Disused building bounces back to life with a Boing!
A DISUSED building in Lockleaze has become a thriving community hub, providing vital services to local people.
A year ago the Boing! centre was a run-down office space, holiday club and youth centre.
Now it hosts a cafe, groups for young mums, antenatal classes, meetings for those looking for work and numerous other activities.
New mums in Lockleaze have been taking advantage of the popular weekly Honeysuckle Cafe, which hosts a group providing breastfeeding support – and much more.
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Mums can relax and chat while their under-ones feed or play. Older siblings are cared for in a creche in a neighbouring room and members take turns to bring cake to share.
Hannah Welch and Carole Sudworth, who met at an ante-natal class at Horfield Health Centre, started the group because they felt there was a need in the area for breastfeeding support. They each had one child at the time and have both since had second babies. The pair trained as peer supporters so they could help others effectively.
About 35 women have attended the group over the months. Some come once or twice, while others become regulars.
"We talk about all sorts of things, not just breastfeeding," said Carole. "So much about feeding links with other aspects of parenting anyway."
Zoe Yardley, from Horfield, agreed. She has been attending the group since her daughter Sophia, now nine months, was three months old.
"I didn't have many feeding problems but Sophia has been a bad sleeper," she said. "I spoke to other mums about that and got good advice."
Rachel Phillips, whose daughter, also called Sophia, is now 11 weeks old, added: "I have had a couple of troubles with feeding and the group is really supportive. They have a Facebook page too, and if you post a problem on there somebody answers within an hour or two."
Marie Powell, a team leader at Lockleaze Primary School and Early Years Centre, which runs Boing! has also trained as a peer supporter to help the group.
"It gets busier every week," she said. "It has created a relaxed 'cafe culture' environment and when mums come here they can find out about other things that are going on. It gets them out and about and gives them a break. People are coming from further and further afield."
NHS professionals are delighted that the group has taken off so well and are now working alongside centre staff to offer antenatal classes and postnatal reunions at Boing!
HoneySuckle meets weekly on a Thursday and there is a Tuesday 'play and stay' session for parents and toddlers. The centre is open from 10am to 3.15pm Tuesday to Saturday every week including school holidays and is used by a wide range of parents, grandparents and children.
Families pay between 50p and £1.50 (depending on age) for their children to use the centre's facilities.
Other services are also offered regularly at the centre, including visits from an advice and guidance worker and a job agency. The school's family support worker Jade Sheeley also holds regular drop-in sessions at Boing!
The school is a short walk away from the centre.
Richard Reddrop, head of community services at the school, said it decided to open Boing! so that more people from the neighbourhood could make use of its provision for babies and young children.
"We wanted to do something a bit more creative than the traditional children's centre services," he said.
"The feedback we got was that people could not always make sessions at fixed times. Some families with under-fives also told us that they did not think they were allowed to use the services at the school."
In its first year, the centre has served more than 300 local families.
Richard, who is also chairman of Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust, said one of the most exciting features of Boing! was the way parents were leading its development.
"If they come up with an idea, we will help them to run with it," he said.
Hewlett Packard has given some computers for use at the centre, which has also received support from UWE, Bristol City Council, Horfield and Lockleaze Neighbourhood Partnership, Brunel & Gordano, and Tesco Eastville.
Another successful venture is Lockleaze Larders, a daily fruit and veg co-op that enables people to buy healthy food at low prices. Those on low incomes can use their Government-issued Healthy Start vouchers as payment.
Richard said: "For a long time there has been a shortage of accessible, available and affordable fruit and veg in the area. With the support of our NHS health promotion worker Alex Wood, we are able to buy in the produce. We sell it at just over cost price, so that in winter when prices are high we can subsidise it."
Natalie May, from Horfield, who has three boys, Craig, 11, Cameron, three and Connor, six months,
said; "It works out much cheaper than local supermarkets. We can buy what we need for our families and we can pick it ourselves."
Natalie has attended a number of the activities and services at the school and at Boing! With her children and is now the founder with fellow mum Andrea Holmes of a new healthy eating and weight loss group called Scrummy Mummies.
They decided to start the self-help group to avoid the cost of commercial slimming clubs.
"Not many people on maternity leave can afford £7 a week," said Natalie. "They were having baby weighing here at Boing! So we thought, why not mummy weighing?"
For more information on Boing! and party hire visit www.facebook.com/BoinbSoftPlay, email email@example.com or call 07919513827. For more information on volunteering, contact Georgie Batt on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 3772840.