Message re Virgin Active Gym

Message from HOOP UK Director Jill Tipping

Part of the HOOP UK vision is that we as a group aim to break down the stigma that surrounds obesity. It’s a big ask but bit by bit we are doing that through our fantastic groups, willing fundraisers and awareness campaigns.

Only last month I spent two weeks travelling around the country with our Patron Jessie Pavelka, speaking to groups about HOOP UK and what we do. It felt great to be able to have the opportunity to be hosted by so many wonderful organisations who support our objectives in such a positive manner. You can see here who those individuals and groups are and I thank them for their continued support as we are still in touch with all of them.

But I am sad to say that the opposite can be said of one of our biggest fitness chains, Virgin Active UK. It saddens me to have to write this article, but as a Director of HOOP UK I am compelled to report that if anything, the Virgin Active PR team are adding to the stigma that we are attempting to diminish.

Jennette Wright is a HOOP UK friend and fund raiser. When she embarked on her weight loss journey 5 years ago she was 23 stone.  She went to her local gym in Chelmsford (which has since been taken over by Virgin Active UK), paid her membership and over time lost 9 1/2 stone. She then paid extra to have a Personal Trainer to assist her further. She still attends 4 or 5 times a week.

Over the weekend of the 16th/17th November Jennette is organising a number of fund raising activities for HOOP UK once again involving our Patron Jessie. She approached Virgin Active in Chelmsford to see if she could arrange a charity Spin Class and Body Balance class which Jessie would attend. The studios were free at the time and the management team were excited at the prospect of supporting HOOP UK and welcoming Fitness Expert Jessie Pavelka to their gym.

To comply with Virgin Active protocol, Jennette was directed to Virgin Active Regional PR and VA PR representatives, Beige London to make sure that the event could take place. She came back to me with bad news. Virgin Active would not be willing to support the event. I was surprised as Virgin Active Harlow had supported our members visiting their gym last February. Click here for article.

I then tried to contact the Virgin Active PR at Milton Keynes. I left 4 messages and emailed the PR manager asking for a return call. Nothing. I then spoke to Beige London. I was told that Virgin Active did not want to support the Hoop event because they felt it would give out the wrong message to their members. I asked what that message was. I was told that Jessie Pavelka was a weight loss coach and HOOP was an obesity charity and that was not the message they wanted to give to their members.

I once again asked ‘what is that message?’ Beige London could not reply.

I emailed the Virgin Active PR, once again asking for an explanation. No reply. I find this frustrating. Not only are we being turned down to run an event in Virgin Active gym, even though previous charity events have been held there, but I am not being given a plausible explanation. In fact, I am being ignored!

So I find myself writing this article on our own website. Hoop may be tiny in comparison to the mighty Virgin giant, but check out our values – we are brave!  Just like Sir Richard was when with just two planes he took on British Airways! We are the voice of the obese person and we aim to break down the stigma surrounding obesity and support our members to become healthy and active members of their community. I had hoped that Virgin Active would be an ally to our cause of encouraging health and fitness for all. It appears not.

I am still asking what this ‘wrong message’ is that Jessie and Hoop would be giving out to Virgin Active Members – maybe somebody from Virgin Active UK could explain this to me. 

Jill Tipping
Director