I hope you’ve all been keeping well, social distancing and abiding by the rules!
I’ve posted on Deputy and sent emails out to all staff a few times now and it’s always lovely to get a reply back and hear what you are all up to!
If any staff are struggling at the moment, whether it be mentally with the situation or financially with reduced pay, please get in touch and I’ll do my best to help. I’m not a trained advice person nor do I have pots of money but I can give an open ear and/or a sub for a bill or two if required.
I’ve written a little piece for our members titled ‘Stay Safe, Stay Awesome’ but I thought I’d share it with you first (it’s down below).
I’ll start publishing all the articles excellent articles that you have sent me (see earlier request). There’s still time to send me more as this is brilliant social media content and keeps us connected with our customers, plus I enjoy reading them!
I also requested video clips for my ‘Chuck The Chalk’ video, thanks to those that sent them in. The video is now complete and can be view on social media or on Youtube here- https://youtu.be/Nbc20ej9fE0 (I may tweak the video so this link won’t work but I’ll post a new one if I do).
There’s still no clear date on reopening as yet. In the latest Government document ‘Our Plan To Rebuild The UK’ there is a phased plan. Leisure centres get a mention in 4.3
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy When I get further on information reopening I’ll let you know.
That’s it from me for now and here’s my article-
Stay Safe, Stay Awesome
It seems ages ago since we closed the walls! At the moment 94 awesome staff are on the Government furlough scheme, all the walls in the UK remain closed, slowly, slowly we are coming to terms with this and gently trying to get back to normal. We still have a long way to go and maybe life will never return to what we knew!
The ABC (Association of British Climbing Walls) is working with other climbing wall federations around the world to champion a safe and effective operation procedure for when the time allows us to reopen. Minimising the risk of catching or passing on the virus to staff/customers will be our main priority and one that shall stay above and beyond all others for a long time to come. Several walls have reopened in the USA and a few in Europe, we’ll be keeping in touch with these walls to see how trading is going and how climbers are adapting to the social distancing challenges.
I’m reading articles and guidelines on a daily basis about the best way forward for climbing walls and similar businesses. It’s all fuel for the fire in the making for a safe and controlled reopening.
The reality of it is, the world is a much different place than it was in February. At Awesome Walls, we were just entering our busiest month and we’d just began a phased facility upgrade at all four centres. The call to close couldn’t have come at a much worse time, or could it?
I’m quite an optimistic guy and I’ll always try and make the most of a bad situation. The loss in revenue is catastrophic to us and probably every other climbing wall and business. Even after twenty years in the trade, nothing can prepare you for something like this. We’re very lucky that we own two of our buildings (Liverpool & Sheffield) and have a very good working relationship with our landlords on the other two (Stockport & Stoke). No monies need to be paid to Liverpool or Sheffield and we negotiated half rent on Stockport and Stoke. Half rent is great, but the fact is that we will need to repay the other half when we reopen which in itself may be a problem! We have applied for all the government grants and loans available, we have received some but not all. While the local authorities are doing a great job, it sometimes feels like the right-hand doesn’t know what the left is doing!
I now spend my time travelling between the climbing centres to check up on them and have meetings with the managers (social distancing of course!). I’m also working on the best practices for reopening when the time comes.
When I’m not working, I’m having a great time at home with my family. This period has really made a difference to our lives and has somehow bonded us even more than before. I’ve lost a big chunk of motivation with my running as all my races have been cancelled or postponed. I’m still averaging 45+ miles a week but the fighting spirit eludes me!
When the walls eventually reopen, who’s going to come back? By reading peoples responses on social media, there’s still a lot of fear out there. It’s a big jump from been locked in your house with virtually zero contact with other people to suddenly entering a climbing wall where just the friendly nature of things makes you want to suddenly socialise and catch up with your pre-COVID-19 climbing bubbies. Are we really going to be able to keep a minimum of two meters apart? Just from personal experience in the last few weeks where I’ve attended meetings, this social distancing is harder than you think. No holding doors open, no sharing the biscuits and looking at a screen together is a massive no-no.
I’m not going to set out the protocols for reopening here as they will undoubtedly change as we receive updates from the government and official bodies. There are a few things for certain that I’ll nail my chalk bag to the post on-
When we reopen it will be for climbers only, inductions, groups and courses will be many months off happening.
Opening hours may have to be extended to fit the limited number of people in or on the flip side, they may need to be reduced if the demand isn’t there.
Route setting- With a vastly reduced income can we afford to set as often as we did? Higher quality routes/problems set less often OR frequent changing by less experienced setters, what would you choose?
There’s so much more important stuff going on in the world, why would we worry about our climbing walls reopening in the grand scheme of things?
For me, climbing’s not just a sport or pass-time. It’s a gathering of like-minded people that generally get on and are at ease in each other’s company. It gets under your skin and up your nose (neither really good at the moment!!!) and generally releases endorphins that you never knew you had. Once these endorphins are mixed with others, your hooked, there’s no going back. You might take up other sports but at heart, you’ll always call yourself a climber!
Climbing walls are hubs of supportive activity, whether you’re pulling on holds for the first time or conquering the 22,279 problems on the Kilter board, you’re in good company!
Stay safe, stay awesome,
CEO and founder