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People of the Thames

Boosting mind and body

Jenny Cooper-Low

Jenny Cooper-Low in a rowing boat People of the Thames

Promoting the physical and mental benefits of getting active on the river motivates our Sports Manager, Jenny Cooper-Low, with partnership working central to her ethos.


River debut

"My first time on the River Thames was taking part in a women’s eights head of the river race in a crew from the University of Liverpool.

"We weren’t very good and had never been on the Tideway before. The weather was awful, our boat was broken and the river was unforgiving!

"It was a very long race for a beginner crew!"

Happy days

"Fortunately, all my other experiences on the river since then have been brilliant.

"For example, I’ve been out on a traditional Thames sailing barge in the estuary with Sea-Change Sailing Trust, and coxed big, sturdy rowing boats through central London.

"Paddleboarding with Active 360 has been another highlight, and I’ll never forget enjoying Illuminated River at night with the London Kayak Company."

Under-used blue resource

"London, Kent and Essex have an abundance of ‘blue space’

"In the capital alone, we have the equivalent of over 15,000 football pitches, and that’s just the Thames. It’s not used enough!

"That’s something I feel passionate about changing.

"The Thames Vision promotes the use of the river for trade, as a destination, and as a natural asset. It’s ambitious and it’s what pulled me into working for the PLA.

"I find it fascinating, and I love that we get to have such a positive impact on communities."

Capital start

"Combining rowing with working with excluded children was what brought me to London originally, having previously taught English and Maths at an alternative provision in Leeds.

"I joined London Youth Rowing and had a variety of roles in coaching and mentoring, including working with children excluded from mainstream school.

"It was challenging role in all the right ways.

"Recently, I ran into someone I taught to row.

"He reported he was doing ok and had a job.

"Rowing he said had been fun, with nice people to help… and sorry for being a pain!

"It was great to meet him again and to see him as a happy young man.”

Partnership in action

"The Active Thames programme keeps me busy all year round, working in close collaboration with colleagues at Active Essex, Active Kent & Medway, London Sport, British Canoeing, British Rowing, RYA, Thames Path National Trail and Canal & River Trust.

"We support community projects that improve access and inclusion to waterways across London, Kent and Essex, not just the Thames.

"The programme launched in 2020.

"We started by conducting research into existing participants and coaches, receiving feedback from over 940 people.

"This has formed the basis of all the work we’ve done to date.

"We quickly saw that clubs wanted to be more inclusive.

"But coaching costs and gaps in outreach and marketing skills were stopping them from doing so.

"Active Thames’ targeted funding has helped.

"The knock-on effect is that all members benefit from being part of a more inclusive club.

"In the last two years, we have awarded over £200,000 in grants.

"It’s been fantastic to be able to support so many excellent community projects – far too many to list.

"You can find out more about some of them on the Active Thames website.

"As the 5 November deadline approaches, I’m looking forward to reviewing the applications and seeing what we can help support.

"It would be great to have some for larger grants, which support a partnership between multiple clubs.”

Drowning prevention

"Another key aspect of my role at the PLA is chairing the Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum (TTWSF), a multi-agency partnership, focused on drowning prevention.

"It was founded in 2017.

"The launch of a drowning prevention strategy followed in 2019.

"My much-missed PLA colleague, Mark Towens, was instrumental in kicking it all off.

"There are now two forums, one for London and one for Kent & Essex. Both meet at least quarterly.

"Every life lost feels like one that could have been saved.

"Everyone can play a role by educating friends and family about water safety, particularly children.”

Suicide prevention

"Sadly, the majority of deaths on the Tideway are suicides.

"Rather than accepting the feeling of helplessness, TTWSF members and partners have developed a range of training courses and initiatives to make a real difference.

"In partnership with the Thames Skills Academy, the Listening Place also offers training on how to intervene effectively, if you spot someone in crisis or acting unsafely near the river’s edge.

"And the Ascension Trust needs volunteers for its new Bridge Watch patrols in London.”

Passion and motivation

"When it comes to working with people who are passionate about the power of sport and its benefits for society, I’m yet to meet someone I haven’t been inspired by or learnt from.

"In both areas of work- be it sport for development or water safety- I am surrounded by skilled and supportive partners and colleagues who want to make a difference.

"That’s really quite special.

"It’s also really important to me to know that senior leadership are invested and ‘get it’, which they definitely do."

Get active!

"My advice to anyone interested in trying a new sport on the water is to take a look at our Active Thames activity finder.

"I don’t recommend trying anything on the Thames on your own, without supervision from a good coach, even if that’s upriver where the water is calmer.

"Your best bet is to join an organised taster session, and you’ll meet other people who are new to it and want to have fun, too!"

Quick fire

  • The Thames makes me feel…? Instantly more relaxed, particularly in more built-up areas.
  • How do you keep active? I love being outdoors and love long weekend walks. The upriver tidal Thames swimmers keep inviting me to join them at Hammersmith. So far, it’s been a no….
  • If I were Prime Minister for the day, I’d…? Invest heavily in swimming lessons for primary school children and make sure they know how to be safe around water. Maybe they would be more likely to get involved in watersports, too.

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