This May saw the great success of FREEKFEST, a bouldering event at the Freeklime bouldering wall in Huddersfield. The competition has its eyes firmly fixed on two objectives - fun and inclusion. Niall Grimes spoke to wall owner Chris Whitehead to hear about his vision for the wall and the event.
"The idea for FREEKFEST was born out of my passion for spreading the benefits and values of bouldering to as wide an audience as possible. What better than an inclusive annual 1-day competition, hosted at Freeklime, with bouldering problems set for all ages and abilities (V0-9). A big shout out to our overall winner Ben Hargreaves for flashing all 25 blocs!
Most successful was the new trans and non-binary category we introduced so everyone felt they could participate and feel included. As members of the climbing community, we should all try to advocate the accessibility of our sport. It was good to see the ABC putting inclusivity at the heart of the 2021 industry conference, with speakers of all backgrounds. Ultimately, the more people that take up climbing the better for everyone. Feedback on the day from the 200 competitors was overwhelmingly positive and, although exhausting, I just loved every minute of it.
I set up Freeklime in 2019 with a mission to make bouldering accessible, fun & sociable. Built by Walltopia, we offer engaging modern-style bouldering in an inclusive and safe setting. One of the great things about working in these sorts of customer-facing businesses, is the opportunity it gives you to get to know your community.
We’ve been able to build some brilliant partnerships with the likes of Blackdog Outdoors and the Queer Climbing Club, providing a safe space for LGBTQIA+ climbers and those with ill mental health. Our queer climbing socials are always really well attended by climbers as well as those who got into climbing because there was that provision. The last Friday of every month we team up with Blackdog Outdoors to offer a free climbing session to anyone wanting to give climbing a go. The social and engaging elements of climbing make it an ideal pursuit for those struggling with their mental health.
As with many businesses which opened before or during COVID, we have had a tough time getting to where we are now, whether that be managing cash flow during periods of closure, looking after our team during lockdown or dealing with ever-changing guidance around Covid. Having come through all of that it was fantastic to see such a vibrant event take place. I’d like to thank Blackdog Outdoors for supporting the event and all those who took part for making it such a fantastic day."
WATCH: FREEKFEST 2022 on BMC TV
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