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16 April 2016 @ 08:57 pm

panoramic view of runners

It was an interesting morning to have agreed to volunteer for Parkrun. For those, not in the know, Parkrun is a not-for-profit organisation that holds free 5K runs in parks worldwide on Saturday mornings. Stoke Gifford parish council (who must be wondering what has hit them) have required Parkrun to pay a fee to use the park. Cue much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention a great deal of newspaper print and tweeting. Little Stoke run, as a result, was cancelled and presumably will remain so for the forseeable future.

As a result of all the publicity, of course, there were a huge number of new runners at Parkrun this morning. I lost count of the number of times, while waiting for the run to start that I said, "Do you have a barcode? That's all you need. Just go along to the start and we'll scan it at the end" or, alternatively, "Do you have a barcode? That's a shame, you can still run but we won't be able to give you a time at the end." It was my first time actually scanning barcodes so there was also a fair amount of mutual confusion as I tried to work the scanner and new people tried to figure out what was going on. We had beautiful sunshine, but it was pretty cold and I rather quickly lost sensation in my scanner button pressing fingers.

Anyway, before the rush started I managed to take a picture of the first two across the line.

Two Runners

"Which of the front two won?" one of the marshals asked us at the end. The other barcode scanner and I exchanged slightly blank glances since we had not memorised names and then she said "The front one." After we'd stopped laughing she elaborated. "He was wearing orange."

For the record, charging people to run in a Parkrun is out of the question, but, as a not for profit, the organisation does have sponsors and staff so it wouldn't have been out of the question for the park fee to have been met from central funds. I don't know how much Stoke Gifford were requesting, but given they initially proposed charging £1 per runner one assumes it was in the region of £5,000-£10,000 per annum. Multiply that across all the parkruns and I can see why the central organisation baulked at opening the door to suddenly needing to raise several hundred thousand a year more just to cover park fees. However, it is a desperate problem that councils simply can not afford parks under the current austerity regime (at least if this Guardian article has its facts right) and there will be no Parkrun if there are no more parks...

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/190323.html.
adaese: booksadaese on April 16th, 2016 08:37 pm (UTC)
And we won't even be able to take refuge in the library when all the parks are gone, as those are under "consultation". The options seem to be "close almost half of them and scrap the mobile library" or "close less than half, but reduce all but a handful to 18 hours a week, and still scrap the mobile library".
louisedennislouisedennis on April 17th, 2016 05:32 pm (UTC)
I can't help feeling there is something slightly kafka-esque about Stoke Gifford parish council needing to charge Parkrun to use the park, so that Parkrun can apply for a grant from the government. It would, one feels, be more efficient if Stoke Gifford could apply directly for a maintenance grant with, perhaps, the fact the park is used for Parkrun used to make the case that this is a well-used public area.

Of course, bureaucracies are not good at being streamlined like this.

Libraries, I think are doomed. As bunn says, parks can survive a decade or so of neglect, I'm not sure libraries can.
wellinghallwellinghall on April 17th, 2016 05:41 pm (UTC)
I grew up in an isolated house, and my mother couldn't drive when I was born. The mobile library was a godsend to us.

Later on, when I had better access to library buildings, I thought they were great. No, I knew they were great.

I am not trying to say that libraries are any more important than parks, or than public loos, or than any of the million and one things that councils are having trouble finding the money for. But they are the underfunded thing I am most nearly in tears about.
bunnbunn on April 17th, 2016 08:13 am (UTC)
I *hope* that the 'sell them off' thing is overstated, and that what will actually happen is that they will get a bit overgrown and the expensive equipment will get removed for a bit, until things take an upturn again.

One of our local town councils* recently inherited a park area from a developer that had gone bust, and it looks like that's what they are going to do : they can't afford to sort out/maintain the play equipment, but they can afford bushes and grass.

*one thing that I do find a little touching about the whole austerity thing is the way the little parish and town councils, which have spent so many decades in obscurity with nothing much to do, are squaring their shoulders and trying their best to fill in with odds and sods of cash, local fundraising and volunteers. If this works, it could in the long term offer some improvements over the over-mighty county council, which was often too big to take much account of local feeling, and was admittedly pretty wasteful on occasion.

But the transition is not fun and I am worried that the libraries in particular are going to fall into it and be lost forever. :-(

louisedennislouisedennis on April 17th, 2016 05:34 pm (UTC)
I'm not terribly optimistic about libraries either.

I suspect "sell them off" will translate into some kind of public-private initiative which, admittedly, doesn't have a particularly glorious history as an idea...