Community Impact

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”

Nelson Mandela


It is with great pleasure that we introduce our 2023 community impact report, a testament to the unwavering commitment and dedication of Fulham Reach Boat Club in the mission to bring "Rowing for All" to our community. As a vital part of the organisation's ongoing efforts to tackle inequalities and empower individuals, this report showcases the remarkable impact of Fulham Reach Boat Club’s programmes in fostering personal growth and positive change. It is a true testament to the transformative power of sports and the dedication of all those involved. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Fulham Reach Boat Club team, the participants, and everyone who has made these achievements possible.


This report provides an overview of the impact that Fulham Reach Boat Club has had on the community from August 2022 to September 2023. The organisation's vision of "Rowing for All" serves as the driving force behind our efforts to address inequalities and empower individuals, and this report sheds light on the incredible success of our initiatives.

State School Rowing: In collaboration with 10 local state schools, Fulham Reach Boat Club has reached over 866 children and young people, instilling positive habits, teamwork, and confidence. The results reveal a significant increase in physical activity, enhanced focus, and improved self-esteem, reaffirming the programme's positive influence.

Free Water Sports Weeks: During school holidays, the Free Water Sports Weeks initiative expanded its reach by 37% compared to the previous year. With 74% of participants hailing from diverse ethnic communities and deprived areas, the programme not only promotes physical activity but also addresses food insecurity and learning loss. It is evident that the participants experienced heightened enjoyment, improved physical activity habits, and greater teamwork skills.

Junior Membership and Bursaries: Subsidised junior memberships and Reach Pathway bursaries supported 138 children and young people, offering them the opportunity to compete, volunteer, and develop crucial life skills. The programme has led to increased physical activity, stronger teamwork skills, heightened focus, and greater self-confidence.

Boats Not Bars: In partnership with six prisons across Southeast England, the Boats Not Bars programme has been a remarkable success, improving both physical and psychological well-being. The results show increased motivation, optimism for the future, and physical activity levels among participants. The programme also plays a pivotal role in boosting self-worth and changing participants' perceptions of identity.

The findings presented in this report underscore the immense positive influence that Fulham Reach Boat Club's programmes have on the lives of individuals from diverse backgrounds. These programmes have successfully harnessed the power of sport to create positive change, encourage personal growth, and address inequalities in our community.


The vision for our charity is a simple one, Rowing for All.  We use sport as a development tool by providing access to rowing to a cross-section of our community, especially those who are most in need due to financial hardship or social circumstances and help them realise their full potential both on and off the water.

We exist to tackle inequalities in our community:

  • 52.8% of children and young people struggle to meet the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for an average of 60 minutes or more every day (Sport England, 2021-2022).
  • 46% of prison leavers re-offend within 1 year of release (Ministry of Justice, 2016); the Ministry of Justice states that participation in sport can contribute to efforts to reduce reoffending.

And inequalities to access in our sport:

  • Only 9% of rowers are from lower socioeconomic groups compared with 47% of the population (British Rowing, 2021).
  • 6% of British Rowing members are from ethnically diverse communities (British Rowing, 2021).
  • 83% of schools affiliated with British Rowing are independent (Love Rowing, 2023)

To make this happen, we have two well-established pathways, targeting youth development and prisoner reform:

Our Youth programme creates the opportunity for children and young people to experience the benefits of sport and learn to row for free via their schools either before, during, or after school hours, and during school holidays via Free Water Sports Weeks. Additionally, we support and nurture talented rowers via our junior membership programme and support those in need with free bursaries.

Our Boats Not Bars programme provides the opportunity for prisoners to experience the benefits of sport by learning to row indoors, which provides the foundation for learning to row post-release and connects them to a support network and a community to help them live a life away from crime.

To evaluate our impact, we collect data on participants, such as attendance and demographics, survey data from participants through feedback questionnaires, and observational data from staff, such as teachers or prison instructors. This blend of quantitative and qualitative data helps provide a balanced perspective on the impact we are having and enables us to best learn about our strengths and opportunities for improvement.


