Very best wishes for 2021 to all SpArC supporters and users
We hope that this will be the start of a return to normal life again and Welcome Back!

SHROPSHIRE COUNCIL are delighted that our sites will reopen for indoor activities (excluding classes) on Monday 12th April 2021 (subject to additional Government guidance)

SpArC Bishops Castle will be open at the following times for telephone bookings and enquiries only:

·      Wednesday 31st March 9-3pm

·      Wednesday 7th April 9-3pm

·      Friday 9th April 9-1pm

Monday 12th April onwards – normal operating hours

When you return to SpArC, you will see large areas of wilderness both at the front and back, now that the undergrowth has been cleared away. You will also see two streams, which explain our request for bog plants. We have commissioned the first phase of recreation of the park – landscaping and the erection of decking at the front, near the entrance. We hope that this will be completed by the end of June, ready for work to start at the back, but deadlines have been fated to date.

500 CLUB Don’t forget our brand new 500 club!
Full details including Membership Application Forms are now available to download from our website www.savethesparc.org.
When you reach the website, click on the SpArC 500 Club heading.
You can also get forms and details from Enterprise House – 01588 638038 or email sparc500club@gmail.com
and from SpArC Charity Trustees and, from April 12, from the SpArC reception desk and Enterprise House in person.

We have received an interim payment of £219, for the first 5 months of our year’s income from the Co-op’s Local Community Fund. However, they tell us that £1,462.85 has been unclaimed as many co-op members still haven’t chosen a cause to support. You can sign up to become a Co-op Member by visiting coop.co.uk/membership or downloading the Co-op App atcoop.co.uk/coop-app.
You can then select us as your cause, by clicking on this link:
You can also call the Membership Support Centre on 0800 0686 727 to become a Member and select a cause. Every time a member buys selected Co-op own brand products anywhere in the UK, 1p of every pound they spend is allocated to a local cause.
If this is your first choice of the year, even though late, you will receive the full total raised through your shopping since November 2020. The important thing is to swipe your membership card. Our aim is to use this money to buy water play equipment to boost children’s water confidence and increase parents’ social confidence; both of which have been dented by Covid restrictions.

Gwyneth Owen, long-term manager of the Centre, is retiring in May. Gwyneth has seen many changes at the centre – its major rebuild and subsequent refurbishments, the opening of the theatre, the establishment of the MUGA, and the introduction of GP referrals.
She has enthusiastically supported the fundraising efforts of the Save the SpArC campaign, particularly the Pocket Park. I’m sure that I speak for SpArC supporters in wishing her a long and happy retirement. We will certainly have some adjusting to do!

Several people have asked how to contribute to Gwyneth’s leaving present. Shropshire Council are setting up a link to make on-line donations, and we will pass it on as soon as It is known.

The post of duty manager is permanent and full-time, with a closing date of 7.4.21, interviews on 12.4.21 and a planned start date of 3.5.21.


THANKS TO SpArC STAFF and looking forward to seeing you again as soon as possible!

It seems a long time ago now but, in December, SpArC users made a collection for a staff Christmas box. When the money was counted, the day before the current lockdown, it totaled £250! Nothing can better show the value put on the Centre and the extent to which it is missed.

People who attended theatre events between lockdowns were so impressed by the work put in by Liz and her volunteers to ensure both their enjoyment and safety. The table service, in particular, was much appreciated and an excellent model for the future.

Co-op community Fund
We were really pleased when the co-op announced its Community Fund donation of £1,810 to the theatre, and hope that similar support is given to this year’s co-op sponsorship of the SpArC Centre.

More details to follow but there will be two roadside plant stalls again, one in Welsh St. and one further up at The Cabin from April 1st, selling plants in aid of SpArC, both with honesty boxes. If you are beginning to sow or separate plants this month, will you give a thought to donating a couple, please?
Contact Kate Evans katetheplate@gmail.com

Also, is there anyone else willing to run a stall, however small, perhaps in one of the outlying vallages?

Pocket Park
And finally, if you have spare bog or water plants, please cherish them. We will need as many as we can find for the Pocket Park – about which you will hear lots more shortly. Shropshire Council has started during the lockdown.

Very best wishes for 2021 to all SpArC supporters.

