Welcome to Save the SpArC

More Than a SpArC of Life!

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!’

The Council are now considering ‘phase 2’ of reopening; looking at how they can reintroduce family swimming, swimming lessons, use of the MUGA and squash courts, and extending the number of activities available. 
All of these activities are important to the Centre and the Community and further information will be available soon.
Tell us what you think!
The SpArC Charity is meeting with SC on September 30 to review the first month of operation. There were a number of issues in the first week, but some may have been resolved.
If you have comments – good or bad – would you give/email them to one of the following trustees; See the list on the Trustees page



This is an eventful day for SpArC

Calor CAFÉ – WE WON!

The SpArC Charity had already gathered £2,653 net from Crowdfunding, and have now won £5,000 from Calor itself!
It will take patience as the Centre needs to stabilise and the Pocket Park get moving before the Café can be introduced, but we will get there!
For more information see the Latest News page



Council have worked hard at SpArC . . . .

A group of Trustees visited SpArC at the start of this week, and were very pleasantly surprised at the amount of work that has been done over the lockdown. Corridors have been painted, floors repaired or replaced, and ventilation tested in the Sports Hall, Fitness Suite and pool.
PPE is in place, along with a one-way system which will take some getting used to, but which works because there are so many doors. Those of us who have missed the gallery since the entrance moved, will see it again! Shropshire Council’s plan is to open the Sports Hall (for classes with 17 places), the fitness suite (for 8 users) and the pool (for 14 swimmers.
When we congratulated Shropshire Council for the progress made, Peter Davis responded: We are pleased to be able to show SPARC trustees around the centre and share with them the results of the incredibly hard work undertaken by the Centre manager and staff team to prepare for the re- opening of the centre, the date of which we hope to be able to confirm shortly.

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.