George Fyvie explains how Leith Community Archers was created to help people on the poverty line to access archery, ensuring no one is left out.
Leith Community Archers was set up in 2013 by a group of volunteers who attended a showing of Brave Organised by Inspiring Leith, a new community project hosted by Bethany Christian Trust. Their aim was to build a community around activities, helping people to share and gain new skills.
We knew through Inspiring Leith, who were working with some other community groups including the homeless shelters, that people wouldn’t be able to purchase their own equipment, or even pay for lessons – archery can be expensive. The community we were looking to focus on was ranked the 12th most deprived community in Scotland, with no disposable income. So, everyone pitched in some money to buy some equipment, formulated a plan and used the money to enact it.
We had some volunteers trained as archery instructors by MRM Archery Ltd and rented space in Leith Academy. We printed flyers and handed them out at the Leith Festival’s Gala Day.
From the first day we were at capacity and very quickly had to restrict numbers. We knew there were a lot of overheads – hall rental, equipment, insurance – and decided that, to keep the club running, we would ask people to make donations if they could afford to.
We used an honesty box policy in which people could anonymously drop cash so there was no embarrassment, and we told people that even if they were unable to donate that they could still take part. Most nights we would have a shortfall and the instructors reach into their own pockets to cover it.
Most people coming to sessions were young families, refugees, unhoused people, those with mental health issues and physical disabilities. We discovered that for a lot of families, coming along to LCA was the only time they would spend together. Attendees ranged from age five up to mid-eighties.
We decided to apply for registered charity status and now we have a dedicated fundraiser in George Fyvie, who works to bring in grants and focus on club projects, like our outings to Beescraigs Country Park, where we provide transport, equipment and food for the people who wish to come along.
The pandemic was especially hard on us, as we are an indoors club so could not shoot. Our committee and instructors however used the time to build an online booking system, update our policies and procedures and come up with safe ways of working as restrictions lifted. Members of the committee got involved in overhauling the club, updating the website and running social media campaigns about what people could do in lockdown – all the things we wished we had time for in the past but could not do.
Our previous chair, Kath Fyvie, and Amy Fyvie became ambassadors for Archery GB – Amy is the only junior ambassador in Scotland.
When lockdown was lifted, we were very kindly given the use of Archers Hall by the Royal Company of Archers, as a space to train two cohorts of new instructors.
LCA is now known for its community development and its committee are often invited along to Inspiring Leith to talk to other community groups. We still give advice to other community groups, including advice on funding, policies and procedures, and becoming registered charities. We also try to attend community events to reach people on the poverty line and work with those with mental and physical disabilities. Currently, we are looking to set up special sessions at the Leith Academy so that some of the most vulnerable young people can enjoy archery in a controlled environment organised by the Active School Sports Coordinator.
We are still very much at capacity levels, with around sixty people attending every week, but we are able to keep going due to our anonymous donations policy, which is still at the forefront of our ethos. We simply want to make archery accessible to all and take pride in removing any barriers to that which we encounter.
If you're thinking of taking a leaf out of Leith's book and are interested in setting up your own club to improve access to archery, there are a number of AGB guides that can help.
You can also contact your Regional Development Officer for more information and support.