Inclusion is the name of the game at Bristol Swift

Formed as a small group of six friends playing in their local gym four years ago, since then, a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility has led Bristol Swift Badminton Club to grow into an integral part of the local community.

Membership numbers have grown to the 100 mark thanks to an open arm policy that encourages anyone from all walks of life to pick up a racket and participate, regardless of sexual orientation.

The focus on providing a safe and welcoming environment for people to develop their badminton skills has made it easier to form strong friendships, as well as improve physical and mental health.

Pride Month presents an opportunity for such success for LGBTQ+ clubs to be recognized and celebrated, and Fiach O’Rourke of Bristol Swifts hopes the club can take further steps forward.

He said: “From the beginning, we just tried to remove as many barriers as possible. Whether it’s age, gender, gender, race – anything – we welcome everyone who wants to attend.

“Whether you’re new to the sport, whether you picked up a racket 30 years ago and decided to take it up again, or whether you’ve been playing consistently for the past 10 years – we are open and accessible to people from as many walks of life as possible.”

In the wake of these booming numbers, O’Rourke warned that it was imperative that clubs stick to their roots, and avoid adopting a more eclectic strategy that would hamper their focus on providing an inclusive badminton environment.

And while the complications of Covid-19 have somewhat affected the LGBTQ+ community’s celebrations of Pride Month – which takes place around the world each June – Bristol Swift is showing her support for the movement in the best possible way.

O’Rourke added: “We originated as a badminton social club, and usually clubs have become more competitive over time. Because of that clubs can become more selective, leading to a loss of main philosophy.

“We are a social club and we want to be available to anyone who wants to come and play. It is important that other clubs do not forget their roots.

“During Pride Month last year, we came together as a friendship group in the park, within the permitted Covid-19 limits. We hope to do so again this year, as well as showing our support on social media.”

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