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Sandwell hula-hooper makes physical activities inclusive and fun

From hula-hooping and circus tricks to pottery and jewellery-making, Rachel Conlisk is dedicated to making physical and creative activities inclusive, accessible and fun.

Rachel Conlisk, who founded Creative Active Lives CIC which is based in Bearwood
Rachel Conlisk, who founded Creative Active Lives CIC which is based in Bearwood

In 2019, she founded Creative Active Lives CIC, a non-profit organisation that provides entertainment and educational sessions to people of all ages and abilities.

The activities cater for participants who might otherwise face barriers when accessing opportunities to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

It all began when Rachel, who lives in Oldbury, discovered she had a talent for hula-hooping and started travelling around the UK giving workshops and performances.

Rachel has been teaching hula hooping since 2013

Due to the demand for her classes, she launched social enterprise, Spinsonic Circus, in 2014, and taught sessions for adults and children with physical and learning disabilities before adding circus skills to her repertoire.

Since then Spinsonic Circus has delivered hula hooping and circus workshops for Sandwell Adult Social Care, Birmingham Disability Sport, Birmingham MIND, MENCAP, the Alzheimer’s Society, Ageing Better in Birmingham and Beacon Centre for the Blind and run hundreds of private workshops with ages ranging from four to 84.

As she witnessed participants reaping the benefits of the sessions, Rachel also saw a need for affordable, accessible activities that would improve social interaction and physical and mental stimulation in care homes, activity groups and other areas where older adults faced isolation and loneliness.

This led her to start Creative Active Lives CIC, bringing together talented instructors, performers and entertainers to offer a package of interactive, engaging and, most of all, fun activities that work for seated and mobile people of all ages and mixed abilities including people with dementia and Parkinson’s.

They include juggling, dance, art, seasonal crafts, music production, beat-boxing, rap and spoken word, boxercise, fitness, photography, forest school, poetry, Parkour and balloon modelling.

The organisation also offers activity sessions for corporate clients, schools, care homes and established dementia and disability activity groups, and runs SEND activity sessions and Dementia Friendly sessions across the UK.

“The activities provide opportunities for creativity and self-expression. They help with both mental health and physical health. They reduce social isolation and provide access to physical activities for people who don’t like traditional activities like football and cricket. They also help with self-confidence and self-esteem,” explains Rachel, who is based at Bearwood Community Hub.

Creative Active Lives is currently going from strength to strength and has bounced back from a experiencing tough period due to the pandemic.

“We have experienced amazing growth as a company this year, after losing all our work in 2020,” says Rachel.

“This has enabled us to take on a year long internship from The Hive College for young people with learning and physical disabilities, to assist in building skills and transitioning to employment.

“We are also starting a free drop-in Digital Skills Social Cafe at Bearwood Community Hub to support anyone who needs access to the internet, or support getting online, keeping safe online, applying for jobs, CV creation, learning Word/Excel, getting on social media to keep in touch with friends and family etc.

“We are also continuing our online kids Minecraft and Dungeons and Dragons clubs, coding and game design courses for kids, with free places for local children in need,” she tells Weekend.

Rachel with her digital apprentice Steve James from The Hive College

Rachel has recently been named as one of the UK’s most inspirational and dynamic female entrepreneurs by the f:Entrepreneur ‘#ialso100’ campaign to celebrate the multi-achievements of women running businesses today.

She is being profiled alongside 100 female entrepreneurs from across the country.

Ranging from quantum computer engineers and vegan fruit farmers, to sustainability advocates and inclusive fashion designers, this year’s campaign celebrates women who have flourished despite the challenges of the past years, with many still growing or starting new ventures.

“It is a huge honour to be profiled alongside a group of inspiring, women in business,” says Rachel.

Rachel has been named as one of the UK’s most inspirational and dynamic female entrepreneurs by the f:Entrepreneur ‘#ialso100’ campaign

“It really means a lot to me. It’s hard trying to do everything as a single parent and starting a business and you are always comparing yourself to other people.

“I get a lot of fulfilment from my job. I spend more time sat in front of computer, rather than being out in the community, than I would like, but I enjoy supporting individuals and businesses and finding new activities that people haven’t tried before and making sure they are accessible to everybody,” she tells Weekend.

Her advice to anyone thinking about taking the plunge and starting their own venture, is to just go for it.

“It can be a daunting thought to set up your own business, but to anyone who has an idea or is starting out and thinks they can’t do it – yes, you can.

“When I started my first business I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It was hard work but worth it. Research, read, ask for help and don’t give up. You got this,” she says.

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