August 10th 2021

SUMMER is still at SpArC!

Summer Holiday Programme

The August programme has been really well received – particularly for children and young people, in both Leisure and Arts.

To add to the picture,

·      From August 9, the gym will be open for three weeks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, in addition to its normal opening hours

·      For just one day – August 24 – inflatables will be in the pool. Sessions (11-12 and 12-1) must be pre-booked, with children paying £3 and adults £4.10.

·      SpArC Theatre has circulated information about three new events for September – Sept 16 film: Minari; Sept 21 film: Emma; Sept 23 live music: Anna Ash ( for more details)

Reception has a carousel of Time to talk to us cards. It would be really good if you could use this to give feedback to the Centre, particularly where things have worked well.

SpArC Safety Measures

The measures still in place include:
Protective screens at reception
Pre-booking of activities
Sanitising stations
Contactless or card payment where possible
Changing Rooms have re-opened, but with allocated changing areas around the pool for those who prefer this
Cleaning of equipment before & after use where appropriate
Customers encouraged to wear face masks
Some Fitness classes have returned to the Theatre, with a phased approach to increasing capacity
Indoor 5 a side, Badminton, Pickleball etc have resumed with no Covid restrictions
New Class timetables for the Swimming Pool and Exercise Classes have been released

Plant Stalls

All plant stalls are now closed, having generated an astonishing £1,673 for the SpArC Campaign. We would like to give huge thanks, not just to Jane, Kate and Sam who ran the stalls, but to all those who supported the venture by donating plants, pots and compost and buying plants.

The picture above shows some of the plants generously donated for both the Pocket Park and next year’s sales

SpArC 500 Club

Membership has now leapt from 46 to 70, with the next draw taking place on September 5.

We hope the club will maintain a regular income stream that can be invested in the Centre to develop the sports and arts offer in Bishop’s Castle for the benefit of South-West Shropshire residents. When it reaches its target of 500 members, there will be a 1st prize of £500, 2 x 2nd prizes of £250 and 3 x 3rd prizes of £100, for 11 months. The Christmas Draw will give a 1st prize of £2500, 2 x 2nd prizes of £1500 each and 3 x 3rd prizes of £1000 each.

Anyone interested in joining the 500 club can find the application forms  on the website or contact Sarah  at Enterprise House 01588 638038 email or call into the Centre in Station Street , Bishop’s Castle. 

First Draw for SpArC 500 Club

The very first draw for the new SpArC 500 Club in Bishop’s Castle took place on Monday 5th July at Enterprise House. Jean Shirley, Chair of the SpArC Charity, invited Bishop’s Castle Mayor Grant Perry and Deputy Mayor Josh Dickin to make the draw.

46 Numbers were entered, and the six winners shared a prize fund of £119.60 as follows:

1st £46 Jane Allard (number 22)

2nd £23 Michael Norris (number 40)

3rd £23 Tim Russell (number 28)

4th £9.20 Sue Rose (number 33)

5th £9.20 G Hemmings (number 9)

6th £9.20 Ann MacDonald (number 49)

The 500 club has been launched by the SpArC charity to generate a regular income steam that can be reinvested in the centre to improve and develop the sports and arts offer in Bishop’s Castle for the benefit of the local community. When it reaches its target of 500 members, there will be a 1st prize of £500, 2 x 2nd prizes of £250 and 3 x 3rd prizes of £100, for 11 months. The Christmas Draw will give a 1st prize of £2500, 2 x 2nd prizes of £1500 each and 3 x 3rd prizes of £1000 each.

We hope to double our membership by the next draw. Anyone interested in joining the 500 club can find the application forms  on the website or can contact Sarah  at Enterprise House 01588 638038 email or call into the Centre in Station street , Bishop’s Castle. 

June 2021

Garden Open

The pop-up plant stall at Kerry Rise, Kerry Green, Bishop’s Castle, SY9 5AR, has not only raised a welcome sum of money for a local cause but also SpArCed some interest in the garden itself. Part can be seen from the road but the area behind the house is not visible.

