The Co-op has announced a multi-million-pound investment to support anti-knife crime organisation, Steel Warriors to create free community gyms in areas impacted by knife crime. The new community spaces are made using steel from knives that have been taken off the street, melted down and recycled.
The Co-op aim to help Steel Warriors build 20 open air free-to-use gyms across the UK. Two new gyms will be built this year, which will also feature gym instructors, providing training sessions for different abilities, to share skills and improve physical and mental wellbeing within communities.
The gyms are designed to give young people a free space where they can develop confidence. The spaces will be accessible for all and aim to boost health and wellbeing by enhancing strength and flexibility. The gym equipment promotes a fitness technique known as calisthenics, which uses bodyweight for resistance through pulling, pushing, bending, jumping or swinging actions.
Co-op is supporting Steel Warriors to have a trainer at each gym running training sessions for different abilities every week. Local training instructors and sports groups will be invited to use the gyms for free and Co-op will connect local youth groups working to access the facilities. The initiative follows Co-op’s move to stop selling single pack knives in its stores.
Steve Murrells, CEO, Co-op, will officially unveil the new partnership at the Co-op’s AGM in Manchester tomorrow (Saturday 18 May). It will coincide with a new advertising campaign which will highlight the Co-op’s community investment, from supporting local causes to school academies and community workers, known as member pioneers.
Mr Murrells said: “Knives will be taken off the streets and melted down to create new community spaces for people to come together to learn and build new skills through street workouts which enhance their physical and mental wellbeing.
“Community spaces have such an important role to play in fostering community spirit and the loss of youth centres and spaces has had a negative impact. This is something unique which makes a positive difference to communities.
“It literally adds steel to communities which are rallying against problems like knife crime by taking the weapons off the streets and turning them into street gyms.”
He added: “It’s what we should do as a responsible retailer. It was right to remove the sale of single knives and we’re committed to help strengthen communities and provide opportunities. This will give access to free outdoor fitness equipment to those youngsters who can’t afford gyms with costly fees.
“This is about investing in their future.”
Steel Warriors work with a large number of organisations, who provide pro bono support, to melt down knives that are taken off the streets and recycle them into calisthenics gyms. Steel Warriors have enlisted Calisthenics pioneers, Jay Chris and Lee Wade Turner and engineers, Heyne Tillett Steel to design gym equipment that is accessible for all and boosts strength and flexibility by using bodyweight for resistance.
Steel Warriors was co-founded by Ben Wintour and Pia Fontes. Ben said: “We are really glad to be working with Co-op and our supporters to get more gyms built and to grow our vision into one that offers pro-active support to communities nationwide.”
Pia added: “There’s no one person or organisation that can solve this issue alone. We believe that the key is co-operation.”
Steel Warriors has already built one gym in Tower Hamlets, London. Daniel Rose, Director of the nearby Spotlight Youth centre, said: “From day one people have been using it. Kids doing their usual exploring and games, older women in their hijabs, this area has a big Bengali population, using it for a daily workout in the morning.
“The whole community has embraced it, even if it’s just to test it out for a few minutes. Young people who are into this kind of thing have set up their own clubs. A lot of people are also filming vlogs and workout demonstrations. It’s a great addition to the area.”