This year we partnered with 10 local state schools to offer rowing sessions either before, during, or after school hours. Through rowing, we instil positive habits around physical activity and teach teamwork, focus, confidence, and communication, as well as life skills that are not easily taught in the classroom. Working directly with schools is a fantastic way to reach underserved groups of young people ranging from 13 to 18 years old who might not normally consider rowing. We are incredibly proud this year to have provided:

  • 7,096 participant places,
  • 487 sessions delivered,
  • 866 children and young people benefited,
  • 61% female representation,
  • 10 local state schools including Fulham Boys School, Lady Margaret School, Sacred Heart High School, Chelsea Academy, West London Free School, Fulham Cross Girls School, All Saints Catholic School, Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, Hammersmith Academy, and Kensington Aldridge Academy.
  • 70% of the state schools we work with are located in areas with index of deprivation (IMD) of either 4 or below. IMD is a 10-point scale with 1 being the most deprived; the deprivation of the school location is a reliable proxy for students attending.

Our impact survey questionnaires then looked to explore the impact we had and the social outcomes we achieved. The survey was completed by 236 participants after they had learnt to row and identified the following areas of impact:

Enjoyment factor

95% enjoyed being on the river and learning to row.

The national campaign Play Their Way is a child-first approach to coaching that focuses on the enjoyment of sport, as lack of enjoyment is often cited as a reason for attrition. It is hugely positive that so many of our participants enjoy the experience of rowing we are providing.

Increase in physical activity habits

15% increase in the children identifying themselves as ‘physically active’ and 12% reduction in children classifying themselves as ‘less active’.

The fact that rowing has enabled children to change their activity habits is a positive, as we know creating positive activity habits is important to establish at a young age.

Developing teamwork skills

88% agreed that they had learned to work as part of a team.

Rowing is often described as the ‘ultimate’ team sport, so positive to see this recognised so strongly as an outcome of learning to row.

Improving focus

62% believe rowing has helped teach them how to focus more.

Whilst this is a positive indicator and we believe the structure and environment of our sport does lend itself to improving focus, we believe this area has more potential, and links to attainment in school is something for us to explore further.  

Building confidence

84% agreed that they feel more confident on the river.

Confidence generally is a great way to support individual development and positive to see participants growing in confidence on the water.

Observational impact and feedback

The observations and direct feedback back up the powerful story of positive impact from the participant survey data.

Overall, the key findings from our participant feedback forms reveal that being on the river can evoke a wide range of emotions and experiences, from excitement and adventure to tranquillity and mindfulness.

When asked what one-word participants would use to describe being on the river, words like “fun,” “exciting,” “enjoyable,” “cool,” “amazing,” “wonderful,” and “pleasure” were frequently mentioned, indicating that many respondents associate being on the river with positive and enjoyable experiences.  The most prominent theme to emerge was “Fun and Enjoyment” which suggests that, for most people, spending time on the river is seen as a source of recreation and delight.

" I liked going on the water the best and I think I got better each time. I wish we could have done it for longer because it was fun."

"Rowing was so much fun."

From a teacher's perspective, the positive experience and enjoyment from rowing is highly valued and seen as a great way to engage their students in sport and physical activity.

Many thanks again to all the instructors for a great session, these are a challenging group of girls to engage and they loved it!” Kensington Aldridge Academy 

“This programme has been hugely popular. It is an incredibly inclusive programme that allows students with diverse learning needs, ranging abilities and from all walks of life the opportunity to take part in a high-profile sport. The coaches are always very positive and encouraging, allowing all students to have a good experience. We would highly recommend Fulham Reach Boat Club to any school or organisation.” Lady Margaret School

From a parent's perspective, there is clearly an immense amount of pride in participation in a sport like rowing and a clear acknowledgement of the personal development it supports.

"Fulham Reach Boat Club has given Maria [not real name] an opportunity to row, which she has taken full advantage of. It is incredible to see how far she has developed, as a rower and as a person, in such a short time. I often have happy tears in my eyes when I see her racing and reading about her achievements. FRBC gives stability to her outside of our home, which has allowed her to learn about the sport she loves and has given her confidence. Maria also takes every opportunity to volunteer at FRBC, and is often found to be there during school holidays and Sundays, helping the coaches and learning from them. The coaches and people who work at FRBC are truly supportive"


This year we delivered 5 blocks of Free Water Sport Weeks during the Easter and Summer school holidays in partnership with 9 local charities. The Free Water Sport Week provides unique opportunities for local young people within London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s wider ‘Summer in the City’ scheme, designed to deliver the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme in our area. This initiative is targeted at young local people who may suffer from food insecurity, lack of appropriate activities, learning loss, and who may be at risk of being involved in crime during the holidays. The programme offers a safe space, engaging activities, and nutritious meals. We promote unity through sports, and also connect young Londoners with their local river, often for the first time. We are hugely proud of the reach we have had this year, which has grown in size by 37% overall on last year:

