WCS15: An Inspiring Initiative
I was pleased as punch to hear the news that the Women’s Climbing Symposium was a winner at the Women’s Sport Trust #BeAGameChanger Awards back in May 2016.
An inspiring initiative
The Women’s Climbing Symposium (WCS) started here at the Climbing Hangar Liverpool in 2011 in response to a piece of research into how men and women think differently about climbing. Headed up by Steph Meysner and Shauna Coxsey, it was event put together to celebrate women’s involvement in a male-dominated sport, open up the community and give female climbers a place to share and sharpen their skills.
It came in for its fair share of criticism (we’ll put it down to envy at a women-only day of fun and climbing, with some of the very best in the world on coaching duty!) But far from being divisive, over the last five years the Women’s Climbing Symposium has grown to become a major event in the UK bouldering calendar and is well recognised for opening up the climbing community to a whole new audience. And that’s something every climber wants to encourage.
Bouldering is booming
With climbing recently confirmed for the 2020 Olympics, it’s a sport that’s really starting to take hold in the public consciousness. And after Shauna's recent success in the 2016 Bouldering World Cup, it’s not hard to see why women are inspired to get involved. WCS has been instrumental in creating a space where women can inspire and learn from other climbers just like them in an atmosphere of collaboration rather than competition.
Although Steph recently handed over her involvement in the project to Emma Flaherty (Vice-President of the British Mountaineering Council), she is still very much involved: ‘I just love the diversity of the audience. Women fly into the UK from around the world for this one day – women of all climbing abilities who just want to get together and celebrate their involvement in the sport, at whatever level. It’s exhilarating. And it’s lots of fun!’
It's the women who attend who inspire us
Emma sees WCS’s impact as being as being unique to each of the attendees.
‘I learn something new from every event, and it gives me a great kick up the bum to go our there and do even more! The women who attend might leave with practical tips to keep improving, the motivation to really push their limits, new friendships or the inspiration for a life-changing adventure. As the women in our sport develop, so does the symposium. Their feedback is our lifeblood.
Winning at the Sports Trust Awards was an amazing experience. We learnt so much from talking to people of all shapes and sizes who are just absolutely psyched about sport. We’ll be bringing plenty of that enthusiasm and insight to WCS 2016.’
The WCS won the ‘Inspiring Initiative – Local’ category at #BeAGameChanger, awarded to a project which encourages female participation and proves how irresistible women’s sport is. And as a woman for whom the wall is so often calling, whether to chill me out or challenge me or just help me believe that if I can do that problem then I can conquer the world, I’m not sure there could be a more worthy winner. Congratulations guys – can’t wait for the next one!
Huge thanks to Viv and The Climbing Hangar for allowing us to republish this article.