This small garden, on the site of a former council refuse tip, will be open for visitors between 2pm and 6pm on Saturday 12th June. There will be some photos of the site as it was 4 years ago, and others showing how it has developed and matured over this relatively short period of time. 

Also on view will be a collection of finds made whilst preparing the plot for planting and visitors are invited to count just how many varieties of edible fruit are growing here.

As the garden is small, only a few people will be allowed in at one time and it is suggested that appropriate COVID-protection measures be taken.

Plant sales and £1 entry fee for the benefit of SpArC.

May 17 2021

Exercise Classes started today, timetable shown below


·      5pm Fitness Pilates

·      6.15pm Full Body Tone

·      7.30 Studio Cycling, all with Lucy


·      8am Fitness Pilates

·      9.15am Aerobics and Tone

·      10.30am Fitness Pilates

·      6pm Studio Cycling

·      7.15pm Fitness Pilates, all with Lucy


·      6.15pm Body Shock

·      7.30pm Fitness Pilates both with Lucy


·      6pm Studio Cycling

·      7.15pm Muscular Strength, both with Emma


·      8am Fitness Pilates

·      9.15am Cardio and Swiss Ball

·      10.30am Fitness Pilates, all with Lucy

CALL 01588 630243 TO BOOK

May 2021


Gwyneth Owen, long-term manager of the SpArC Centre, is retiring this month, on Friday May 21. 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!

If you would prefer to donate in cash, you can do so through Jake or George at SpArC Reception, where there is also a card to sign. The two amounts will be combined.

A number of people have asked how they may contribute to a retirement collection, and others are concerned that, because of the lockdown, many people may not know of Gwyneth’s imminent retirement.

Below is the link for Gwyneth’s retirement collection, which has been set up by Tracey Godwell, her line manager. You can send money straight to it, using Pingit, in just a fewtaps:

The deadline for this collection is Monday May 17. Will you please pass on this message to anyone you think might be interested?

April 2021


Kate’s plant stall at the Cabin and Sam’s at the start of Welsh St. have now been joined by Jane’s brand new pop-up stall.

She is initially offering hardy perennials but later, once it is a bit warmer, sweet peas, cerinthe, ipomoeas, sunflowers, tomato, courgette. basil plants and much more. Irises a speciality!

This stall is located on Kerry Green, just above the turning into Grange Road, at Kerry Rise,


Tickets now on sale at   for the events at the
Festival of Story and Song in July.

Please visit the theatre website to see details of the films we have coming up-
Click the titles for the webpage for trailers and ticket details- tickets will be on sale about 10 days before the event:

Bait: Friday 21st May 7pm
Honeyland: Sunday 23rd 3pm
Portrait of a Lady on Fire: Friday 28th May 7pm
More event details coming soon!!

A big thank you to everyone who has sent in their lockdown photos. There is still time if you haven’t sent anything yet;

you don’t want to be kicking yourself when your photo isn’t in our awesome exhibition. Anything that has represented your lockdown or kept you going – just a phone picture will do.  Send to


Everything is ready for April 12. All the equipment and safety procedures have been checked.

Bookings have been busy for the pool, with individual swimmers, family bubbles and 70 children booked for swimming lessons. The new outdoor fitness classes are proving popular.

The Exercise on Referral post has been filled. There are still spaces, and the Centre is open as normal (01588 630243)

from now on:

·      Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 16.00 – 21.00

·      Tuesday 07.00 – 21.00, Friday 07.00 – 18.00

·      Saturday, Sunday 09.00 – 12.00


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, raising funds for Sparc – one in Welsh St. and the other at the Cabin again from April 1st, selling plants in aid of SpArC, both with honesty boxes.
If you are beginning to sow or are separating plants this month, will you give a thought to donating a couple, please?
you can contact Kate Evans, about donations and plants

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

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.

We’re Re-opening on 2nd December!!!!!
Message from Shropshire Council

We are delighted to let you know that we will be re-opening and SpArc Bishops Castle and Church Stretton Leisure Centres on Wednesday 2nd December
with all the Health and safety measures that we had in place pre-lockdown 2.

