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Video/Gallery: Gymnasts from mid Suffolk celebrate club’s 40th anniversary

09:00 20 July 2014

Mid Suffolk Gymnastics Club celebrates its 40th anniversary at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket.

Mid Suffolk Gymnastics Club celebrates its 40th anniversary at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket.


A very special gym club is celebrating its 40th anniversary and already there are big dreams for the future.


The club wants to move to new premises and is seeking hundreds of thousands of pounds in funds to make it possible.

For most of its life it has been based at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, in Stowmarket, but around an hour of each session is spent setting up and tidying away the cumbersome equipment.

Head coaches Brett Rookyard, 39, and Chris Berry, 58, already have the support of Suffolk County Council for the new centre.

“We cannot get any more in, we physically have not got the room to take more numbers,” Mrs Berry said.

Mid Suffolk Gymnastics Club celebrates its 40th anniversary at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket.Mid Suffolk Gymnastics Club celebrates its 40th anniversary at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket.

“We are looking into funding; it would need hundreds of thousands and we are only in the early stages but we have the support of BG, British Gymnastics and Suffolk County Council are behind us. We will be looking at Sport England as well.

“We are having to turn people away and we would love to train a lot more.

“We do the least amount of training in the county but the girls do really well. We have had some really good results bringing home medals.”

The duo have set a target of raising the required sums for the new facility within the next five years. Currently the club only caters for girls, but with the London 2012 Olympics still having an effect, an improved headquarters is needed.

“More and more children want to do it because of the Olympics – it has done wonders for gymnastics,” Mr Rookyard said.

“Until quite recently it has been quite an invisible sport and usually Team GB does not do very well but the last Olympics was different. We would like to offer more variety, it would be nice to offer something for boys even at a small level.”

A man who has seen the club change over the years is one of its founding members, Colin Barnard. The 84-year-old, from Stowmarket, retired a few years ago to concentrate on other activities.

“I still get involved because I enjoy it,” he said.

“I thought I had had enough when I retired 10 years ago but I missed it so much; I have been back for about three years now,” he said.

“It’s a way of life for me, coaching gymnastics.”

Back in 1974, Colin along with his wife, Tessa and other volunteers, set up the club. For 25 years he was head coach and still has an active interest in several other sports.

“As long as I can stay fit I will continue”, he added.

“It’s just pleasing when you see the mums who now have their daughters coming through at the club and they say ‘are you still here?’. It’s wonderful really to see the progression.”

Despite his vast experience Colin is unable to directly teach the children because of gymnastics coaching rules which are updated annually. Instead he can advise them and the coaches leading the sessions.

Tracey Smith started out with the club as a young gymnast in 1974 but now after 40 years with the club the 50-year-old is one of the girls’ coaches.

She said: “We used to work out of what is now the gym facility at the centre. There was lots of fundraising to raise money for the equipment. I think the biggest thing about the club is that it is sport for all – the coaches give up their time voluntarily – it’s affordable for all. There are many clubs around which are inclusive and expensive.

“When I stopped as a gymnast I thought I had enjoyed my time and wanted to give something back and so I would coach.”

The club, which has around 40 girls on its books, puts on sessions three times a week at the centre on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Mrs Smith added: “We have a fantastic core of parents many of whom go on to become coaches. The team behind the scenes, the committee, help to keep the club running.”

Mrs Berry and Mr Rookyard also wished to thank all members, parents and supporters, past and present, for their help over the years. A big birthday party is planned for September with the call going out for all current and former members to come along.

Anselm Gurney, contract manager at the leisure centre, said: “I am very pleased that Mid Suffolk Gymnastics Club is celebrating its 40 year anniversary. As far as I am aware the club has been operating at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre ever since the facility first opened. The club has continued to develop and expand over the years and in that time must have helped literally thousands of children to take part in gymnastics.”

• Anyone who wants to find out more about the celebrations should contact
• To go to the club’s website visit



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