Continuing our series of articles about the work of volunteer-led BMC specialist committees, we highlight the work of the Equity Steering Group (ESG) which was formed in 2006 and helps to guide the BMC on matters of equity as well as looking at ways to reduce barriers to climbing, walking and the outdoors for under-represented groups.
The group is chaired by Cressida Allwood, supported by youth & equity officer James McHaffie as secretary, and comprises volunteers from under-represented backgrounds, as well as professionals who work in areas of equality, diversity and inclusivity. Structurally, the ESG has four sub-groups covering: disability; mental health; black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups; and women’s development; it will soon have a fifth sub-group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) matters.
Events and courses
Since its formation, the ESG has been involved with lots of projects such as disability symposiums supporting practitioners working with people with disabilities and equity symposiums aimed at creating more outdoor leaders from BAME backgrounds, as well as delivering disability awareness in rock climbing courses and helping to develop the Paraclimbing Series of climbing competitions. In March this year, we organised a fundraising event to support some UK-based charities that work through the medium of climbing and the outdoors.
Participants in the Climbing for All fundraising event.
On a practical front the ESG has been helping to deliver numerous other events. The annual Adventure for All conference held in December 2018 at the Conwy Centre on Anglesey was supported by the BMC, as will the December 2019 conference, which will be held in December at the Hindleap Warren Outdoor Centre in the Ashdown Forest.
Black Dog Outdoors director Andrew Higson sits on the ESG and has put a large amount of energy into running guided walks with Mountain Leaders who have a mental health first aid qualification. These walks are run as BMC events and have taken place in the Peak District, Lake District and North Wales, with walks in the Yorkshire Dales and Scotland planned for later this year; and last month, in partnership with the BMC, Climb Alongside Mental Health and DMM Black Dog Outdoors ran a climbing day in the Peak District.
Black Dog Outdoors walk poster.
The ESG and the BMC were also able to support this year’s Women’s Trad Festival by making it a BMC event, and thereby providing insurance cover, and also having some involvement in the safety aspects of the weekend. This annual event started in 2016, aimed largely at beginners and learners, many of whom can already climb but want to learn trad skills in a safe, friendly environment. The 2019 event, held in August in the Peak District was attended by over 300 people.
Women's Trad Festival. Photo: Jessie Leong.
Later this month, on the weekend of 26-27 October, the BMC will be holding an equity symposium to celebrate and support ethnic minority adventure in the great outdoors and help to develop outdoor leaders from a BAME background. The event will be run at the Hollowford Centre in the Peak District in partnership with Mountain Training and the Lindley Educational Trust. The BMC is also working with Mountain Training to offer bursaries and support for outdoor leaders from a BAME background.
Publications and films
The group works with other organisations to publish handbooks on Climbing for All and Walking for All, which look at making climbing and walking more accessible for people who have a range of disabilities.
The BMC is also supporting the Bendrigg Trust, a residential outdoor education centre working specifically with disabled and disadvantaged people, to create an inspirational climbing film which will increase awareness of the challenges that people with ‘hidden’ disabilities face within society whilst also inspiring more people with disabilities to go climbing.
Bendrigg Trust climbing wall.
Raising standards, reducing inequalities
In the last 12 months the ESG has been going through the process of upgrading the BMCs Equality Standard for Sport from Preliminary to Intermediate level. The Equality Standard for Sport is a framework for assisting sports organisations to widen access and reduce inequalities in sport and physical activities from under-represented individuals, groups and communities. This has meant taking a look at what the BMC has been doing already and what it could be doing better, both within the BMC and in the opportunities it provides to its members and the public. The majority of this work has been completed (although it still needs to be assessed by an Equality Assessor) which has enabled us to update our Equality Plan, as well as our Diversity Action Plan for the Board of Directors, with BMC President Lynn Robinson becoming the equality champion on the Board and Nominated Director Jonny Dry acting as the Board’s representative on the ESG. These developments will help to ensure good communications between BMC staff and the Board of Directors on matters of equity and how the BMC can continue to develop opportunities into the future.
The BMC is in a great position to help create inclusive events and projects, having a vast array of really good people with experience, knowledge and time they are willing to offer. We’d like to thank all the volunteers who have supported and continue to support the work of the Equity Steering Group.
As the climbing walls, crags and mountains start to open, we wanted to say thanks to every BMC member who supported us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t have made it without you.
If you liked what we did, then tell your friends about us: www.thebmc.co.uk/join