Building the City of Manchester Institute of Gymnastics

A few highlights from CMIG’s journey and how we got to where we are today.


CMIG Coaching Director Colin Leigh, who was then employed as a PE teacher at Moston Brook High School for boys in North Manchester, developed a highly successful boy’s gymnastics team.


The school club extended into the evenings and soon started to involve local children, including girls. This then became known as The North Manchester Gymnastics Club and became a British Gymnastics affiliated club.

The club soon grew, gaining upwards of 40 children, with the school gym overflowing with apparatus – much to the annoyance of other sports!


After seeing a film of a Soviet gymnastics club, Colin planned a five year strategy where he would acquire a large, suitable building for gymnastics; a permanent home where all the apparatus would be permanently fixed as in the Soviet model.

Monies were raised with support from parents; and local politicians and sports councils were approached. Gymnastics displays were key to selling our project, especially to Manchester City Council.


The old Gorton Baths on Hyde Road was revamped into a permanent gymnastics centre and was officially opened in 1984 by Sir Bobby Charlton. This became the spiritual home for the then named Central Manchester Institute of Gymnastics.

This was the first purpose-built pitted* gymnasium of its kind for a club (*large pits containing lots of foam blocks, to safeguard landings) – many thanks go out to all who helped to turn our dream for this club into a reality.

A full programme of gymnastics was eventually put together including beginners classes through to international level, with a membership of over 300 gymnasts at that time.

Over the next twenty years the club would work extremely hard, continuing to make great progress with several of our gymnasts going on to great success and amazing achievements.


Our first British Senior Champion Paul Bowler.


Two of our gymnasts make it to the Barcelona Olympics: Paul Bowler and Marvin Campbell.


Marvin Campbell takes our second British Senior title.

That same year, the team became Senior Champions of Great Britain.


Our very own John Smethurst wins a gold and a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.


Four years on from the Kuala Lumpur Games, John Smethurst again wins gold and bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. John is now a coach here at CMIG.

Mark Freeman put the icing on the cake by taking Britain’s first ever European Title on rings. Mark went on to a sports scholarship in America.

Paul Bowler became  an institution in the world-famous Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas, with his own specialist act. Mark also went on to join Paul in Cirque Du Soleil.

Due to the success of the club, we were designated a High Performance Centre for British Gymnastics in 2002. This award included a National Coach being permanently attached to the gym, and a large capital grant from Sport England to upgrade the facilities.

However, the poor old Gorton Baths was on its last legs by this point, having been home to the club for the last twenty years, with water stains on the walls from a leaking roof – it was 110-years-old after all!

From discussions with the City Council and Sport England, it was decided to abandon any ideas of refurbishment. The search was on for a different building.

Amazingly, the answer came in the guise of another redundant swimming pool: Neptune’s Kingdom on Garratt Way, just 800 meters away from Gorton Baths and adjacent to Gorton Library.

The City Council offered financial aid to help with the conversion, adding to the Sports Council grant. And the club raised over £200,000 towards the project from many fund raising events.

And this became the third site for the gymnastics club.


Work began on the new site in January of that year. And the new, state of the art, gymnasium was completed in September that year.

The club moved in to its new home in October. And our name changed one more time to become: The City of Manchester Institute of Gymnastics.

In December 2004, the Lord Mayor of Manchester officially opened the new gymnastics centre. The club is supported and partnered with Manchester City Council, and the facility is managed by The Eastlands Trust of Manchester City Council.

It had taken nearly 35 years by that point but our director, Colin Leigh, had finally achieved his major ambition: a gymnastics training centre better than the prototype gym that had inspired him during the viewing of the film in 1978 about a Soviet gymnastics club.

Decades of hard work, dedication and determination, together with the passion and desire to create a gymnastics centre for all gymnasts – from the very beginner to top international athletes – had finally payed off.


In the first five years since the new centre opened, CMIG expanded its membership five times over compared to when it was based at the old gym on Hyde Road, passing the twelve hundred gymnasts mark and counting.  The club continued to produce many individual and team champions at all levels and to produce National Squad members.

Alongside this the club developed 25 qualified coaches, from assistant to High Performance level.


The Centre is recognised as a London Olympics Training Venue and is accepted as a North West Regional Centre.

In 2012, CMIG Director Colin Leigh and Head Boys Coach Andrew Webb (then Talent Development Coach for Scottish Gymnastics) had the honour and privilege of being appointed as officials at the London Olympics, witnessing the Men’s team take the Bronze medal, Max Whitlock the Gold on pommel horse, and Louis Smith the Silver on the same apparatus.


Club membership passes 1,500 members.


Club membership passes 2,000 members.

Club is nominated for Club of the Year in the Manchester Sports Awards.


The club began long term planning towards upgrading the facility with a large extension which we would like to include an attractive new facade to the front of the building, a larger reception area and cafeteria, and additional space to accommodate more gymnasts from the local community and introduce new aspects of the sport.

Mr Colin Leigh honoured by British Gymnastics with the Master Coach award for his exceptional achievements in the field of coaching and success on the international stage.


The club is recognised as Best Practice by The Parliamentary Review.

British Gymnastics honours both Andrew Webb and Byron Clithero with the Award of Merit for their years of service and contribution to the sport.

The people of CMIG

If you’d like to know more about the people behind CMIG (our expert coaches and dedicated staff), head on over to our Meet our Team page.

Meet our Team