A Home for the UK’s only Member-Owned Gym

by Bristol Co-operative Gym in Bristol, Bristol City, United Kingdom

We did it
On 25th April 2022 we successfully raised £27,440 with 236 supporters in 42 days

Building the first gym designed and run by its members; a welcoming, supportive place to strengthen ourselves and our communities.

by Bristol Co-operative Gym in Bristol, Bristol City, United Kingdom

New stretch target

Our initial target will allow us to complete the most important essentials of our design - the floor, shelving, seating, boxes, paint and finishing.

This stretch target will allow us to make the more structural alterations to the building and replace our more rundown equipment, including:

  • The works to the shell and electrics
  • Removing the ceiling and extending the walls
  • New power rack and squat stands
  • Swedish ladders and supporting stud wall

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We are the unique member-owned gym pioneering an inclusive, collaborative approach to fitness.

Since 2016, powered by volunteers, we have trained with over 1,000 people in parts of the city with limited access to health and fitness facilities.

We aim to provide an inclusive, welcoming space for exercise free from assumptions around identity, appearance and ability.

Your support will help us build a gym that reflects our values and make our current space accessible for more people.

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Why we set up

Commercial gyms are designed to maximise profit - not fitness or well-being. Conventional fitness culture attempts to shame us into gym membership and creates exclusionary environments that prevent us from attending.

Our gym is the solution - a not-for-profit co-operative space that supports an approach to fitness unique to each member.

Our model works. We survived the pandemic, when many other gyms around us closed, without requiring any external support or dipping into our reserves.

We aim to:

  • Build a culture of non-judgement through celebration of each other’s progress
  • Build a supportive and inclusive culture that is free from assumptions
  • Empower people to create healthy training habits
  • Engage people who are excluded from training facilities
  • Provide high-quality coaching and facilities
  • Remain affordable by using fair pricing models
  • Be financially sustainable in our day-to-day operations, free from reliance on external funding

As a not-for-profit that doesn’t depend on members not using their memberships like most gyms, we need to look outside of our usual income sources to make these sorts of large changes. Your support will enable us to take this next step.

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Building the dream gym

We have always dreamed of designing our own gym to create an inclusive space to exercise. Now we have the opportunity to do this, but we need your help.

In October 2021 we took on sole occupancy of a space in St Anne’s House run by Bricks - a social enterprise supporting local and creative communities in Bristol.

Since then, we have welcomed 200 new people from the local area, offered free weightlifting classes to NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) young people and free memberships to refugees and asylum seekers.

We can do so much more, but we’re limited by our current set-up.

Our new home is a former council building and still feels like an office. The floor is uncomfortable and dirty, sound insulation is poor, and we have no storage space. Some of our equipment is no longer fit for purpose after being stored in a damp cupboard in our previous venue over the lockdowns.

As result, we know that we are not reaching some of the people we set up to train with. With your help, we will:

  • Improve the layout of our studio so it's more suitable for beginners and members with mobility issues or neurodiversity
  • Adapt the space so that we have increased control over light and noise levels to better manage sensory stimulation, as well as offering the option of a more private training area for members who prefer that
  • Store our equipment in a way that is clearly labelled and easy to access for all our members
  • Replace some of our equipment with items that are more adaptable to all abilities and body shapes

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What our members are saying

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"As someone that's previously had panic attacks in gym classes, am partially deaf and have fibromyalgia, attending a gym class has always been a bit of a challenge, but Bristol Co-operative Gym is really accessible and I enjoy it a lot!"

"My experience of exercising as a fat person generally included being self-conscious and feeling judged - once even laughed at. I have never felt like that in Bristol Co-operative Gym. It just felt immediately inclusive and welcoming. There are no expectations about why I'm there, what I should wear or look like, or what I should be able to do or know. I really enjoy coming to the classes, it's a very friendly and fun place to train."