Both centres will be open for Telephone bookings only  on the following days and times:

Thursday 26th Nov – 9am – 5pm

Friday 27th Nov – 9am – 5pm

Sat 28th Nov – 9-12pm

Monday 30th Nov 9-5pm

Tuesday 1st Dec 9-5pm

Booking is essestial for all activities and can be made  up to 7 days in advance.
All timetables and opening hours are the same as they were pre-lockdown
and all policy’s and procedures will remain the same.
For all bookings and further information please contact your relevant centre:

SpArc Bishops Castle Leisure Centre: 01588 630243

Church Stretton Leisure Centre: 01694 720051

Also we are taking part in a national survey to understand how customers are feeling and what you are doing during Lockdown 2.
The results will be used by us and national organisations to plan how we re-open, to lobby Government and to demonstrate the value our customers put on physical activity.
This is the link to the survey

We would really appreciate if you could spare a moment to complete this survey on the above link (The closing date for completion is 30.11.20)

Thank you again for all of your support during these difficult times for everybody and we are looking forward to welcoming you back.

Shropshire Council Leisure Team

NB. from SpArC website editor Kate Evans, This survey is quick and easy to do, I have just done it; please do it, we need to support the Council as much as possible in their efforts to keep the Leisure Centers going.
They took over the management from Teme at a very difficult time and have so far done a wonderful job!
This is a personal thank you from me and the trustees.

Thanks to the Co-op

SpArC has been chosen by the Co-op as one of their 3 local causes for the year from October 25 2020 to October 23 2021. 
The other causes are:

  • Bishops Castle Railway Society Weighbridge Project, and
  • Empathy for Special Children

Our aim is 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.

It’s really simple to select us as your cause, by clicking on the link to our cause profile page: 
Every time a coop member buys a Co-op branded product, 2% of the spend goes to the member and 1% to her/his chosen cause. 
If you are not already a member you can join online at or by downloading the Co-op app
Even though we are linked to Bishops Castle Co-op, money can be raised in this way anywhere in the UK.
£1,800 was raised for the SpArC Theatre through the Co-op this year

Last week, we asked people why they found SpArC helpful at this troubled time. Lots of people gave us their thoughts, including:

  • Going to SpArC lifts my spirits, allows me to exercise, swim and stay fit in a safe environment.
  • 8am is early for Pilates, but the class is calm and definitely sets you up for the day.

When it is allowed to open again, maybe we will all join them?

Closed once again

After a glorious 2 months of re-opening and coming back to life with our lovely staff at SpArC taking incredible care of their clients and doing a wonderful job – we’re now under a new national lockdown again and have to close for the whole of November – and who knows what will happen after that? We hope to see you again in December.

SpArC Leisure Centre may be closed but you can still exercise outside during this lockdown, and this time with one other person.

If you’ve not tried them before what about some of the local walks around Bishop’s Castle.  The link below takes you to the Bishop’s Castle Walking for Pleasure series of downloadable leaflets, all of which have at least 3 variations of different lengths.

It might be a bit wet and muddy in places but the Autumn colours will be worth it! Remember to follow the Countryside Code. 
Here are some suggestions:

Wintles/Woodbatch 1.75 – 6.25 miles
Lydbury North/Oakley Mynd 2.5 – 7 miles
Hell Hole/ Acton Bank/Brockton 3.25 – 8 miles
Bury Ditches/The Stepple/Merry Hill 2.5 – 5.25 miles
Clunton Coppice/Sowdby Wood/Purslow 2.5 – 4.75 miles



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.
Please go to the Trustee’s page and give your comments, good or bad to the trustee of your choice!

Is still closed, but there has been exciting news:

  • Firstly, the ventilation survey shows that we can safely have bigger audiences than we expected.
  • Secondly, the theatre has gained a £5,000 grant from Shropshire Council to bring a programme of new performance, activities and workshops to the Pocket Park in 2021.
    We hope the theatre will be able to commence a programme of events, including a Live outdoor Puppet Theatre, once the new (maximum 6) law is clarified on Monday.


