On May 1st the Exmoor Gym in Dulverton will stand empty. The treadmills won’t be running. Nobody will be using the weights. The staff will be out of work. Cobwebs will start to form over the equipment - for absolutely NO good reason.
With less than a week to go before the doors are locked, most of our members are devastated about the closure – some have even been in tears.
But really, it’s just a little local gym, right? In the scheme of things, who cares?
1610 Ltd (formerly Somerset Leisure) who manage the facility clearly don’t. The town and district councillors have tried talking to them. The church has tried talking to them. The Save Exmoor gym group has tried. The press has tried.
Our MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, is now firmly on side and has called 1610’s attitude ‘outrageous.’ What nobody can understand is why the charity (yes, unbelievably they are a registered charity) is ignoring pleas to keep the much-loved gym open and why it is also refusing point blank to discuss handing over control to a committed group of people who have the will and expertise to run it. 1610, it seems, continue to put profit above community.
But the people of Exmoor care. They care a lot. They care because they are using the gym for rehab, for getting fit, for staying healthy, for keeping in touch, for feeling part of something, however small. They are real people - not just statistics.
|Rob, Jane and Charlie Day. Photo (c) Dawn-Marie Williams|
Let me introduce you to the Day family - Rob, Jane and Charlie. Rob is 42 and he is fighting cancer. He is the most incredibly upbeat, positive guy you could meet - and he needs the gym to help keep him fit while he undergoes treatment for that bastard disease. It's not exactly a bed of roses for Jane and Charlie either - but the gym and the support of the people there help - a little.
They're not the only real people who're suffering here. Let me introduce you to a few more people who care... A few more people whom 1610 is ignoring. Real people, not statistics.
Alex Kelly cares: “I am eleven years old and live in Winsford. I go to the gym after school with my friends. The gym is very important to me and I think that this is really unfair.”
Pam Gascoyne cares: “I am 68 and have never had a regular exercise programme before joining the gym. I am starting to feel great and wish I'd started sooner. I cannot understand this 'closure'. My next nearest gym facility is in Tiverton a long ride some 25 miles over the moor.”
Jan Potts cares: “I have recently undergone physio rehabilitation therapy. Having just reached the stage where I can attend the gym I return to find that 1610 do not recognise the value of the facility or its exceptionally talented staff and want to close it down.”
Jackie Kelly cares: “The gym has made a huge difference not only to myself, but also my family. The positive effects on our health, emotional and physical, have been tremendous. 1610 clearly aren't committed to the health or well being of this rural community.”
Teresa Williams cares: “I want to rejoin in May, so that I can become fitter and stronger, physically and mentally. But 1610 have decided to close. How much more do we need to protest, plead, shout before 1610 take notice?”
Karen Jarmarkier cares: “I joined the Exmoor Gym last November following a knee injury. At the time I was in desperate need of exercise and a serious mental boosting. The positive effects on my mental health, eating habits and knee stability have been immense. Living in such a rural community, it is very easy to drift into isolation and hide away. I am so, so disappointed. So sad.”
But we will continue fighting. And, if 1610 refuse to keep the gym open, we will just have to open our own, won't we? :-)