  • 322 participant places,
  • 487 sessions delivered,
  • 89 children and young people benefited,
  • 63% female representation,
  • 74% of those attending were from diverse ethnic communities and lived in an area with an IMD (Index of Multiple Deprivation) level 4 or below,
  • 31% had Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND),
  • 100% were on free school meals,
  • 1,000 meals and 500 snacks were provided for free,
  • 33 young people participated in volunteering activities to support Free Water Sport Weeks.

Our impact survey questionnaires then looked to explore the impact and social outcomes we achieved with the Free Water Sport Week. The survey was completed by 35 participants and identified the following areas of impact:

Enjoyment factor

100% enjoyed being on the river and learning to row.

This is 5% higher than our state school rowing. It’s incredible that everybody enjoyed the experience. It is also positive to see that 94% wanted to continue rowing; we now face a supply challenge of creating enough opportunities to service this demand.

Increase in physical activity habits

17% increase in the children identifying themselves as ‘physically active’ and 31% reduction in children classifying themselves as ‘less active’.

This is a very positive change in activity habits and also a greater improvement than we had in our state schools rowing.

Developing teamwork skills

86% agreed that they had learned to work as part of a team.

This is a positive result and a similar response to our state schools’ rowing.

Improving focus

91% believe rowing has helped teach them how to focus more.

This is hugely positive and reflects a 29% greater improvement in focus compared to our state schools programme.

Building confidence

100% agreed that they feel more confident on the river.

Hugely positive response for all to increase in confidence, this is a 16% increase in confidence compared to our state schools’ rowing.

Observational impact and feedback

Participants and parents praised the positive effects on self-confidence, skills, and well-being. Words like 'fun,' 'exciting,' and 'freeing' dominated participant feedback.

Overall, we believe our free school holiday activities were a great success, blending excitement, learning, relaxation, and community to create a memorable and enriching experience for all involved.

The participant feedback was very emotive:

“I loved this place so much! It helped me socialise and I’ve learned a lot of new things.” 

“My time at FRBC was exciting and made me come out of my comfort zone, it helped me gain confidence.” 

And the parent feedback clearly valued the personal development opportunities for their children:

“Gemma [not real name] said the teachers are all kind and supportive and she didn’t feel pressured. So it’s just really nice cuz she had so much struggle with accessing school. She even asked you questions about going home when she needed to - and again it’s really wonderful that she felt safe enough to do that. Really appreciate it massively.”

“Harry [not real name] has not had any previous experience rowing or kayaking and he absolutely loved it. You have introduced him to new sports which he would love to do again - thank you for opening his eyes to new possibilities and adventures!  Last week also gave Harry an exciting week full of activities to talk about when he returns to school. It gave him positive sporting role models to look up to; it taught him new skills, encouraged teamwork, built his confidence, kept him active and it was all enormous fun. It was brilliant!  In his own words, 'it was the best week of the holiday'!  Thank you so much for all that you do. Your work truly makes a huge impact on young people like my son.”

We also welcomed key stakeholders and experts to observe our Free Water Sport Week delivery and their comments were a strong endorsement of the impact:

“Being here makes me feel like I’m on holiday” - Councillor Patricia Quigley, Mayor of London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

 “Fulham Reach Boat Club is one of our key partners for the [LBHF] summer programme” - Peter Haylock, Director of Education & Send, Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

 “I wish we’d had opportunities like this when we were growing up” - Smiley News


This year we delivered a subsidised junior membership for children and young people aged 14 to 18 and integrated 25 free bursary places across all age groups. The junior membership and bursaries will attract participants from our state school rowing and free water sport weeks. We view it as an opportunity for young people to take rowing to the next level and race at local and national competitions, as well as providing opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community. Some of the highlights of this program include:

  • Over 700 sessions delivered,
  • 138 children and young people benefiting,
  • 32 children and young people on free bursary places,
  • 72% female,
  • 16 Competed at head races and regattas,
  • Over 30 young people volunteered.

