The UK’s first Black wellness and fitness festival

Lorraine Russell

NoireFitFest is the UK’s first (and only) Black wellness and fitness festival. The festival, now in its second year, was created by Lorraine Russell after being inspired by other Black fitness and wellness professionals discussing their experiences of navigating an industry that seemed to not be inclusive for them.

The festival provides an important platform for Black fitness professionals who, before NoireFitFest may have had limited opportunities to take part in fitness events. ‘My experience of other festivals was that I didn’t see too many Black or Brown faces on the line-up. I haven’t seen to date any of these fitness festivals actively promote their events as being inclusive or accessible to the Black community.’

NoireFitFest is working to address this and the response from fellow instructors has been overwhelmingly positive. ‘When NoireFitFest launched last year, the feedback we received was that this event is very much needed. Black fitness professionals told us that they’d attended or have been asked to take part in fitness events. However, they always tend to feel like they’re the only Black fit pro representing the Black community, which at times can feel like they have been invited to attend these events for performative reasons.’

Lorraine feels that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done within the fitness industry to make sure that Black people are represented but also supported to become physically active. She told us that she thinks that the community needs more ‘support from brands who historically have used Black athletes to sell their products. I think it’s quite telling that way too many brands have created campaigns using major sports stars to inspire us all to buy their products, but there is less emphasis on brands using these athletes to encourage us all to lead a healthier lifestyle. I do think if brands are happy to use Black sports pros to profit, they should pay it forward to the communities where the vast majority of these Black sports men and women come from.’

When creating the festival Lorraine was ‘concerned about the stats regarding physical activity within the Black community. Just 56% of Black people are hitting the recommended amount of weekly fitness, compared to 62% of the general population. Black and Asian women are the least likely to be physically active (53% and 49% respectively). These stats are alarming at best and need to be addressed or tackled in a way that is engaging and relatable to the Black community. This is one of the many things NoireFitFest tries to tackle’.

When asked what she thinks the fitness industry needs to understand about the barriers the community are facing, Lorraine identifies socio-economic and cultural factors in the lower participation levels of the Black community. There is also a lot of ‘misinformation regarding how the body works when trying to maintain a level of fitness’. However, these aren’t the only limiting factors. She explains that ‘fitness brands and gyms are also not being inclusive enough with how and where they sell their services relating to health and fitness.’ To engage Black people and encourage them to take part in physical activity we need to ‘reach out to these communities and find out how to engage with them. Speak to and hire existing Black fitness and wellness professionals.’

Lorraine, a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Nutritionist, was first introduced to fitness by her mother who is an instructor. Lorraine’s advice for anyone that is thinking about becoming a PT or a group exercise instructor should think about ‘what area you want to specialise in, as that will be the thing that drives you to offer a consistently great service to your clients.’

NoireFitFest 2021

So, what can we expect from NoireFitFest this year? ‘Last year, due to lockdown, we were only able to make the festival accessible via Zoom. This year, participants can now come to the venue where instructors will be teaching all 14 classes and they can listen to two wellness talks as well as enjoying the atmosphere set by our resident DJ. The event takes place at wellness event space, Foraspace, in Spitalfields, London. Participants will be able to enjoy classes ranging from Soca Aerobics, HIIT, Combat HIIT, House Beat, Yoga and our very own This Girl Can Classes concept.

NoireFitFest takes place on Saturday, September 18th. Check out the timetable and secure your ticket to NoireFitFest now!