"I'm in my early 60s.  For many years, I've been living with bouts of depression and anxiety. As a result, my self-esteem can be pretty shaky. I'm overweight, but try not to obsess about 'slimming'. I also have arthritis in my hands and knees. I'm on state benefits, so I don't have much spare money.

I have tried many exercise classes and personal trainers at commercial gyms before I heard about BCG. As I stepped into my first session, everyone smiled and greeted me. I immediately felt I was in a supportive atmosphere. All through that session, I felt motivated and encouraged to try doing new things with my body. I felt safely held and valued. Rather than feeling intimidated, I began to feel brave. That's why I'm now a member of the co-op, contributing to developing its future, and still loving my training sessions there."

"Getting the opportunity to teach classes in BCG was like a dream coming true. Since the first day, I felt welcomed and accepted for who I am. BCG has been a life-changing experience and a positive ground for me to grow as a coach and as a person. Being able to participate in the designing and decision-making has made me feel respected and heard while also helping me learn more about the business aspect of my work."

"I am totally in love with BCG. It feels truly a held, knowledgeable, inclusive, safe, fun, social space. I've always had a virulent hatred of gyms to the point of almost being embarrassed at being 'caught' exercising but have happily come to realise how much exercising supports my mental health and feeling good.

BCG is a magic tonic for the physical and mental. I feel very lucky to get to attend and for the lovely people it draws together. We all arrive in various states with all the bumps of life but leave again smiling and just that bit stronger and more hopeful."

What our partners are saying

"Access Sport are really excited to be working with Bristol Co-operative Gym to help ensure their services are disability inclusive. They’re really passionate about supporting all members of the local community and have embedded accessible design from the start, rather than as an afterthought. They have not shied away from the additional costs this involves and are seeking support to make this possible. This development will be a huge asset to the local community and bring all-important physical, mental and social benefits to all the diverse individuals who engage with their services, safe in the knowledge that they will be welcomed with open arms." Lizzie Edgecombe, Disability Inclusion Development Manager, Access Sport.

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"Bricks is delighted to host Bristol Co-operative Gym as a tenant at St Annes House. Their inclusive and people-focused approach really resonated with us and our community partners. As we move forward we are really excited about how our programmes can interweave as there are so many crossovers and synergies between the two organisations based on shared approach and values. Their designs for the renovation look fantastic and we can't wait to see it come to life." Jack Gibbon, Director, Bricks

"At OTR we have a strong emphasis on inclusion and anti-oppressive practice as part of our work, so working with an inclusive, body-positive gym that pro-actively avoids the problematic aspects of more typical gym culture is absolutely bang on for what we're trying to achieve when working with young people. We want all young people to be able to access physical activity where they can, and a broader range of equipment and inclusive space at BCG would be a massive step forward in making that happen. We are really keen to keep working with BCG and reach even more young people from communities that are often over-looked." Tom Antebi, Sports Works Coordinator, Off the Record

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Members and coaches worked with with local architects 2A1M to design our ideal training environment.

We have taken advice throughout the process from experts in accessible, inclusive and community-engaged approaches to fitness (these conversations will be released during the campaign as a podcast series called The Good Gym Guide).

The result is radically different to how conventional gyms look and feel.

This space is accessible, welcoming and flexible - with plenty of space for both training and chatting.

Our gym will include people who are often excluded from fitness spaces by partnering proactively with specialist organisations in the communities we hope to reach.

Every aspect of the design is removable and adaptable to any space.

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Our gym design includes:

Accessibility as a core requirement

To ensure we built in accessibility from the beginning rather than just making adaptations later on, we have consulted with experts in disability-aware gym design throughout this process.