And a great big thank you to all of the lovely staff at SpArC who have looked after all their clients-customers-friends so carefully and well during all of this – and to all the volunteers who have helped out, from fundraisers to ticket takers and seat rakers.
And thank you too to Shropshire Council for supporting us throughout this difficult time.

When SpArc opened after the second lockdown, it was busy – with classes almost fully booked – from the first week. In spite of rigorous social distancing, people like Lynne shared their experiences with each other:
Recovering from a back injury earlier this year motivated me to early morning Pilates at the Sparc Leisure centre. After lockdown monotony, what a relief to see friends & acquaintances again, greeting me with a happy smile and a kind word. 
Everyone there wants to keep fit physically and mentally. The class is wonderfully taught by the warm-hearted Lucy, who is really considerate about everyone. When she says at the end of each session “take a moment for yourself’, my thought is “you need to push yourself because no one is going to do it for you”.
We must try and support our local SpArC as it is a golden asset to our community.  Why not look at what is on offer in January?

The entire Centre will be closed from Thursday December 24 – Sunday January 3 inclusive, which gives us three weeks to decide. One way to chase out the worst year in many of our lives will be to take up something new and safe. SpArC fits the bill.

How did it go? The Centre reopened on the 24th August following an incredible amount of hard work from site staff and leisure officers, with access to the fitness suite, exercise classes and the pool.
Peter Davis of Shropshire Council reported that “we have all been learning to adapt to the new procedures; praise to the staff but we also appreciate the response by users who have been extremely patient and helpful. The majority of people returning appear to have been comfortable with the approach taken by the Council and felt completely safe. In addition, current members and those whose membership lapsed while the Centre was closed, have nothing to pay until October 1.” Comments include
Just had a brilliant first exercise session back… It was clean, organised, clear and I felt ‘COVID safe’. Thank you team Sparc! Great to be back.

‘Today was a joy to swim again, the organisation is fabulous and clearly shows that staff have thought very carefully about making it as safe as possible. As changing rooms are not available the poolside arrangement of your belongings allowed a quick dry down with your towel…. it worked well for me. ‘

‘Pilates was super; the sports hall was far better than I expected, the spacing works really well’

‘We’ve just had our first gym session since lockdown and wanted to say how well organised it all was and how helpful the staff. Welcome back!’

SpArC Theatre
There is currently even more uncertainty around arts venues reopening than there is around Leisure Centres. The SpArC theatre is working towards a plan for opening in October and hopes to have a gallery exhibition in September to coincide with or soon after the Leisure Centre opening. Meanwhile the theatre newsletters still give links to great theatre, film and arts experiences online. If you would like to go on the mailing list, please email. Liz@sparctheatre.co.uk

This was not our favourite income generating project but, nevertheless, we have been shortlisted to receive £5,000 from Calor for a café at SpArC.
The first stage took the form of Crowdfunding. With a target of £2,000, nearly £4,000 was collected – a brilliant achievement given that the Centre was in Covid closure, so it was really hard to get the message around. We were really grateful, particularly to those people who helped near the end. Shortlisting was based on the number of supporters – 22 projects chosen from a total of 160. Judges will reveal the winners on August 19. 11 will receive £5,000 and 11 runners up £500.
Covid will inevitably cause some delays. Once the Centre re-opens, planning can start on creating a Pocket Park around it, funded by a grant also gained by the SpArC Charity. The café will follow.


Spin bikes arrive at SpArC

18 top-of-the-range brand new spin bikes were delivered to SpArC on Friday ready for when the leisure centre reopens – which everyone hopes will be soon. A photo of three of them is attached.

Purchased by the Save the SpArC charity in Bishop’s Castle from Tenth Avenue Leisure Ltd, the new Life Fitness IC2 Indoor Cycles with Consoles were delivered first thing Friday morning.  These new bikes will replace the 14 old ones and will help to enhance the experience and capacity of the popular spin classes.

Kevin Bavastock, Trustee and keen cyclist said “we are very pleased to have been in a position to fund the new bikes. Thanks as always have to go to our dedicated fundraisers and loyal community who have helped to raise funds or made donations for purchases such as this”

Peter Davis, Leisure Services Manager at Shropshire Council said “ we are very grateful to the Save the SpArC charity for their generous  purchase of these spin bikes.  They will certainly help to improve the sport and physical activity offer at SpArC”. Attachments area

Now we are just waiting for the OK to open again, so we can get on our bikes!!!!!!!


