Angela Harrison and Darren Salmon have been running Longridge Community Gym at the Civic Hall in Calder Avenue for nearly 10 years. Angie claims the Longridge Social Enterprise Company terminated their services last week and plans to replace them with a single manager who will run the venue on a “commercially viable” basis.
Following concerns from residents, the Ribble Valley Borough Council says it has received assurances from Civic Hall directors that they will continue operating it as a community gym. One such resident is Longridge man Gary Wood, 58, who worries the new business model will forgo several essential services that help vulnerable people, eventually leading to the venue’s closure.
Gary, who is urging people to show their support for the two managers on social media, said: “Some people are very angry about what’s happened. They have been coming up to me saying it can’t be allowed to happen. When something is going to have an impact of this magnitude, it’s just wrong on so many levels.
“I’ve seen this [scenario] so many times before. If Angie and Darren leave this place, it’s finished. The services will go. It’s as simple as that. And people will leave in protest of what’s happening.
“I just want people to see what’s happening here and what the gym’s all about because when it’s gone, it’s gone. The gym is loved and cherished - it’s too important to let it wither away and die.”
Gary, a retired lawyer, added: “When I got Angie’s email [about it] last week, I hit the roof. It’s the first time [as a gym user] I’d heard about it. It’s unfair to Angie and Darren - it’s dreadful on a human level how they have been treated. And it’s insulting to users like me because we’d not even been told about it.
“The gym has suffered because of lockdown and membership dropped but the directors are using that as an excuse to run it into the ground. Numbers are going back up and now a lot of people are back in.
“We need to protect its legacy. It won’t close if I’ve got anything to do with it.”
Since the Longridge Social Enterprise took over in 2012 and appointed Angie and Darren as co-managers, the gym has offered specialist one-to-one support and referrals for people with health problems, mobility issues and additional needs. It also hosts enrichment and food hunger programmes during school holidays.
One person who benefits from the hub’s extensive support is Gary's 84-year-old mum who attends seated exercise classes on Tuesday afternoons.
Gary said: “My mum has heart and mobility problems. Her health was declining so her doctor said she would need to keep herself moving. A few weeks later, she went to the exercise class and loves it. But once Angie and Darren leave, that’s gone. My mum’s devastated that it might come to an end.”
Angie says she and Darren have worked tirelessly to uphold the venue’s community focus, acting as exercise instructors, receptionists and cleaners in order to keep costs down and ensure it is affordable and accessible for all.
The 49-year-old said: “We are proud because we’ve been multi-award-winning and we’ve run projects affecting thousands of people’s lives. We feel like we’ve helped to leave Longridge in a better place.
“It’s quite overwhelming working at the moment because we’re all shedding tears and can’t believe it’s all coming to an end.”
But, she added: “We’re absolutely astounded by the level of support from the community. We have felt so honoured and humbled by people’s responses [to the news], and we want to thank our customers past and present.”
Longridge Social Enterprise has been contacted for comment.