Select Page


(Durham County Council 2018)

Logo for County Durham Sport

Parklife aimed to provide a sustainable solution to increasing the activity levels of the least active people in the Durham Dales: through the provision of activities in local parks (and then referring people to mainstream clubs and facilities) and through skilled ‘Activators’ who delivered a tailored programme of sporting opportunities to engage new audiences.


Outcomes – Develop Shared Local Strategic Outcomes for Your Place

In early 2013, the County Durham Community Sports Networks (CSN’s) were tasked with refreshing their locality-based action-plans, creating frameworks to inform future sports investment. This identified extreme disparities in participation within the Durham Dales area, with stark contrast between Teesdale/Weardale (32%) and Bishop Auckland/Shildon (17.5%).

The need for additional work to redress this balance was agreed by the CSN and fully supported by the County Durham Sport and Physical Activity Partnership Board, recognising ‘increasing sports participation’ as an overarching priority. A clear outcomes pathway was developed for the project. The desired outcome of the project was to increase and sustain activity levels of the most inactive/least active populations within the Durham Dales.

Insight – Understand Your Community and Your Place

The project was informed by desktop research, including insight from the CSN (about inequalities in sport participation) and specific mapping and segmentation tools which provided information about participant location, socio-economic status, lifestyles and behaviours. Data showed that those living in areas of socio-economic deprivation are more likely to be inactive and suffer from ill health. The target area had a combined population of over 72,000 residents, of which over 65,000 (89%) lived in deprived wards as identified by Sport England.

The voices of nearly 1000 local residents were also heard through surveys and focus groups. The biggest perceived barrier to participation in physical activity was a lack of activities close to home. The majority of people (80%) wanted to access activities at their local park, with a high percentage of people stating that they would be interested in taking part in sport and physical activity together with their children or family members.

The concept of the project was also built on previous learning from delivering family based Urban-Games events across the County (including all parks in the project), during which feedback from consultation was overwhelmingly in favour of more (and more regular) delivery within the parks

Interventions – Identify How the Outcomes Can be Achieved Sustainably

The following interventions were used:

  • Delivery of free multi-sports taster days and family fun days, enabling people to try new sports
  • Delivery of sports activity across three local parks hubs and community venues
  • Delivery of activity in the evenings and daytime to serve different family members
  • Recruitment and training of volunteer peer-mentors and session-leaders to provide additional support and sustainability
  • Linking directly into mainstream sport provision and local clubs to support sustained engagement
  • The attachment of a small cost for attendance at each session (to support sustainability)

Commitment – Secure Investment Commitment to Outcome Delivery

Funding was secured from a variety of sources, including: Area Action Partnerships, Durham County Council, a Clinical Commissioning Group, and Sport England. Additional in-kind contributions were received from schools and sports venues.

Evaluation – Understand the Impact of Your Work

The project met its targets for both individual engagement and total throughput and was slightly more effective at engaging women (52%) than men (48%). 30% of participants were identified as being inactive prior to engaging with project activity.

The project succeeded at providing a referral route for participants into mainstream clubs: 80% of clubs reported their membership had increased as a result of engaging with the project.

However, mass participation family fun day events had very little impact on the engagement of people into weekly activity sessions (only 3% of participants heard about project activities through the family fun days). There were also lessons learned about sustainability. The project didn’t routinely charge for activities and the focus on recruiting volunteers to support project delivery was lost when additional funding was secured. Consequently, despite early volunteer engagement and training, no project activity became sustainable in the longer term.

Future projects should carefully consider how they will become sustainable in the longer term – commitment to sustainability must be upheld if projects are to succeed once initial funding has been spent. Further research into how best to retain and grow a voluntary workforce would support similar initiatives in future


Click on the blocks below to read case studies.

Logo for County Durham Sport


County Durham Sport distributed Sport England funding to organisations and community groups to keep people active in the COVID 19 lockdown and recovery stages.


Durham County Council took part in a national Sport England funded pilot to get more people swimming, more often.


A multi-partner Sport England funded pilot designed. to build healthier, more active communities in Shildon and the Deerness Valley areas of County Durham.


Researcher from Durham University worked with patients, commissioners and providers through Active Northumberland to understand how we can improve exercise referral provision.


Durham County Council work closely with the Wellbeing for Life service, Public Health and Social Prescribing Link Workers to support the health and wellbeing of local people.