Norwich gymnasts face homelessness as academy moves

A long-running gymnastics club which can boast world-beaters and is aimed at giving deprived youngsters a chance, faces a bleak future after its home is set to be knocked down for the second time in a decade.

Established in 1981, those at Chermond Gymnastics were first made homeless eight years ago, when the Bowthorpe Centre was knocked down, with a purpose-built gym expected but never materialising.

Now, having moved to the City Academy Norwich, they face the same prospect all over again. Justine Dixon, secretary at the club, explained that plans to rebuilt the academy next July have left the 80-strong group with nowhere left to turn.

'When we heard the news it was utterly devastating. It's not the first time we have had to move and we're wondering if there's anywhere else we can go? The youngsters are really upset.'

She added that the club, founded by Cherie Alcock, charged as low fees as possible to let everyone have an opportunity to get involved, and was the only club of its kind in the area to offer acrobatic and circus skills. Work has started on the �21.4m rebuild, set on the grounds of the current academy and set to be completed by July 2012. In their current gym, they have had to adapt to sharing their facilities with students.

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'We're very grateful to the academy for giving us a home,' said Mrs Dixon, two of whose children attend the group, 'but because of how things are, we can train for four nights a week, and after school.

'We also have no sprung floor, so when the kids go to compete they have to get used to that, as well as the fact that some of the people they're up against are able to train for 30 hours a week.

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'That's what makes it all the more amazing when they come back with great results.' The group send out their best to compete in the Winti Cup international competition in Zurich, and last year two of its members were placed ninth in the world. They also regularly tour, and have displayed their skills in Disneyland Florida to a rapt audience. Mrs Dixon's 15-year-old daughter Saffron attends Wymondham High School and said, outside of lesson hours, Chermond Gymnastics has been her life.

'It's been amazing to be involved with it and I don't know what I would do without it. As soon as I finish school it's what I do and I love everything about it, and if it were to end it would be like losing family.'

Now, they are looking for warehouses with 4000sq m floor space to rent out and convert and are appealing for anyone who may know of an appropriate space to get in touch.

It has been an impossible job so far, as most spaces big enough are in industrial estates and retained for industrial or commercial use.

'It's just hard to convey how amazing these kids are,' she added 'and I would love for them to have four walls and a roof to reach their potential.'

Do you know of a new home for the gymnasts? Call Norwich Evening News reporter John Owens on 01603 772439 or email

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