Examples of access considerations in the space include:

  • Control of light and sound levels
  • Equipment storage and gym decoration that doesn't feel too visually busy
  • Removal of obstacles and trip hazards
  • Part of the space that can be partitioned off as a more private training environment
  • Clear signage and use of colour to demarcate functions of spaces and storage
  • Consideration of the floor and wall textures
  • Equipment that is easy to move
  • Equipment that is flexible and adaptable rather than serving a single fixed purpose
  • All coat hooks, shelving, Swedish ladders etc. adaptable to any height
  • Space between equipment and large enough doors for wheelchairs
  • Dog bowl for service dogs!

Storage and seating wall

A multi-functional unit will store equipment in a way that is clearly labelled and easy to access, while also providing comfortable seating for socialising. The bottom tier is made of plyometric boxes that can be used for exercise, yet also be joined together to form seating for film screenings and presentations.

All heavy equipment will be accessible and low down, with higher shelving for plants and decoration to make the space inviting.

Comfortable, versatile flooring

Thick rubber flooring through the space will give us flexibility to exercise anywhere in the room. It will be more comfortable on everyone’s knees, easier to clean, and better for acoustic insulation.

Adaptable equipment

We were fortunate to inherit second-hand equipment from generous gyms in the past. After years of use, much of it is in need of replacement.

To improve accessibility, we will have squat racks that are easier to move and adjust, one extra-sturdy power rack for heavier lifts, benches that suit all body sizes, and lighter barbells for beginner lifters.

Welcoming atmosphere

The atmosphere will be relaxed and friendly, making people feel comfortable arriving for the first time.

They will be greeted by a bright, open space with art on the wall. Intimidating-looking equipment will be out of sight.

Coir matting on the floor will encourage members to remove their outdoor shoes. Notice boards provide updates on the gym and community events. There will be plenty of space for personal belongings.

Spatial improvements

Currently the space is set up like an office, with a suspended ceiling, harsh lighting and lots of plug sockets.

Removing the ceiling tiles would give us more vertical space, exposing the concrete above. We would make the lighting softer.

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Rewards


The pricing suggested for each reward is a guide only - if you are able to give any more than what is asked for, that will come to us as a pure donation! Thank you!

For more details about all of the rewards we're offering, see our Instagram.

Events

We will be hosting a unique fundraising event on Saturday 9th April - the Bristol Co-operative Games. To attend, register your interest and then donate here before the event.

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Work with our coaches

Enjoy our unique approach from anywhere in the world or in-person with these follow-along classes and workshops:

  • A special series of follow-along classes from each of our coaches
  • Private Punk Aerobics party in-person with Charlie
  • Write your own Training Plan online workshop with Guy
  • Interactive History of "Good" Posture online workshop with Guy
  • Exercise and Lower Back Pain online workshop with Isidora
  • Core Stability for Weightlifting online workshop with Isidora

Discounts from our partners

We are delighted to offer a range of generous discounts from friends of the gym:

Your name in our gym

Be remembered and appreciated foreverrr by:

  • Adding your name to our funder wall
  • Naming a kettlebell
  • Sponsoring a barbell

Merch!

The fantastic illustrator and co-op member Jayde Perkin has created two limited-edition t-shirt designs to support our campaign:

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We have a whole range of other merch too:

  • Postcards
  • Button badges
  • Embroidered patches
  • Now That's What I Call BCG Training Montage Music compilation
  • A-Z of Strength Training zine

And you can get all the above (apart from the black t-shirt) for £80.

Why support us

A movement against mainstream fitness culture is gaining momentum. The toxic nature of fitness and diet culture stops us experiencing the pleasure and benefits of exercise.

There are more and more coaches offering an alternative but no gyms that have been built from scratch specifically with this in mind.

The importance of community spaces has been highlighted by the isolation many experienced over the last two years.

We believe our unique model can establish gyms as powerful spaces to connect with people. The effects reach far beyond the gym and benefit our communities.

We dream of a fitness future where community-run spaces provide accessible and social exercise.

With your help, we are proud to demonstrate how well this can work.

