Community Voice

“We need each other. I love the idea of shifting from ‘mile wide inch deep’ movements to ‘Inch wide mile deep’ movements that schism the existing paradigm.” Adrienne Maree Brown – author and social activist 


We are pleased to present this 2023 community voice report: it listens to the needs of our community and helps us to understand how to better serve them through our mission to inclusive opportunities. We believe in community-driven initiatives to help unlock the power of sport, and this report reflects our commitment to understanding the diverse needs of our community. Through these insights, we can continue to grow and foster an environment where everyone can access the physical, mental, social and environmental benefits of participating in water sports on the river Thames in London.

We would like to thank the following locally trusted organisations for supporting us with this survey: London Sports Trust, Action on Disability, HFEH Mind, Young Hammersmith & Fulham Foundation, and London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

A special thanks to Bev Jarvis, Jessica Forte, and Heather Wilson from Sport England for support with survey design and Dr Peter Boyes and Marieke Hagemans from British Rowing for support with data analysis and findings.


In 2023, Fulham Reach Boat Club (FRBC) undertook comprehensive community research to better understand and serve our local community. Our research engaged with the demographic diversity in and around Hammersmith and Fulham, revealing valuable insights into the population’s preferences, needs, and perceptions.

Our survey sample closely mirrored the diversity of Hammersmith and Fulham, emphasising the importance of representing our community accurately. We observed ethnic diversity, age group representation, and a significant proportion of respondents identifying as disabled.

The research uncovered an opportunity for FRBC to expand its reach, as a substantial portion of respondents had not previously heard of our organisation and the activities we offer. There is an opportunity to build on the existing positive perceptions of water sports as fun, challenging, and beneficial for mental health.  The research indicates that promoting water sports as a social and inclusive activity can foster greater community participation.

Among the water sports activities rowing, canoeing/kayaking, and paddle boarding gained the most interest, reflecting the potential for diverse offerings to engage various community interests.

The research highlighted our community's strong desire to protect the environment and river from pollution and sewage.

In conclusion, this report underscores the importance of community engagement and inclusivity in FRBC's mission. By better understanding our community's preferences and values, we can create a more inclusive environment, enabling greater access to the river Thames and the benefits of water sports.


Fulham Reach Boat Club is an inclusive sport charity that embraces place-based working to challenge unconscious biases and ensure everyone is represented.

Place-based working is a person-centred, bottom-up approach to meet the needs of people in our local community by better working together to use the best available resources, collaborating to gain local insights, and co-producing to create community-designed activities.

Our 2023 community research collected local insights and perspectives through conversations and surveys with local people at local events, coffee mornings, and on the street. Our community survey was completed both face to face and through QR code flyers that were distributed through locally trusted organisations and posted in local community hot spots like coffee shops, libraries, and community centres. Our membership survey of adults and juniors at FRBC was completed online and promoted via weekly newsletters, serving as a useful comparator.

In our survey, we asked people about what they do in their spare time, their relationship with physical activity and barriers, their perceptions of a range of water sports, and their demographic information to help us understand their backgrounds as well as check and challenge the diversity and representation of our sample.

Our survey data in total collected 141 community responses between July and August 2023. We also collected in total 96 FRBC member responses, of which 69 were adult members and 28 were junior members or their parents, between July and September 2023.


In the Census 2021, Hammersmith and Fulham was the sixth most densely populated of London's 33 local authority areas, with around 80 people living on each football pitch-sized area of land. Nationally, the average is around 4 people living in a football pitch-sized area.

The population in Hammersmith and Fulham is predominantly white at 63%, with non-white minorities representing the remaining 37% of the population. Our community survey was 57% white, 36% non-white minorities, and 8% preferring not to say.

The largest minority group in Hammersmith and Fulham is Black, accounting for 12% of the population; our community survey was 8% Black. Asian is the second largest minority group accounting for 11%; our community survey was 16% Asian. 

For England & Wales the population demographics are as follows: 82% white, 9% Asian and 4% Black. The graph below shows ethnic groups for England & Wales, Hammersmith and Fulham, and our community survey (FRBC 2023). 

For the gender split in Hammersmith and Fulham, based on the Office for National Statistics 2019, males account for 47% of the population and females 53%. Our community survey was 43% male and 49% female, with 5% identifying in another way and 3% preferring not to say.

Based on the Census 2021, 7% of people in Hammersmith and Fulham identified as disabled--this compares to 18% of England & Wales and 25% of respondents in our community survey.

Our community survey captured people from all age groups following a similar age pyramid trend to the Census 2021 data.

Based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), Hammersmith and Fulham was ranked 112 out of 317 English Local Authority Districts (where 1 is the most deprived). Hammersmith and Fulham was 16th out of 33 London Boroughs. Our community survey captured people in all IMDs from 1 to 10, with most people (32%) living in IMD-4.


From Sport England Active Lives Data (Nov 2022), we know that 20% of the population of Hammersmith and Fulham are inactive, which is defined as doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week. Meanwhile, the Port of London Authority highlights the untapped potential in water activities in Hammersmith and Fulham, as they estimate there are 15,000 football pitches of blue space available.

In our survey, we aimed to collate insight and understanding about what people did in their spare time, their relationship with and their barriers to physical activity, their perception of a range of water sports, and their views on access and the environment. Below are the key findings.

4.1 Have you heard of the charity Fulham Reach Boat Club before?

60% of respondents from the community survey had not heard of FRBC before and 33% had heard of FRBC but don’t know the charity. It highlights the importance of this work in understanding the community we are currently underserving and not currently reaching. As well as the opportunity to increase local awareness of what we offer.   

