The Blue Tit Effect was a phenomenon discovered around the 1950s. Bird watchers and milk lovers alike noticed that Bluetits were pecking through milk bottle caps on doorsteps to get to the delicious cream inside. The Blue Tit turned out to be the only bird that did this consistently. The amazing part? It turned out that this was a learned behaviour, passed from Blue Tit to Blue Tit. Robins gave it a go, and some succeeded, but failed to pass it on to any other robins. This means (well we like to think it does) that originally there was just one brave, pesky blue tit who took the plunge. Others watched, and went off to try it themselves. This is known as the Blue Tit Effect.
Now, we only heard about The Blue Tit Effect a couple of months ago, a chance conversation between Sian and a camper. How wonderful it would have been if we could claim that Sian had known this 7 years ago and thus named the group of dipping friends after the phenomenon. Alas no, it was much more to do with how bloomin’ cold the water got that winter! All the same, the parallel is marvelous, isn’t it?
We began with one Bluetit, wiggling into her cossie on the beach, approaching the water and taking the plunge. The whooping and hollering attracted other Bluetits, who joined her and went off to spread the word. We have our own Bluetit Effect, and it has given us the absolute belief that the actions of one Bluetit have the potential to change thousands of lives.
What marks a Bluetit out isn’t just that you get in the water. It isn’t just that you get in the water making a great deal of noise and laughing all the way. What makes a Bluetit is a drive to spread the joy. Whether you shout from the rooftops about the incredible benefits of cold water swimming, or simply welcome a new person to a swim with a smile or an offer of a piece of cake, Bluetits are inclusive, kind and see any person discovering swimming as a positive.
So why are we telling you this now? Well, it has clarified our vision for the next stage of The Bluetits.
It is one year since we became a social enterprise, and Sian’s husband Alan breathed a sigh of relief as they let go of the responsibility to personally fund badges, which had become a beast since the days of four or five ‘Tits on the local beach. Since then, The Bluetits has been completely funded by the sale of merchandise and some media work.
Now, many start ups fail within their first year, and so this year has been about making sure that we cover our costs so we can continue to spread the joy for years to come!
Our main running costs are:
- Free badges – each Bluetit is given a badge on their first swim free of charge. We absolutely love this part of newbie swims, and these badges cost more and more the more we grow!
- A postage and packing assistant. – In order to keep up with the demand for merchandise (you lot love a badge!) we have a part time packing assistant.
- Rent – We have a caravan where we work, meet and post from!
Our core team at HQ – Sian, Gail, Sam & Sarah – have done the vast majority of their work unpaid. As The Bluetits grows, so does the work involved in keeping things running day to day, and this becomes unsustainable as we all have other jobs and therefore limited time. We are therefore looking at funding to help us devote more time to this magnificent beast.
Once our costs are covered, as a not-for-profit we begin to look at ways to spend excess money in line with our mission – to create a capable, confident community through cold water swimming and adventures.
What we’ve done so far:
- Changed thousands of lives every day. – We forget this bit sometimes! Simply by keeping things running, supporting our incredible admins, and answering messages every day, we know that we are making a difference in people’s lives because you tell us we are!
- Safety Edits – We encourage all Bluetits to take responsibility for themselves in the water, and this year we created a series of safety edits to help our community gain confidence and knowledge to do so.
- Training guides – We gifted training to four local Bluetits who wanted to be adventure guides. They are now running Bluetit Adventures on the Pembrokeshire coast, and plans are well underway to roll these out nationwide.
- Offering training to our admins – We are in constant contact with our group admins and are rolling out training to help them manage their groups with confidence.
As this pot gradually grows, we got around a table. ‘The’ Sian crocheted, Beans (Gail) pulled together crumpled receipts from the depths of the others bags, Young’un (Sarah) flicked through the Insta-wotsit and Compo (Sam) clapped her hands and in her lovely yet occasionally threatening Valleys lilt said ‘Right, come on, ideas time.’
And thus the vision for ‘The Bluetit Effect Bursary’ was born. From the belief that one Bluetit figuring out how to do something they love can change the lives of others the world over. When Beans deems us ready to do so, we shall open applications, asking you how we can help you to peck your milk bottle, so that others can peck theirs.
As we figure out exactly what this will look like, we will let you know more, and ultimately begin investing in individuals to help them reach their cream and in turn help others to reach theirs.