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Rewards

This project offers rewards in return for your donation

£1 or more

Our eternal gratitude

Some people have asked for the option to donate without receiving anything in return. If you'd like that, this is the reward for you! Thank you!

£4 or more

Doughnut Prize Draw!

Buy your *golden ticket* for this Prize Draw to win a box of six amazing vegan Future Doughnuts! *Bristol only*

£5 or more

6 of 20 claimed

15% discount on nail art at Buff Bar

Get a discount off lush nails from this independent, ethical, super-creative LGBTQ+ nail salon.

£5 or more

Gym Logo Button Badge

Our hexagon dumbbell logo as a badge! THE must-have accessory for Spring/Summer '22.

£5 or more

30 of 40 claimed

*Golden Token* for Coffee and Cake at Farro Bakery

This *ACTUAL SHINY GOLDEN COIN* can be redeemed for £5 of produce at Farro Bakery - perfect for a coffee and one of their unbelievable pastries. *Pick up in Bristol only*

£7 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Boston Tea Party reusable cup and a bag of coffee

Get 20% off a reusable cup and bag of good coffee from this independent South West café group.

£8 or more

Now That's What I Call BCG Training Montage Music

A playlist of favourite workout tunes from our co-op members chosen in answer to the question "what would be the soundtrack to your Rocky-style training montage?". A pretty diverse selection including Eddie Floyd, Sacred Paws and Selda Bağcan... Guaranteed to make you stronger* (*not guaranteed)

£10 or more

Your name on our funders wall

As part of our design we have a wall listing everybody who helped make this dream a reality, to remind of us of the community behind our gym. Anyone who donates more than £10 will be included on the wall.

£12 or more

A-Z of Strength Training Zine

Over the lockdowns, when we were doing all our classes online, our coach Guy put together an A-Z of strength training to structure the workouts around. From A for Akharas to Z for Zander, discover a history of training in this little zine.

£12 or more

BCG Embroidered Logo Patch

Accessorise your gym bag / hoodie / whatever with this lush patch of our hexagon logo. Or buy loads and stitch them together for the ultimate gym shorts. Measures 75mm x 75mm. No adhesive or iron-on backing, so it needs to be stitched on (which lasts longer anyway).

£15 or more

A special collection of follow-along classes

Work with our coaches wherever you are in the world with this series of specially-recorded classes - warm up for running with Zoe, get stronger using your own bodyweight with Millie, build core stability with Isidora, and get fitter through HIIT with Guy and Punk Aerobics with Charlie. You'll be able to access and repeat these workouts at any time.

£16 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Buff Bar Goodie Bag

Save 20% on this goodie bag containing cuticle oil and a lush Buff Bar tote bag and badges. *Pick up in Bristol*

£38 or more

23 of 25 claimed

Limited *Black* Jayde Perkin We Hate Gyms T-shirt

We have a special treat for the first 20 people who claim this reward - Jayde has designed the much-requested black t-shirt with our good ol' slogan "We Hate Gyms Too" across the front! Printed on organic cotton Stanley/Stella Creator shirts with sustainable inks.

£38 or more

Jayde Perkin Overhead Press T-shirt

The amazing artist and co-op member Jayde Perkin has designed this t-shirt especially for the crowdfunder. Two pals lifting weights together! Dark orange ink on an off-white shirt. Printed on organic cotton Stanley/Stella Creator t-shirts with sustainable inks.

£60 or more

0 of 12 claimed

Exercise and Lower Back Pain Online Workshop

Join our coach and corrective exercise specialist Isidora Vlachou for this online workshop exploring common characteristics of lower back pain, how to adapt your training and reduce the likelihood of it occurring again. (This is not a diagnostic workshop but intended to support you after having seen a specialist)

£60 or more

2 of 12 claimed

Core Stability for Weightlifting Online Workshop

Strong, safe lifts start from a stable core. Our coach Isidora Vlachou is a corrective exercise specialist and in this online workshop she'll lead you through activation drills, positioning and bracing during exercise. Expect a mix of theory and practice, giving you informed techniques you can apply to your exercise routine.