4.2  What do you like doing most in your spare time?

Respondents selected their top three activities from a list of twelve.

The top response from the community survey was ‘hanging out with friends’ at 55%. This was also the top response for our FRBC members’ survey (57%). The next two highest-ranking activities for the community survey were ‘watching films’ and ‘going online’—these are two key examples of things that command people's attention and spare time.

There is an opportunity to highlight the social aspect of our activities and demonstrate how they support hanging out with current or new friends.

4.3  Which, if any, of these river-based water sports activities have you heard of?

Currently, community survey respondents do not engage much or have ‘heard of but never done’ all of the five water sports activities listed in the survey. Just 16% of our respondents participate in a water sports activity, though 8% currently do indoor rowing. Rowing is the most understood activity from the list, closely followed by paddle boarding. Beach sprint rowing was the sport our respondents had heard of the least, closely followed by dragon boating.

Nearly a third of respondents used to canoe/kayak but no longer do so. Rowing, indoor rowing, and paddle boarding saw roughly the same level of response, with 15% having previously participated in the activity.

The community in Hammersmith and Fulham lives and works on the banks of the stretch of river that is the busiest for rowing and hosts the largest annual rowing event in the world, the Boat Race. While our survey did not directly ask about the Boat Race, the event can play a significant part in increasing the awareness of rowing in our local area.

There is an opportunity to capitalise on this high level of community awareness of rowing and offer a range of opportunities to suit.

4.4  What is your perception of water sports activities?

The results show a positive association between water sports activities with ‘fun and sociable’ the highest-ranked perception at 43%. This corresponds well with the earlier question asking what people like to do in their spare time. These activities can be that space where they can hang out with friends, and this association is the most agreed perception from respondents.

It is a positive endorsement that when compared with FRBC members, they ranked ‘fun and sociable’ as the top perception response at 61%.

More could be done to promote this aspect of water sports activities to the community and use that to promote FRBC as a place where these activities are taking place. Water sports activities being perceived as ‘good for mental health’ could also be seen as a positive opportunity for the promotion and delivery of the activities. We have clear marketing opportunities here, but we need to do more work to increase the number of respondents perceiving water sports activities in these ways.

The ‘challenging’ perception was a mixed sentiment. Across the 59 community respondents that selected this option, they split between also choosing ‘dangerous’ and ‘difficult’, ‘fun and sociable’, and ‘exciting’. The most popular related options were a need for ‘strength, mobility, and balance’ and ‘full body workouts’. In comparison with FRBC members, ‘difficult’ and ‘dangerous’ didn’t record any responses.

There is an opportunity to reinforce the positive perceptions rather than efforts to establish other new perceptions.

4.5  Why do you do physical activity and sport? 

Respondents selected their top three reasons from a list of twelve options.

The community respondents’ most significant reason for physical activity and sport participation  was  ‘improve fitness’ (59%), with 51% saying it was for ‘staying active generally’. 38% chose ‘to de-stress’ and 40% ‘for mental health’.

These findings align with earlier insights about the promotion of these benefits.

4.6  Things that stopped you from doing the amount of physical activity that you would have liked to?    

Time, motivation, and money are the main barriers stopping community respondents from doing the amount of physical activity they’d like to do. Overwhelmingly time is the biggest barrier, and this is something we have to compete with when promoting water sport activities. We need to find a way to capture the time people do have or to help them understand how or when they may have time that they’re unaware of.

The issue of having no one to do the activity with, which came in at 4th position, sits in line with and is supported by people looking to hang out with their friends in their spare time and people perceiving water sport activities as sociable. Where they don’t have an existing link to one of these activities through a friend, we could shift perspective by promoting FRBC as a place to bring friends to take part in water sport activities together, thereby matching their desire to spend time with their friends with their perception of water sport activities as sociable while removing the barrier of not knowing anyone.

Exploring the barriers for specific audience groups, of the 69 community respondents who identified as female, 22% selected that they felt intimidated by others, and of 35 community respondents who identified as disabled 23% highlighted that catering for support needs had been an issue.

4.7  Rank in order the water sport activities you would try or like to do.

Respondents selected their top three choices from the seven options.

Rowing positioned as highest both as first ranked activity to try amongst community respondents and overall within the top three activities suggested, at 66% overall. Canoe/kayaking and then paddle boarding come in as the next most popular, with canoe/kayaking at 60% and paddle boarding at 52%.

This again indicates an opportunity to engage with messaging encouraging community members to try out the sports. Offering these three options in conjunction in the same area could promote the growth from one supporting the others. FRBC already co-delivers kayaking with London Sports Trust, so we are well-placed to capitalise on this multi-sport offer.

4.8  How do you feel about these statements

The opportunity to enjoy and experience the river is important.  

79% agreed with the statement, which shows the community believe the opportunity is important.

Our river needs protection from pollution and sewage.

87% agreed with the statement, which shows the community strongly agrees that our rivers need protection.

FRBC can use this to be advocates and champions for the waterway, protecting it from pollution and sewage and, as a result, also maintaining the opportunity to enjoy and experience the river.


In conclusion, this report reinforces the importance of community engagement and inclusivity in FRBC's mission. By truly understanding our community, we can create an inclusive environment where everyone can access the Thames and the benefits of water sports.

We look forward to implementing the insights from this research in our outreach work with support from our partners to continue growing and serving our community.


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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