fun sports and activities for MPs.

Getting a taste of ParkLives

In one corner, a Cuban Zumba instructor named David from the London Borough of Newham teaches a group of Parliamentary officials how to swing their hips, to a medley of samba, mambo and salsa beats; while in another corner, instructors have MPs in boxing gloves and spinning hula-hoops. Admittedly, suits, formal dresses and heels are not the easiest of outfits to hula in, but it speaks to the heart of the scheme, which is free and fun outdoor activity sessions for everyone.

“It’s great to see all the cities come together and showcase what they’ve been doing over the busy summer period,” says Nicole Napier, team leader at activeNewham, one of the first locations to run the programme. “It’s got bigger and better over the years, and it’s a great opportunity to show MPs what ParkLives is and the importance of getting people active, outdoors and using their parks.”

Special partners

It’s not just ParkLives people who’ve turned up for the occasion either. StreetGames, our doorstep sports charity partner, who have helped bring the scheme to reach even more locations, have a crew of young and enthusiastic coaches persuading MPs to get involved with their multi-sports programme.

“Working with ParkLives has been fantastic,” says Sam Bodmer, Programme Manager at London Sports Trust, who are part of the StreetGames network. "We’ve been able to do what we normally do, but in open spaces and outdoor settings, which we didn’t have the opportunity to do before. We’ve actually seen a rise in the level of sports participation where we work.”

Also joining in the fun are two gold-medal winning athletes from Special Olympics Great Britain: Charlotte Cox and Daniel Wolff. Coca-Cola GB are a long-term founding partner of the charity, which brings year-round sports training and competition to athletes with intellectual learning disabilities.

"There’s been an organic growth with ParkLives, and one of the things we’ve seen is an increase in the number and types of activities available."

“There’s been so much energy and fun today – and that’s what getting active should be about,” says Chris Hull, Communications Advisor at Special Olympics GB. “Our athletes have really enjoyed the tennis, boxing, hula-hooping and boccia. It’s surprising how many different activities you can get in such a small area!”

The ParkLives team from Newham, London have been running some particularly successful summer sessions as part of their local link with Special Olympics GB. It’s one of the ways the scheme strives to be fully inclusive, and appeal to all members of the local communities.

Year-on-year success

Inside the ParkLives year two report you’ll find key highlights from 2015, which saw 75,000 people participate in activities in parks across six different cities. That’s six-times the total number of participants from 2014.

According to a new Heritage Lottery Fund report, despite an estimated 2.6bn visits made each year to UK parks, funding for parks has been cut each year for the last six years. So it’s encouraging to see how the ParkLives programme from Coca-Cola GB, in partnership with local authorities and charity partners, has been showing that this way of working together and investing in parks and green spaces can really work to benefit local communities. 

Speaking at the event, ukactive Public Affairs and Policy Officer, Geremy Sagoe said, “It’s been great to see MPs come and view what’s taking place in some of their constituencies. There’s been an organic growth with ParkLives, and one of the key things we’ve seen is an increase in the number and types of activities available, which keeps growing.”

Read more about the inspiring work from ParkLives, why Coca-Cola GB supports the scheme, and the positive effect being out in green space has on overall wellbeing in the ParkLives second year report (PDF).