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A year like no other

/ Leisure

A YEAR like no other. Life has changed for us all, and as the UK reflects upon 12 months that has rocked our world forever, we look at how one organisation has stepped up to support the community of East Lindsey as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Almost a year ago today, there was shock and sadness in equal measure as the teams at the Magna Vitae Trust for Leisure & Culture had to cover their swimming pools, shut down their fitness suites and lock the doors of their busy and bustling centres.

Since that day in March 2020, those doors have opened for only a few short weeks, affecting the day-to-day lives of thousands of people, along with scores of sports organisations, fitness, and leisure clubs. Not only that, the work of Magna Vitae’s popular community teams has also been severely hit – the annual SO Festival could not take place in its usual form, nor could the sessions for older people and the more vulnerable across the district.

Remembering those days immediately after the Government announced the country’s first national lockdown, Magna Vitae’s Executive Director, Aeneas Richardson said: “Of course there was tremendous uncertainty and, whilst not fear, there was an understandable shared anxiety of our ability to cope, and actually survive and thrive in the future. We were not alone in that respect and we closed our centres with a huge amount of sadness.”

However, what could have been a dismal outlook for the team at Magna Vitae was turned on its head and what has happened gives much reason for optimism. As an organisation that had previously relied upon the physical presence of its customers, it found other ways of making contact and supporting those people who relied upon its services.

With Louth’s Meridian Leisure Centre, and the pools & fitness suites in Skegness, Horncastle and Mablethorpe, along with the London Road Pavilion in Louth and Embassy Theatre shut, the teams re-grouped and looked at what they could do.

From supporting teams at COVID vaccination centres to distributing digital tablets, making wellbeing calls, providing bags of happiness and leading virtual exercise sessions – Magna Vitae took the lead across East Lindsey in terms of uniting communities.

“I have to say the response from everyone here at Magna Vitae has been magnificent. As communities we have never experienced anything like this before. However, after taking stock, we got together and pro-actively looked at how we could continue to support people through such challenging times. We were innovative and forward-thinking and have learned lessons that we can take forward in the future. Out of an uncertain situation, we created opportunities,” said Aeneas.

The work began almost immediately – joining forces with East Lindsey District Council to launch https://magnavitae.org/inthistogether/ – a support website, with accompanying physical brochure. There followed more partner collaborations and over the last year, Magna Vitae has:

  • Made 2,978 wellbeing calls and responded to 91 calls for support.
  • Provided 50 people with digital tablets and ongoing IT support, with funding from the National Lottery Coronavirus Community Support Fund.
  • Provided 624 ‘bags of happiness’, wellbeing packs, craft and activity packs.
  • Had 492 engagements through online quizzes and activities.
  • Provided weekly online exercise sessions aimed at providing inclusive activity for those less physically able.
  • Delivered more than 30 virtual exercise classes every week, with pre-recorded videos with helpful tips and advice, nutrition, mobility, and chair exercises. To date more than 708 people have joined the Facebook live classes.
  • Developed a family programme, which has included interactive sensory activities, storytelling, fun crafts and games, techniques for swimmers, old school discos, and treasure hunts.
  • Communicated with more than 80 schools, businesses and care homes to help people be more active more often.
  • Helped at vaccination centres in Boston, Mablethorpe and Skegness.
  • Visited more than 500 businesses and public places to advise on COVID-safe practice, working with East Lindsey District and Boston Borough councils.
  • Switched a session called ‘Fitness, Food and Friends’ online – linking with Alford Community Centre’s virtual hub for the weekly sessions.
  • Switched the annual SO Festival online, attracting a national, European and global audience with its virtual programme of events and activities.

As lockdown eases, and venues start to open again, Magna Vitae has also won funding from the national initiative Kickstart to offer six-month paid work experience places to 15 young people – part of a UK drive to offer employment opportunities post-Covid.

“When we look back now at what we have achieved it has been staggering and we are all delighted to have helped and supported in this way. Of course, though, we cannot wait to welcome people back into our centres, to our theatre and to our adventure high-wire – and of course see them enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of pizza in Café Magna,” said Aeneas.

To view the collection of everything that Magna Vitae is offering, visit our website platform magnavitae.org/lockdown-3-with-magna-vitae.  With venues expected to start a rolling opening from Monday, March 29, people are asked to check the website and social media for the most up-to-date details.

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