Preston cheerleading squad shakes off struggles of two years to win award but are still in need of a home
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Infinity Cheer and Dance was set up by 31-year-old Sian Lucas in 2012, after she fell in love with cheerleading at university, and realised that no group existed in her hometown of Chorley. It started with just 12 members, but has now had over 1000 since then, with around 220 members currently.
Despite Infinity’s impressive growth, the group has faced some hard times. Originally based on Factory Lane in Chorley, they were told pre-pandemic that their landlords wanted to use the site for a housing development, and would not be able to build them a new site in time.
Finding a new location has since proven to be an impossible task. Infinity Cheer needs a large site with high ceilings, but most industrial places say that it is not safe for children to be on site, and smaller sites would mean the group would have to split up.
Chorley Council had planned to offer them one, but that never materialised after a year. Sian added that the “real kick in the teeth” was when one estate agent laughed when she approached them and told her no would take a leisure business seriously.
Sian said: “I had about a week on my own just thinking how I was gonna tell everybody we weren't carrying on and then I thought, no, that’s not good enough, we were in the middle of lockdown, the girls needed me anyway, and so we were just absolutely determined to find something. And the minute I came out and told everybody what was going on, everyone was just on it, sharing things everywhere, messaging people, trying to get into loads of places like halls, parish halls, schools, and then luckily we found this one where we can be all the time. It means our club can stay as a family, all in one place.”
Thanks to one of the girls’ parents being the headteacher, Infinity Cheer is now based at Frenchwood Community Primary School in Preston, and whilst grateful for their new, temporary home, the change came with struggles.
Previously the group had been used to working on a sprung floor, but unabe to place one down at the school, members have had to adjust to the more difficult task of performing tumble skills on a dead matt floor, knocking the confidence of many. But more importantly than the loss of the sprung floor, the change of venue also led to a loss of members.
Sian explained: “We unfortunately did lose a few members from the Chorley area, particularly those who don't drive or can't quite afford that travelling to Preston, which was a shame. Then we have some who can't get that little bit further for class in time before it started, so that was difficult, especially when it was those who had been with us for a long time. We've got a few who've stayed in touch and say if you do come back to Chorley let us know, but it's just been really difficult. We really can't find anywhere that'll take on a leisure business in these industrial units. The school is doing the job for now, and we're just grateful that we were able to carry on, rather than have to stop.”
Still “desperately” in need of a permanent base, Sian added: “We’re in our 10th year and in June, we're having a huge 10 years of Infinity showcase…and if we could say at that showcase, this is your surprise, we’ve found it, this is our home, it would be absolutely amazing. It’s probably a pipe dream because like I said, we've been really struggling since February 2021, and even before that when the landlord’s first told us about the plan.
“If there's anyone that can help us, please get in touch. Our members all pay fees to be part of classes, from low level clasess for those on lower income right through to our elite teams, so we have money in place, it's just finding someone that will actually trust us to let out space.”
Despite their homlessness, the squad has stuck together, continued to perform and compete, and this autumn were named ‘Programme of the Year’ for 2022 by Future Cheer, the UK’s leading cheer event provider.
Asked how she felt receiving the award after the turbulent few years, Sian said: “Very emotional. They mentioned a lot about that, they gave a little speech and they noted that we've struggled with a change of town and the loss of a building, but we’ve still held the club together.”
Infinity was also particularly praised for its “incredible” special needs group, Shooting Stars, which just like Infinity’s other squads, perform stunts and go to competitions.
Sian commented: “Our Shooting Stars group is something that across the UK people are now recognising that Infinity is a leader in… Everyone loves them; when they’re on, the whole room is filled with the rest of the squad cheering them on. They absolutely love it, they're just very inspirational kids. I've now written a qualification course to teach other people across the UK how to incorporate this into their clubs, because we get a lot of people asking us, what do I do? Hopefully it'll be out next year. So that's exciting as well, to know that you've been recognised for something so important that isn't widely spoken about, that these children can do these sports, it just takes a little bit of adaptation. but they're treated the same as other athletes. So yeah, that's really special, and again, teaching our other athletes that there's not as big a difference as they think, is very important.”