At this time of year we are usually busy preparing for our Community Apple Pressing Day and also contacting local businesses to ask for their support for our Christmas Prize Bingo. This has rapidly become established as a regular Bishop’s Castle Christmas event but sadly, due to Covid 19 restrictions around social distancing and the number of people allowed to gather together, we won’t be holding either of these fundraising events.    We would though like to say thank you for your support in previous years, and very much hope that we will be able to welcome you back to these events and others in 2021.
Despite this, the good news is that we have been successful with our grant applications and have achieved so far this year £29,500 from Calor, Pocket Parks, and the BA Carbon Reduction fund as well as £4,200 in crowd funding. 
Thank you, however you have supported these applications – whether by helping with bid writing, drawing up plans and artists impressions, volunteering to help on project delivery or making a donation. 
It is all very much appreciated!
Finally, we are, as always, extremely grateful to Town and Parish Councils for their donations.  These make a huge difference as unrestricted funds which allow us to invest in the Centre to enhance the facilities on offer.  This support is even more important as grant awards may well be harder to achieve in the post Covid 19 economic environment.


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”.


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.




Look out for this on facebook and in the community notices
and please tell all your friends
The Calor Rural Community Fund has confirmed that our bid to equip a simple café in SpArC has passed the first hurdle.
The next one is to gain as many votes as we can for the project from you, your friends and relatives, even if they have never visited or used SpArC!
It’s like the pool cover process and would have started on May 7th but has been postponed to the 4th June.
Please keep an eye out for news on how to vote nearer the time.
Additional votes are gathered through donations to crowdfunding, however we are very aware that money is becoming tighter by the minute, so we are after your support not your money and will be asking you to get 10 friends or more to vote too. 
Of course, if you are able to make a donation that would be very welcome too.



SpArC after Coronavirus?

You will not be surprised to know that, while Shropshire Council has taken back management of SpArC as from April 1, it is closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future due to Coronavirus. 
The council itself is under huge pressure to manage the current pandemic. The slight silver lining is that we have Pete Banford and Mathew Mead again to offer community support in South Shropshire.

The SpArC charity is delighted by the response to its request for new trustees and will respond to them as soon as is practical.
It has, however, postponed its gym equipment order partly because delivery needs to follow refurbishment and partly because we thought we might need the freedom to review our priorities in the light of how the world looks when the pandemic reduces. We have also cancelled the plant stall and film night fund raising events, but there may be a glimmer of hope for the Apple Pressing and a new ‘Spooky Saunter’ for Halloween.

Kate Evans will set up an informal plant stall in the layby outside her house;
St Cleopas, The Cabin, on the Mainstone road out of town. With plants and seedlings in the near future, with an honesty box for contributions. So if you are on your exercise constitutional you could stop and see if there’s anything you’d like.

Ironically, the charity has succeeded in getting another grant – this time £9,000 from the BA Carbon Reduction fund. It will of course be delayed but will be invaluable for the implementation of some energy-saving measures which will be needed even more after the crisis than before.

Our Save the Sparc Facebook page includes a number of Coronavirus updates reminding us all of the advice and guidance that the Government is issuing, as well as regular updates from SpArC Theatre.


We all need to maintain our fitness over the next few months. Dan has posted on his Facebook page a Senior Exercise Plan that has clear teaching points and pictures:
Lucy has put a 30-minute Exercise Pilates video on her Facebook page. (, accessible to friends.  

In addition, Sport England has launched 10 Today – a 10-minute exercise routine at 10am every day, accessible through BBC Sound. This is aimed at keeping older people healthy and active during the lockdown and is delivered by a 73-year-old instructor.

There is a wide range of aerobic and other sessions available online. If anyone has particular recommendations, we’d be really grateful to hear, so they can be passed on.


Many of us are also missing our usual entertainment. SpArC theatre ( is giving a wonderful update of free shows from the National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Pentabus, Hampstead Theatre, Into Film and others, with links to the detail.
The theatre, like the rest of Enterprise South West Shropshire, is losing income big-time. We all need to maintain our support for it, not least by waiving repayment of unused tickets if we are able to do so.

If you wish to provide additional support, we are still inviting supporters to become a Friend of the Theatre.  While Enterprise House is closed, please contact Graham Hemmings (

And has anyone tried Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus?