The Save the SpArC  charity has been shortlisted for a grant from the Calor Rural Community Fund.

The charity have applied for £7k to install a simple café at the centre.  Having got through the first stage of the application process we are now approaching the public vote stage which is where we hope you can all help.

Voting for the Save the SpArC charity in the Calor  Rural Community Fund  for a simple café at the centre is only a few days away. Voting goes live on 4th June.  The more votes received the better the chance of securing a grant . 

When you click on the link below you will be asked to register as a guest and provide your name and email address in order to vote.


An additional 10 votes are awarded  to everyone who makes a donation.  If you are able to make a donation you can give the charity a head start on the leader board by voting and donating on day 1 or as soon as possible after the voting opens. 

However we know money is tight and getting tighter by the day for many people due to Covid 19 so we are not asking you to do this.  What we  really want is  your vote and those of your friends and family.  If you can ask 10 friends to vote and they do the same that would be fantastic 

Voting opens on 4 June and closes on 16 July.


SHROPSHIRE COUNCIL Some really good news!

Charges for the use of all SpArC services and facilities will remain for 2020/21 exactly the same as the previous year. In addition, 18 new spin bikes have been ordered to be installed for the Centre’s opening date. The sanding, sealing and re-lining of the sports hall floor starts next week and will take 2 weeks to complete.  

Most staff have transferred to Shropshire Council. A few, notably Dan Lewis, have decided not to continue at SpArC. Dan will extend his work with the County Sports Partnership and develop fitness instructing on a self-employed basis; we all wish him well with his new ventures.  Elaina Owen will no longer be duty manager, but will continue to teach swimming lessons, so we will still benefit from her vast knowledge and experience.The Council is recruiting for additional key positions, although the current situation could delay the process. 

SC has set up social media accounts for SpArC Bishops Castle leisure Centre: https://www.facebook.com/BishopsCastleLeisure/ 


2016-02-19 10

Windfall for SpArC

to benefit local young people

The Trustees of the SpArC charity have recently received a significant windfall of nearly £17k from another charity called the “Christian Adventure Trust”, which decided to close and transfer its remaining funds to SpArC on the condition that the monies would be invested in the provision of opportunities for local young people to acquire skills, experience and qualifications in an educational or working environment.

Graham Hemmings, Trustee and Treasurer said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to receive this funding and to be able to use it for the benefit of our local young people. We hope that this in turn will enable our young people to contribute to a wider range and improved quality of services in the future for the benefit of everyone in the local community”

The Trustees of the Save the SpArC charity intend to work with local employers, schools and colleges to develop opportunities and will publicise funding opportunities later this year.




August 2019

Thank you to everyone who completed the SpArC questionnaire resulting from the public meeting in June. It produced a host of really helpful comments and suggestions that will be invaluable in planning.
Meanwhile, Shropshire Council needs a formal, on-line consultation process to make sure that all possible views are collected. So, even if you responded to the previous questionnaire, will you follow the link below to give your views,
by the end of October?
It would also be good if you could forward it to any other users you know, including visitors.

Many thanks,   SpArC Charity



The trustees of the Save The SpArC charity have recently raised with Teme Leisure a number of your comments and concerns which we hope will help to improve the service now and in the future.
While we are happy to continue doing this, however, we would also encourage you to send your own messages and comments using the Teme “Talk to us” card which can be found at SpArC reception.
If you would like us to raise any concerns on your behalf, or you want to share any of your comments or concerns with Trustees, please contact us via this page, send a message or email us at sparctrustees@gmail.com

June 2019
Another big milestone for SpArC

The Council dropped a bombshell at a packed-out public meeting in Bishop’s Castle on Thursday 12 June. Mark Barrow, Executive Director of Place for Shropshire Council along with other senior council officers outlined the Council’s plans for the future of the SpArC centre:

  • The current operator has been served notice as from 31 March 2020.
  • The Centre will revert to being operated by Shropshire Council which already directly operates leisure centres at Much Wenlock, Idsall and Roman Road in Shrewsbury.
  • The jobs of all the staff at SpArC are guaranteed
  • The Council see SpArC as having the potential for significant development as a vibrant Centre supporting communities across SW Shropshire.