£60 or more

2 of 20 claimed

Interactive History of "Good" Posture Workshop

Explore the fascinating origins of common ideas about “good posture" and how well they fit with the current scientific literature, the potential real downside of extended periods of sitting and some exercises and ideas that can help. Led by Guy Lochhead, we’ll try out popular resting postures from all over the world and consider the many reasons why we sit and stand in the ways we do.

£80 or more

0 of 3 claimed

Private Punk Aerobics Party!

Charlie Bones offers the chance to enjoy one of her iconic Punk Aerobics sessions privately with a group of friends. *Bristol only*

£80 or more

All the merch!

Get the postcard, badge, patch, compilation, zine, and overhead press t-shirt for £10 less than if you got them all separately! Co-op gym everything!

£100 or more

3 of 10 claimed

DIY Training Plan

If you can't train with us in Bristol (or even if you can!), work with our coach Guy Lochhead to put together an effective, sustainable, fully individualised training plan and apply our approach to fitness to wherever else you'd like to train. This will be delivered in the form of three online workshops.

£100 or more

Setting up a Co-op Gym Consultation Call

Thinking of setting up a co-operative gym? Please let us help! In this call, we can answer any questions you may have and advise on the process, from organisational structures to governance to managing your finances to building a team to delivering sessions, we've learned a lot over the last 5 years and would love to help!

£150 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Rhizome's Herbal Medicine Foundation Course

Get a 20% discount on this 6 week online course from our local community herbalists, taking you on an in-depth journey to look at herbs that grow in the local area and discover their fascinating uses so you can start building your first herbal medicine chest. The course runs on Zoom on Thursday evenings 19:30-20:30 from 28th April.

£250 or more

0 of 20 claimed

Name a Kettlebell

We have 20 kettlebells in need of names. With this reward, you could name them! Pay tribute to someone (or yourself), make us endure some awful pun, or just go with the inevitable Kettlebell McKettlebellface. Thanks in advance...

£250 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Up to £350 Credit at RyanBuildsWheels

Ryan is a co-op member and one of the UK's very best custom bicycle wheel builders. With this reward, he will match your donation as credit at RyanBuildsWheels, up to a limit of £350. This is an amazing opportunity to get a chunky discount on a really high quality bike build.

£250 or more

0 of 10 claimed

All the online classes and workshops

Join us from wherever you are in the world. This tier includes the special follow-along classes as well as the Exercise and Lower Back Pain, Core Stability for Weightlifting, Undoing Sitting and DIY Training Plan workshops. Save 15% compared to if you'd got them all separately.

£500 or more

3 of 9 claimed

Sponsor a barbell

With this reward we'll ask you to create or collaborate on a custom design for the end cap of one of our eight barbells. Add your touch to this iconic piece of strength training equipment and be remembered every time we train!

£500 or more

1 of 10 claimed

A Year of Programming with Online Support

Bespoke, adaptable training that complements your life, delivered through our coach Guy's own app. Beginning with an in-depth consultation, Guy will develop truly personalised programming for you to complete wherever you are and then check in every month to refine things. This price gives you 12 months for the price of ten.

£1,000 or more

CSR Donation

Hellooo, generous business! We will report back to you in detail with how many people have been impacted as a result of your anonymous donation towards the success of our crowdfunder so you can include this in your corporate social responsibility reporting! Thank you!!

£10 or more

1 of 1 claimed

Bristol Bike Project T-shirt

An ethically-produced organic cotton t-shirt of your choice from legendary bike co-op Bristol Bike Project - pick your favourite design at their workshop on Stapleton Road.

£10 or more

1 of 1 claimed

Bristol Bike Project Cycling Cap

Channel your inner Jacques Anquetil with a cap of your choice from legendary bike co-op Bristol Bike Project - pick your favourite design at their workshop on Stapleton Road.