MARCH 20th

As you will likely be aware, Shropshire Council is taking over the management of SpArC Leisure Centre from Wednesday 1 April 2020.
Prior to this,
We will be closing all the leisure facilities from Monday 30 March to Sunday 5 April 2020 inclusive. 
This temporary closure is for essential IT and telephone infrastructure and other equipment to be installed.  This will help to ensure that operations at the Centre continue as normal and the ongoing service you receive is not affected.  The Leisure Centre will re-open on Monday 6 April 2020.

The temporary closure of the leisure facilities does not affect the theatre, which will remain open during this period.  The GCSE Drama examination will go ahead on March 30 and the theatre will be open for “Box of Frogs” on 4 April, with tickets available from the box office as usual. 

Arrangements with the schools affected have been made.

We appreciate that closure of the leisure facilities is not ideal, but there will be positive news to follow:

  • 16 spinning bikes in poor order will be replaced by 18 of the latest Kaiser bikes, which the SpArC Charity has invested in, using money collected from SpArC supporters
  • Children’s Easter holiday activities are being organised, and booking arrangements will shortly be clarified
  • The broadband will be upgraded to enable the new IT infrastructure to work effectively.

We will keep you aware of any further news and updates.
Our team are more than happy to answer any queries or concerns you may have.  You can either pop into the Leisure Centre before the planned temporary closure, call 01588 630243 or email


SpArC UPDATE February/March 2020

A lot of good news this month, plus three requests for help.

POCKET PARK BID – Working in partnership with Shropshire Council we are delighted to have been awarded £15k by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to enhance the wildlife area between the swimming pool and the theatre.  We have some exciting plans and will shortly be arranging a meeting to share these with you and to ask for volunteers willing to help. Further details will follow but in the meantime if anyone is interested in volunteering to help with  ground clearance, tree and shrub planting and landscaping on this exciting project please contact in the first instance Ruth Houghton on or 01588 638352.

Sport and Arts in the Community (SpArC) South West Shropshire is looking for three new trustees, as from 1.4.20.
Qualities we are looking for:
·  Knowledge and understanding of users: amateur sport, exercise, health, schools, theatre, swimming etc.
·  a range of skills/experience – health service, law, fund-raising, change management, HR, marketing/social media, community involvement and a reflective approach

We are seeking local representation from across South West Shropshire, including a variety of ages, experience and views. Every trustee is appointed for three years.
Meetings and commitment levels
We meet currently on the first Wednesday or Thursday of each month, from 5 – 7pm. Trustees are encouraged to contribute to specific aspects of our work in addition to these meetings.
Next steps
For details of the role and application process, please email the chair asap:

Friends of SpArC Theatre – 82 people are now supporting the Theatre as Friends. We would love to make it 100 before the end of March; can you help?  Anyone interested will find all the information they need, plus a form to set up a standing order, in the leaflet available from Enterprise House or the SpArC centre. 

Co-op You can still subscribe to the Theatre as a Co-op local cause. 1% of what you spend on Co-op goods will go to the Sparc Theatre until October 2020.


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.
For information about the Save the SpArC campaign, see our website Or our facebook page savethesparc

Editor’s Note:
The Save the Sparc campaign has raised over £150k towards improving the leisure centre  which includes the award of a  community energy grant from M&S which has been used to install a new pool cover which is reducing running costs though reducing heat loss and water evaporation. 

*Anyone wishing to make a donation to the “Don’t let the SpArC go out” campaign or to find out more about it can do so on line at   Cheques can be sent to Enterprise House, Bishops Castle and should be made payable to “Sport & Art in the Community (SPARC) SW Shropshire”











Bishop’s Castle Leisure Survey
Sport and Arts in the Community (SpArC) Leisure Centre

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

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.

This is a vitally important meeting so PLEASE COME and tell all your friends and neighbours

The Plant Sale on the 4th of May raised £576!