There were no further details, especially no financial plan, so much is still unknown. It is hoped that the business plan created by the SpArC charity will be of use in the undoubtedly complex process which will follow. However there was a most positive vibe throughout the meeting which bodes well for the future and the involvement of the local community in developing the centre.

The audience had the opportunity to ask questions of both Shropshire Council and the SpArC Trustees and did so with enthusiasm.

There was overwhelming support for the Theatre and the positive impact it has on the community with much praise for the accessible film screening held monthly.

We (the Council and the Charity) would really like to hear your views on how the Centre could develop in the future. A short questionnaire is available in the library, Town Hall and Enterprise House for returning by 24.6.19.
Please will you do this and share with any other clubs or groups that you know.

The Save the SpArC campaign began in 2016 in response to fears that our precious Leisure Centre might close, after the Council announced it would withdraw funding for leisure services across the county. Following a furious outcry, Bishops Castle and district residents persuaded them to change their mind and designate SpArC as one of only two ‘Rural Hubs’ in the whole county to escape the axe.
It took almost a year to form a registered charity – Sport and Arts in the Community (SpArC) South West Shropshire (Reg.no. 1170997), which, if not the snappiest name in the world, is now up and running and has raised £150,000 to date, with  the enthusiastic efforts of trustees, volunteers and residents from the whole district. (for details of trustees, fundraisers etc, see Who’s Who page)
Discussions continue with Shropshire Council as to how SpArC may operate in the future.  In the meantime, it has confirmed its £80k annual subsidy up to 2020 – a major triumph for all of us, although the future is by no means certain.
In 2018 Shropshire Council allocated £100,000 for urgently needed repairs to the changing rooms and other parts of the pool building. A new pool dehumidifier has already been installed, which is working well. All remaining works happened after Christmas.


  1. What have we done? Our Communities have come a very long way since April 2015 when Shropshire Council (SC) announced that all subsidies to the Leisure Sector would be withdrawn by April 2017:
  • The SpArC Charity was established in January 2017.
  • It has raised a total of £150k including donations from business and private donors, local councils, community funds and fund-raising activities.
  • Trustees drew up a sustainable Business Plan for the Centre based on opportunities identified in the report which we and SC commissioned from Energize, a local Sport & Leisure consultancy
  • SpArC was awarded Tier 1 Leisure Hub status by SC in July 2017
  • A soft market test in March 2018 confirmed sufficient interest from contractors to justify a full tender process for the management of SpArC.
  • Work commenced on the full tender in July 2018 with three trustees working closely with SC. It was halted in September.
  1. What do we want?
    We want to put in place a strategy to maintain and develop SpArC – in five areas – for the benefit of all members of the communities it serves, in a cost-effective manner.
  2. How far have we got?
    Activity has been inevitably curtailed by delay, but progress includes:
  • Leisure and Sport SpArC staff themselves have maximized access to classes, insofar as this was within their power. We persuaded Teme to hire modern spinning bikes, and SC to install a new pool dehumidifier and refurbish the changing rooms.
  • Theatre and Arts We have a very successful Theatre & Arts facility. Our current wish is to support its financing by promoting Theatre Friends.
  • Health and welfare SpArC staff have substantially increased GP referrals. This has led to a need for more gym space, equipment and low-impact classes – which is currently blocked.
  • Education 60 young people have gained qualifications which made possible school holiday activities in both leisure and arts. They have also prevented pool closures through lack of staff. The pool currently provides swimming sessions to some 950 local school pupils.
  • Community Liaison Although current operators have distanced themselves from the community, sufficient other providers are interested in tendering to run the Centre in partnership on a “not-for-profit” basis.
  1. What happens next?
    Sparc is a gem which we have managed to save from closure; we must now develop its full potential for the benefit of our community.
  •  We have at last been informed of a plan to allow the tender process to re-commence.
    We need to replace income from fund-raising with more regular committed sources of income, which include:
  • a local council funding initiative
  • the launch of a 500-membership monthly lottery
  • an appeal to targeted private donors

These will help to fill the gap left by subsidy reductions which are likely to be phased in over the first five years of the new contract.

Finally, we will invest in match-funding grants to finance cost saving initiatives including renewable energy.

We are very keen to welcome any ideas, views or comments – please let us know – use the form on the contact us page.