Enjoyment factor

75% described rowing as fun and sociable when given a choice of 14 options to describe their experience of rowing.

Increase in physical activity habits

68% increase in the children identifying themselves as ‘physically active’ and a reduction in 42% of children classifying themselves as ‘less active’.

95% would agree that rowing has helped with their fitness and health.

95% would agree that rowing has helped with their mental wellbeing.

Developing teamwork skills

95% would agree that rowing has helped with their teamwork skills.

Improving focus

63% would agree that rowing has helped with their ability to focus and study.

Building confidence

84% would agree that rowing has helped with their self-confidence.

100% would agree that rowing has helped with their safety around the river.

 Observational impact and feedback

Participants clearly articulated the positive impact that rowing regularly can have and the strong bonds and friendships it can create.

“Rowing and having fun, learning new skills”

“The community, getting to meet my friends and have fun every session both on and off the water”

“The ability to go out on the river with friends, making exercise both accessible and enjoyable for me and others”

Parents valued the impact rowing was having on their children, highlighting the enjoyment and positive impact on mental health and ability to do studying and schoolwork.

“My daughter has enjoyed their time rowing and said time on the water is ‘like bliss’ even on cold mornings.”

"My daughter has been rowing at Fulham Reach Boat Club for over 3 years and it has been a fantastic experience for her. It has provided her a 'third space' to hang out at the club (and online during Covid) beyond home and school. There have been three areas I have noticed benefits: she's made great friends from a huge variety of schools and backgrounds. This has had a very positive impact on her mental health. It has positively benefited her schoolwork and recent GCSE results by providing a release valve from the pressures of exams giving her energy to apply to her schoolwork after training. Rowing has only had a positive impact on her academic achievement, despite the time involvement. The amazing coaches cultivate a unique, supportive and inclusive culture, this has made my daughter and the other kids I see there want to be there."


“Prison-based sport and physical activities have clear physical and psychological benefits and can be valuable in promoting distance from crime” Meek & Lewis 2014.

The Boats Not Bars programme is a six to eight-week indoor rowing course delivered in partnership with 6 prisons across Southeast England. It takes an innovative approach to using sport for development to reduce reoffending rates. This has been acknowledged across the sector with Boats Not Bars won Innovation Award from the Sports Business Awards and was  shortlisted for the UK Active Innovation Award.

In every Boats Not Bars course that we have run, there has been improvement in physiological measures (either in the power test, 500m test, or both). Whilst these measures are a testament to the hard work and commitment of the participants, it is the psychological and mental well-being changes which are the main goal of the programme and which signify a reduction in the likelihood of reoffending. The positive impact has been:

  • 882 participant places,
  • 147 Sessions delivered,
  • 142 Prison residents benefited,
  • 29 Prison residents achieving the British Rowing GoRow Indoor qualifications,
  • 6 Prison sites: HMP & YOI Feltham - youth offenders and under 30-year-olds, HMP Brixton - adult male Category B and resettlement, HMP Send - adult female, HMP Bronzefield - privately run youth and adult female, HMP Spring Hill - adult male ‘open’ prison, HMP Huntercombe - adult male foreign nationals.

We link our questionnaires to the Ministry of Justice’s Intermediate Outcome Measures Instrument (an instrument for measuring shorter term changes which indicate a longer term shift away from criminal activity), which lists seven dimensions that can be measured as a proxy for change: resilience, wellbeing, agency/ self-efficacy, impulsivity/ problem-solving, motivation to change, hope, and interpersonal trust. The improvements in the factors below can be linked to the IOMI dimensions, and are taken from pre and post intervention surveys, the format of which was developed in collaboration with Feltham Young Offenders Institute’s psychology team.

Motivation factor

14% increase in the motivation to get up in the morning.

8% increase in feeling there are options open when leaving prison.

6% increase in optimism post-release and feeling there are opportunities and support available.

There are positive increases in a few areas linked to motivation and optimism for the future, which is a critical first step in achieving behavioural change.

Increase in physical activity habits

18% increase in physically activity levels.

3% increase in feeling better after exercise

This is a positive increase in physical activity levels, especially considering the confinement and restrictions imposed on prison residents. It is impressive that this is comparable with the state school rowing and free water sport weeks increases in physical activity.

Developing teamwork skills

5% increase in the sense that other people believe in them.

2% increase in the sense they have a community that support them.