Sport and Arts in the Community ( SpArC) SW Shropshire have a chance to win £1,000
The Save the SpArC campaign is asking for help to win £1,000 by encouraging people to nominate it for a chance to win £1,000 as part of specialist insurer Ecclesiastical’s Movement for Good awards.
It’s quick and easy to nominate SpArC online. Nominations are open from Tuesday 23 April to Friday 17 May and you vote at  All it takes is a click on the movement for good awards orange logo on the web site, click on nominate now, add your details and include the SpArC charity number which is 1170997.
Winners will be drawn at random and the more times SpArC is nominated the more chance it has of being selected.
If successful, the money will be used to support both sport and leisure in Bishop’s Castle and the SpArC theatre which is based on the same site.
The Save the SpArC charity is encouraging everyone to use their social media channels to ask people to vote to give the charity the best possible chance of winning.
Jean Shirley, Chair of Trustees said: “the local community has been hugely supportive of SpArC and I hope that that this will continue by nominating SpARC for this funding. It is very quick to do and if successful it means that we can continue to support school holiday activities in both the theatre and the leisure centre”.

Mark Hews, group chief executive at Ecclesiastical, said: “Trusted by our customers for over 130 years, we are proud to protect the irreplaceable – charities, schools, churches, homes and communities – right across the UK and abroad. As a company whose purpose is to contribute to the greater good of society, charitable giving is at the heart of our business. Our Movement for Good awards will help charities change lives for the better and we know that for many charities, £1,000 can make a real difference.”

The next save the SpArC fundraising event is a plant stall on Saturday May 4th in Church Street Bishop’s Castle. Donations of plants are welcomed.


  • 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.

2. 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.

3. How far have we got?
Activity has been inevitably curtailed by delays from the council and Teme Leisure, 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.

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.

Last week we were 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.

On Tuesday 26th February the SWS Historical and Archaeological Society, along with the SpArC charity, held a fundraising event at Bishop’s Castle Community College. The theme of the evening was the hoard of gold coins discovered in a piano gifted to the college by a local couple.
Over £3,400 was raised, which will help to meet the challenges ahead arising from the expected reduction in the SC subsidy to Sparc and the need to invest in a renewable energy solution for the Centre.

The evening was divided into two distinct parts. The first was the reading of the winning stories from a writing competition held by the college. Students had been challenged to write a short story to explain how the coins originally found their way into the piano. Each year group was awarded a winner, three of which were read by the authors or their English teacher, Nicci Midgley. All the stories were entertaining and of a very high standard. Congratulations to all the winners!

The photo is of all students commended for their creative writing skills. The front row is made up of the winners and highly commended from each year group, from left to right: Olivia Jones, Caitlin Impey, Milli Roddick, Jasmine Davies, Ruby Clarke, Charlie Maskrey, Eleri Gittins, Megan Wooldridge, Reuben Thorley (Headteacher)
After a brief interval, David Preshous introduced the guest speaker Peter Reavill, the Finds Liaison Officer for the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme. His job was to assist the Coroner in trying to establish the history of the piano and the coins and to identify the descendants of the original owners. The story of the investigation, which ranged far and wide, was fascinating. The gold coins could be dated but were common currency in the heyday of the British Empire. Part of the packaging gave clues as to when they might have been stashed. However, despite every effort to identify the owner of the piano at the time the coins were hidden, the team drew a blank. Early history of the piano’s provenance came from the makers, but between 1906 and 1983 the piano disappears from view. The case is still open.
To quote David Preshous: “This was in every way a memorable evening for Bishop’s Castle and its community, bringing together the exciting story of the Gold in the Piano, the students’ imaginative stories about how it all began, and an opportunity for us all to contribute to the future success of both the College and the SpArC Leisure Centre. The large audience and its enthusiasm and generosity reflected the community spirit which makes our town such a special place.”

The Save The SpArC campaign is not just about saving sports and leisure facilities in Bishop’s Castle. It also includes supporting the SpArC Theatre, which runs separately within the SpArC leisure Centre, ensuring that it remains a vital part of our local community.
The Theatre’s aim is to ensure accessible, sustainable and high-quality arts opportunities for South West Shropshire in the form of Live Music, Live Theatre, Films, Satellite Screenings, Workshops, and Art Exhibitions.
The Theatre is run by a Manager and volunteers and managed by Enterprise South West Shropshire (ESWS) which is a Social Enterprise running a range of services in the area including the local Library, Drop-in IT Centre and event equipment hire.
The Theatre has staged 120 events attended by over 5500 people in the last 12 months.