£12 or more

2 of 2 claimed

Tea for Two at Better Food Company

Bristol's local, organic and ethical deli are offering tea for two, to be redeemed at any of their cafés at Wapping Wharf, St. Werburgh's, Clifton or Gloucester Road.

£12 or more

5 of 5 claimed

Bristol Cable t-shirt

The Cable is a not-for-profit member-owned media company pioneering a more effective form of local newspaper. They have donated these t-shirts which are usually only available to people as part of their referral scheme.

£18 or more

2 of 2 claimed

£20 Credit at Bristol Wood Recycling Project

BWRP is a co-operative social enterprise transforming waste wood into shared assets. This reward gives you £20 to spend in their woodshop in St. Philips. Two are available!

£18 or more

1 of 1 claimed

£20 Gift Card at the Good Store

£20 credit for £18 at this lifestyle and homeware shop on Old Market stocking a range of items from independent producers - clothes, jewellery, toiletries, cards and stationary... All sorts! A great birthday gift for a friend... Or yourself!

£20 or more

1 of 1 claimed

Two Tickets for any Show at the Exchange

Enjoy a night out at this local community-owned, not-for-profit, independent music venue on Old Market! This offer can be redeemed for any show that's not sold out. RRP can be up to £60 depending on the show, so this could end up being a great arrangement!

£20 or more

1 of 1 claimed

Dinner for Two at the Plough

This legendary Bristol pub has kindly donated a dinner for two. We used to hold our socials here when we were based at All Hallows Hall. It's an excellent pub with great Sunday roasts..!

£25 or more

1 of 1 claimed

£25 Voucher for the Bristol Folk House

The Folk House is a Bristol institution providing part-time day and evening courses and workshops covering a really diverse range of skills - arts, crafts, photography, pottery, writing, performance, languages, fitness, wellbeing, food... This voucher can be redeemed against the cost of any of their workshops and courses over the next year.

£28 or more

1 of 1 claimed

1.5l Sail-Shipped Spanish Olive Oil

Save 20% on this delicious extra virgin oil from centenarian olive groves in Extremadura, produced by the Retamar family for generations and sailed to the UK by Feral Trade - a freight network running outside commercial systems. *Pick up in Bristol only*

£30 or more

1 of 1 claimed

A Year of Bristol Cable Membership

The Bristol Cable is co-owned by its members, all of whom can have a say in which stories to cover and the broad direction of the organisation. Membership starts at £36 / year so this is an opportunity to save a little money while supporting an important and innovative model of journalism.

£40 or more

1 of 1 claimed

Classic Shena Push-up Board from Body Mind Fit

Body Mind Fit have very kindly donated this shena push-up board, as used in the Persian varzesh-e pahlavāni training systems. We are offering this with 20% off RRP. Get a bargain, develop strength and mobility using ancient techniques, and support our cause at the same time!

£55 or more

1 of 1 claimed

Persian Meel from Body Mind Fit

This stunning handcrafted meel has been donated to us by Body Mind Fit, whose functional and sustainable equipment draws on traditional exercise cultures from across the world. Meels are swung for power, strength and mobility in the Persian varzesh-e pahlavāni warrior training systems. We are able to sell this for 20% off RRP.

£65 or more

1 of 1 claimed

Indian Clubs from Body Mind Fit

Body Mind Fit's range of functional and sustainable equipment draws on traditional exercise cultures from across the world. They have very kindly donated these high quality 1.1kg Indian Clubs with a slight imperfection so we can offer them with 25% off RRP. Get a bargain, develop strength and mobility using ancient techniques, and support our cause at the same time!

£80 or more

1 of 1 claimed

Pelvic floor health assessment

The specialist physiotherapist Helen Hodder, who hosted our popular Pelvic Floor Health Café a couple of years ago, has kindly donated this initial assessment for free! We are offering it at £10 off RRP.

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