As October and Black History Month draw to a close, we caught up with Eddie Pemberton, Chair of Bowmen of Glen, for his thoughts on diversity in the sport.
How long have you been an archer, and what brought you to the sport?
I have been in archery for over 15 years. No one inspired me to take up the sport; I worked for local youth services and they wanted archery to be introduced to youth organisations in the area, resulting in me doing an AGB Instructor's course. It inspired me to look for a club where I completed a beginners' course and joined the club.
Where do you shoot and what do you get out of it, mentally and physically?
I'm a member of Bowmen of Glen Archery Society (BOGAS) in Leicestershire & Rutland. I don't shoot that often but am trying to take more time to do so; archery is the only sport I do now. I enjoy the sense of always trying to beat my last score. The practice I put in when I first started earned me a place on the County team which gave me a great sense of achievement. Archery is different from other sports as mentally it helps you to focus more.
What kind of welcome did you have when you first took up archery? Have you ever felt discriminated against?
There's no getting away from it; at the moment archery is mainly a White person's sport. With that said, when I first joined BOGAS there was no discrimination at all as we were all in the sport for the same thing. If there was discrimination I never noticed it; everyone got on bearing in mind I was the only person of a different colour in the club at the time.
Do you feel enough is being done to encourage Black people into the sport?
No, there is not enough to encourage Black people into the sport, but a lot of people from all ethnicities probably don't know that archery exists.
What made you want to take on a senior role at your archery club, and did you have any challenges in securing the position?
The previous Chair nominated me for the role. At every AGM, members do have the chance to go for any position on the committee and every year I am still voted in. I have never been told or challenged to step down so hopefully I'm not doing a bad job, or maybe no one wants to take the role on just yet!
As chair of your club and county, I imagine diversity is uppermost in your mind. Are you doing anything in particular to address the issue?
Bowmen of Glen is a diverse club and we have European people, Asian people, and myself as members. However, there is some work to be done in encouraging more diversity, which I'd like every club in the County to be involved in, but at this moment in time we're still fighting Covid and getting members back into the sport. Promoting wider participation is on my agenda. I would also love to take the sport to the Caribbean islands but cost is the main drawback.
What changes do you think are likely across the sport in the next 10 years in terms of greater diversity?
There could be a shift towards people wanting archery on their doorstep (more indoor facilities) so they don't have to travel around so much. I think with more advertising and publicity in the right places there could be a change of attitudes towards how the sport is perceived.
What would you say to a young Black person interested in starting the sport, but who feels nervous about actually doing it?
This question is like any sport: try it for a while, see if you like it and if not put the bow down and find another sport. I would also recommend that if young people hope to go further in the sport, to put in the hard work and it will pay dividends. Archery is very addictive once you start - you will not put the bow down!
A low proportion of Archery GB's membership is currently from ethnically diverse communities and this is something Archery GB is looking to address. Diversity throughout is a key strategic ambition for Archery GB's 2021 - 2026 organisational strategy. An example of our work in this area is Project Rimaya, a SportsAid-funded initiative created to increase participation of archery in ethnically diverse communities. For more information, visit https://startarchery.co.uk/article/project-rimaya-empowers-muslim-communities-through-archery
Creating an inclusive environment - resources
Check out Sport England's Club Matters dedicated webpage on inclusivity. It aims to help clubs and groups consider how inclusive and accessible their organisation is, with tips and advice for making improvements.
Everybody should feel comfortable to take part in sport and physical activity in whatever way works for them, including in a club or group setting. However, for many people, there are barriers that make it hard for them to get involved. Club Matters is in the process of building their inclusion resources including the Reaching different audiences' website section and developing the new A club for everyone' workshops.
Archery GB has also developed a Respect in Archery micro-course on Learning Curve, which covers issues such as discrimination.
Please click here to find out more about Black History Month.