If you would like to support the Theatre you can do so by becoming a
Friend of SpArC Theatre.
Please visit the website to find out more or speak to someone at the box office at SpArC or Enterprise House 01588 630321/ 638038 ( £15 individual or £25 for joint annual membership)



SpArC charity reflects on achievements during 2018
The Trustees of the charity set up to save the SpArC leisure centre in Bishop’s Castle have recently reflected on their achievements during 2018.
These include:

  • the attendance of 58 young people on training courses to gain recognised qualifications, which made possible school holiday activities for both leisure and theatre during the Easter, Summer and Autumn breaks and which were supported by the purchase of specialist sports equipment.
  • Training for Trustees on their roles and responsibilities as Trustees of a newly established charity
  • just under £10k raised through local community fund-raising activities, in addition to financial and other support received from town and parish councils,
  • the installation of a new pool dehumidifier and refurbishment of the changing rooms made possible by significant funding of £100k from Shropshire Council, and hanging of tiles designed and made by the local community.In addition, the Charity continues to lobby Shropshire Council to further develop the Centre, given its tier 1 status, for a sustainable future. It supported a successful soft market testing exercise in February, with the expectation of a full tender programme for SpArC by 2019.

Looking back, 2018 has been a busy year but also very rewarding. We are particularly pleased with the school holiday activities and the opportunities that have been made available for young people to achieve qualifications. However, we have considerably more to do to ensure the Centre’s long-term growth and stability.
We are very grateful for the support we receive from the local community and would like to thank individuals, local businesses and town and parish councils for all their help. We would like to thank SpArC staff in particular for their commitment to the Centre and its customers.

The next fundraising event in aid of Save the SpArC campaign will be a talk: “The Treasure in the Piano” on 26th February at Bishop’s Castle Community College. 

Thanks to all of you we’ve won £1,000 from the Ecclesiastical ’12 Days of Giving’  campaign. What a great start to the New Year!

We could do with some new faces on the fundraising committee –
and new ideas for events, maybe from the outlying villages and communities????
What about from the younger SpArC members- the sports communities – the gym users?
We had a blast at the Christmas Bingo, organised by Sam Angell, it was really nice to see some of the younger faces there.
How about some more of Sam’s age group coming up with ideas – the committee will be only too pleased to help and support anything you might come up with!

Another Bake-off? A fancy dress strong man competition?

Nice pic of mistletoe on the SpArC counter which raised £33 for the cause and caused a good deal of kissing round the town over the festive season! Thanks Liz, Dandelion and Harriet Carty.

  1. Thank you
    The Save the SpArC campaign continues to be well supported and we would like to thank everyone who has contributed in some way.  So far this year we have raised £219 from the Shropshire Star cash for communities competition, nearly £700 from the Co-op, over £400 from the plant stall, over £600 from the Mountain film evening, £400 from the “For a Song” event, £265 from Virtual RunnerUK and £253 from a raffle held at the Artists’ Open Studios weekend.  Thank you also to all the local businesses who kindly donate raffle prizes.
  2. Future events
  • SpArC is a Co-Op charity until November 2018 to support sport, art and leisure activities for children and young people during the holidays. If you haven’t already done so, please register your co-op card for SpArC so that 1% of your expenditure on co-op products will come our way.
  • We will have a stall at the Michaelmas fair, with a Grand Draw. We are selling draw booklets in advance – do please buy one at SpArC reception – as much as a gesture of solidarity as anything else. Donations of draw prizes are also welcome.
  • A Prize Bingo will be held at the end of the year – provisional date 30 November. Remember last year’s prizes? The date, venue and further details will be confirmed later.

