How one man's Revolution got Luton communities on the run

Community groups helping to get people fitter and healthier
The groups have gone from strength to strengthThe groups have gone from strength to strength
The groups have gone from strength to strength

A campaign to get communities off their sofas and increase their activity has been a huge success.

And the brains behind Revolution is in the running for a special award from the BBC.

Dr Waled Mannan has been shortlisted for the east of England region for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year's Unsung Hero 2021 awards.

Bad weather didn't put off these enthusiastsBad weather didn't put off these enthusiasts
Bad weather didn't put off these enthusiasts

Waled set up Revolution in June 2019 as an all-inclusive social movement in Luton to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the communities.

Since then he has had more than 250 men and 170 women sign up for various activities, encouraged 120 people taking part in the 2019 Love Luton Marathon and 12 people take part in this year's London Marathon. Despite an extensive 18 week training programme, 14 people have already signed up for next year's marathon. This year more than £40k was raised for Children with Cancer UK, Penny Appeal, Well Child and Mencap.

This year as part of the Love Luton 2021 campaign they raised £27k towards preventing child labour and supporting an orphanage with the YMO Trust.

"Lockdown 2020 was our busiest time," said Waled. "And in 2021, 210 people signed up for the Love Luton Marathon with more than 30 women taking part".

The Revolution groups just keep on growingThe Revolution groups just keep on growing
The Revolution groups just keep on growing

The initial theme behind the movement was to target Asian and ethnic minorities in Luton, overcoming a suspicious and reluctant audience with diverse cultural, social and religious sensitivities, to encourage them to take part in a wide range of physical activities. But it has now extended to include everyone, with interest being shown to a wider community.

"The idea was just to bring the communities out of their shell," said Waled. "But it has exceeded my expectations."

He said: "We rely on the idiom ‘Monkey see, Monkey do’. We want our members to learn and modify their own behaviour, their own thinking by seeing and copying all that’s happening around them in the group. We encourage our members to share their journey, to post all their activities, their experiences, emotions, their highs and lows and their achievements. By the continual sharing of these journeys, we hope to inspire and motivate the fence sitters to get up and give something a go."

"New members have no commitment to the cause, nor any obligation to attend or even join in with any of the activities. They can sit and watch as long they want until they feel comfortable enough to join in."

Activities include Parkrun, running, walking, road biking/ mountain biking, swimming, gym, White Collar Boxing, kayaking and fundraising , all organised by Whats App and Facebook messages. There is even a gardening group for older members. Women's groups have been getting involved in cricket and badminton among other activities.

During the lockdowns last year zoom classes were introduced to help people keep up with their fitness.

"The objective was to keep momentum alive, keep people active, keep them engaged, keep them occupied. To prevent us from going back, wasting all that we had achieved," said Waled, who works as a dentist.

Local doctors have also joined the groups, helping with nutrition and health advice, and helping to reassure and encourage vaccine uptake.

The Facebook page now has more than 1,400 followers with thriving Whats App groups as well.

There is a huge positive buzz in the community," said Waled. "There is now a greater understanding of what REVOLUTION is trying to achieve."

To find out more go to Fitness REVOLUTION | Facebook