Elizabeth Holley recently started work as our new regional development officer for London. A born and bred Londoner, she has been a dedicated volunteer for several years, and is raring to get started on what is a trailblazing appointment.
What’s the thinking behind the new post?
The plan for climbing, hill walking and mountaineering for 2013-17, which the BMC submitted to Sport England, included ways to increase opportunities for young people to participate. We also have a specific target to provide information, advice, and opportunities for young people to engage with outdoor climbing. The regional development officer in London is a year-long pilot to support this development in London and the South East.
How is London different from the rest of the country? Why the special treatment?
London and the South East have the highest number of BMC members. The region also has the greatest number of accessible climbing walls with vastly different facilities and usage. With our aim of enabling young people to make the move from indoor climbing to the outdoors, it’s the ideal location to pilot projects, undertake research and engage with individual and club members.
What will you be doing in the first few weeks? Can you elaborate on the plan to get people moving from walls into the great outdoors?
Over the next few months I’ll be finding out just how many artificial climbing facilities there are in London, and not just those already listed in the climbing wall directory. The hunt is on to find the secret garden of climbing within London and the South East. I’ll also be promoting opportunities for those aged 18-25 to do outdoor climbing courses. That’s a priority. Those courses will be channelled through climbing wall users working in partnership with the National Mountain Centre at Plas Y Brenin. I’ll also be in contact with club members and plan to develop a newsletter for the region.
Where will you be based?
I’ll be in North London at the Castle Climbing Wall, an ideally central location for communication, meetings and BMC presentations.
Can you talk a little about your own background and your interest in climbing?
My passion for mountaineering and travel has been influenced by members of my family and stems from a young age. Mountaineering is not merely a hobby for me, it’s a way of life, with the friendships you form, the understanding of different cultures you gain and those that you influence along the way all contributing to the way you see the world.
I had a serious car accident when I was 17, which meant spending another year at college when I had the chance to join a British School Exploring Society expedition. Then I volunteered with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. These experiences change my outlook to life and sparked a true passion for the Outdoors.
My hill walking experience is wide-ranging – from outdoor instruction to expedition leadership. I'm an active climber and have organised school climbing trips and judged youth competitions. I am an active member of the London Mountaineering Club, as well as secretary for the BMC’s London and South area. I am also currently working towards my ML, SPA and CWA.
What are your plans to get wall users joining clubs and why is that useful?
It’s a small world, even in the big smoke of London; you never know who knows who and when you will need support and guidance in your climbing life. Joining a club can help you progress and deepen your knowledge and experience. My role is to provide information and support to climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers and one of the best ways I can do that is help them with information on how to join clubs, societies and volunteer organisations.