News update about the Cash in the Community Campaign – They definitely aren’t doing the letters writing in for tokens this year, so to collect tokens, we’ll all have to beg, borrow or buy actual paper copies of the Star. If you get yours delivered, or buy it regularly, please collect all the tokens you can, from today until the end of the campaign. Then hand them in at SpArC or at Enterprise House and we’ll call for as many volunteers as we can to count them!


This feels like the first sunny day with a bit of real warmth in it so Happy Spring Everybody!

   We’ve been shortlisted again this year for the Shropshire Star Cash in the Community campaign.
This year, we are appealing for support in setting up a full-time holiday activity programme at SpArC for school-age children. We’re hoping to include all sorts of things, including sports, arts, drama, environmental – both indoors and out   Details have yet to be finalised but hopefully, it will be a full, fun and inspirational project and will be an ongoing programme.
So – I’m not certain yet about people writing letters to ask for tokens, as we did last year, but if anyone reading this gets  the Star regularly, start looking out for the tokens from the 1st of March and collect as many as you can and hand them in at SpArC, or at Enterprise House. Further updates about writing in will be posted asap.


Other news; the tile painting workshops are going well – we’ve done two already and two more will be held during the Arts Festival next weekend at the Public Hall, on Saturday and Sunday from 2-5pm. £12 per person. Children under ten must be accompanied by an adult. There are a few places left on both days, so book in now with
Here is a small selection of the panels produced so far – there are lots more to come!

As we all know, the swimming pool is now closed until mid-March while the changing rooms are being repaired (Hooray – At Last!). The tiles were originally going to be put up in the changing rooms but Kate has been told this won’t be possible because of the nature of the ‘white-rock’ wall covering being used, so the finished panels will go up along the corridors and in whatever spaces Gwyneth will allow us! In fact, this means that everyone will get to see them, not just the swimmers, so it’s a better solution really.

Also – Kirsty Rowston from the Co-op will be promoting their support for SpArC and their other charities at the Town Hall over the Arts Festival weekend, so pop in and sign up to support our local good causes!


At the latest trustee meeting on 31 Jan,
Geoff Grimes and Kerry Brown were welcomed as new trustees and Jean was re-appointed as chair, but other formal posts have been left until the next meeting, due to Richard’s sickness action. All wished to pass their thanks to Karen Bavastock, who has resigned due to ill health, particularly for her work with Energize and her liaison with users, and to wish her better health for the future.

Tile painting workshops to decorate the new changing rooms at the SpArC Swimming Pool.   The theme will be water/swimming/leisure. (surprise surprise!)
Workshops will be held at the Eco building at the Community College (to be confirmed)
on Saturday 27th Jan & Saturday 10th Feb from 2 – 5pm

There will be two further workshops at the Public Hall on Station St on 24th and 25th Feb, as part of the February Arts Festival, again from 2 – 5pm

 The final workshop will be held at the Eco building at the Community College on
10th March, from 2-5pm.
All workshops will cost £12 per person, which includes up to 6 tiles per person plus all tuition, materials and firing.
There is a minimum age of 10 years but younger participants can be included by arrangement if accompanied by an adult.
Places are limited so book early – all enquiries to Kate 01588638762 –
or use the contact us page on this website

Save the SpArC has been chosen as one of three local charities to be supported by Bishop’s Castle Co-op over the next  year.  If you shop at the Co-op,  please consider nominating SpArC to receive a contribution every time you shop and use your Co-op members card?
With Christmas shopping to be done, a few minutes of your time spent now applying for and registering a  Co-op card would mean that 1% of all your Christmas shopping spend would raise funds for SpArC.
You can apply for a Co-op card in-store and register to support SpArC online at

Gym members try out the new Spin bikes

500 Club
We want to start a ‘500 Club’ lottery scheme to raise a regular income for the SpArC charity.  The idea is to recruit up to 500 people to pay a fixed sum of £2 a week (£8 a month) by direct debit or standing order, raising an annual revenue of approx £52000, of which, 1/2 would go to SpArC and 1/2 be paid out for prizes in the form of a monthly draw and a jackpot Christmas draw.  We may not get the full 500 to start with but can get going with just 200 – so if you are interested, please add you details on our contact page and we’ll give you more details and information. (we do not share any of this information with any other organisations)