Building confidence

5% increase that they can make any future for themselves that they choose

4% decrease in anxiety.

3% decrease in low mood / depression.

Observational impact and feedback

Participants and prison staff highlight the positive impact the Boats Not Bars programme has on morale and self-worth. Whilst prison staff have commented on how the activity helps to calm and provide focus, it is clear that for the participants it has a far deeper impact on their perception of identity and self-worth. Completing the GoRow Indoor qualifications (often the first qualification participants have achieved) and completing the full Boats Not Bars programme can also serve as milestones for achievement.

The following extracts are from participant surveys:

"It gave me a sense of achievement"

"It is one of the best things to happen to me, I believe I can do it, am happy I was able to do it"

Prison staff have been very supportive of Boats Not Bars and the holistic benefits it brings to prison residents.

Dr Natalie Seymour, Principal Clinical Psychologist at HMP & YOI Feltham:

“The biggest testament to the Boats not Bars course is that people who have taken part often say to me "Can I do the course again?" or "When is the next rowing course happening?". The adults enjoy the course and are able to identify what they have gained from it. The format allows for connections between physical and mental health to be made and the adults who take part have a good experience of seeing they can make progress in something when they work hard and engage well. The conversations we have had as a group are very powerful, for the adults involved, and also the coaches and wellbeing practitioners who run it. The course allows a more flexible and accessible way to access therapeutic ideas and this is a valuable resource for those that mainstream traditional services are not always accessible to.”

Paul Hooper, Prison Gym Officer at HMP Huntercombe:

“I believe the programme works well because it enables the prisoners to work together on something outside of their usual routine. It provides them with a new experience and a shared goal. Rowing requires stamina and patience, the team have worked incredibly hard to increase their fitness and this has in turn improved their self-confidence and also confidence in each other.”

Warren King Case Study

Warren King, a former participant of Boats Not Bars at HMP Brixton in late 2019/early 2020, experienced a transformative journey. Upon his release during the Covid lockdown, he reached out to the FRBC prisons manager, having been inspired during Boats Not Bars.

Warren's background is all too familiar for those who end up in prison. He grew up in a single-parent family, lacked positive role models, and faced violence and turmoil at home. His struggles extended to his education, where poor relationships with teachers left him feeling isolated and unsupported.

At a young age, Warren turned to cannabis as a way to escape the challenges of life. Regrettably, this led to further disconnection from peers who didn't share his struggles. He eventually saw selling drugs as a solution to his problems, not recognizing the cycle he was trapped in.

The consequences of his criminal lifestyle soon became apparent. He endured a horrific attack that left him blind for months, yet he felt trapped with no alternative. After multiple traumatic incidents, Warren was arrested and sentenced to prison. That first night behind bars offered him a sense of safety that had eluded him for years.

However, Warren's life took a positive turn when he discovered his passion for sports. It was through the "Boats Not Bars" programme at HMP Brixton that he was introduced to rowing. Despite having never used a rowing machine before, he quickly developed a love for the sport.

Following his release, Warren continued his engagement with FRBC. They supported him in learning to row on the water and secured funding for him to complete a level 3 Personal Trainer qualification. This new path has opened doors to a legitimate career, and he now leads online circuit sessions for the community. He is also studying for a university degree and continues to visit the club.

Warren's story exemplifies the impact of the support network offered by FRBC. It emphasizes the importance of building relationships and raising awareness within the prison community, ensuring that individuals like Warren have opportunities for a smoother transition upon release.


In summary, Fulham Reach Boat Club has shown us the immense power of sports in driving positive change and addressing inequalities in our community. Dedicated to "Rowing for All," we have not only touched lives but have transformed them.

The impact spans age groups and backgrounds and fosters better physical health, increased self-esteem, and a sense of belonging. This report is a testament to Fulham Reach Boat Club’s unwavering dedication to changing lives through sport. We are grateful to all who have supported Fulham Reach Boat Club and the efforts of volunteers, staff, and members for their outstanding commitment to making a difference and for setting a remarkable example of how sports can drive positive societal change.


Donations welcome

As a registered charity we welcome donations from individuals and businesses alike. Please visit our donations page to find out more.

Great memberships

Members are provided with access to the finest boats, rowing machines and club room as well as all club social events.

©2024  All rights reserved.     Company Number: 8900584     Registered Charity Number: 1161813
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