One of the simple pleasures of being a child is having the opportunity to play and let your imagination run wild.
Ashfield Play Forum aims to encourage this by providing play equipment and resources that help children and young people do just that.
Started in 1984 as a meeting place for people interested in play, the Forum has grown and developed into the resource centre that it is today, 30 years later.
The Play Forum is a registered charity but it is not, as the name may suggest, a play group.
Said Lynn Riley, its manager: “We are not a nursery or playgroup - we are a resource centre that supports all groups in Ashfield that work with children and young people up to the age of 16.
“We provide free and low-cost materials and equipment and do provide activities during the school holidays where children come with their parents.”
The Play Forum’s ‘scrap store’ has a two-fold benefit - it is somewhere where local businesses can drop off surplus paper, card, fabric and other materials for use by local groups as craft supplies for a whole host of crafty activities.
“We recycle these materials in the scrap store and any group that works with children and young people can come and take the materials free of charge to use in craft activities,” said Lynn.
They also hire out craft equipment such as badge makers and potters’ wheels for a small fee, giving youngsters the chance to have a go at a range of other projects.
Over 75 groups throughout the district are supported by the Play Forum in this way, ranging from parent and toddler groups to uniform groups such as Scouts and Brownies and After School Clubs.
Teena Needham, secretary of the SAT (Stanton Hill and Teversal) Community Association, said that the scrap store at the Play Forum is an ‘invaluable’ resource for the group.
They use it every time they hold fun days for local children during the school holidays, enabling them to run craft activities that have included making Christmas decorations, knight and damsel in distress costumes and Halloween cards.
“If we didn’t have the use of the scrap store to provide us with things for use for our craft activities, we would not be able to do half the things we do,” said Teena.
“And if we had to pay for the materials, we would not be able to run the events as well as we do.”
The Play Forum purchased its own building on Morven Avenue in Sutton back in 2000, thanks to Big Lottery funding - a move which allowed it to grow and develop even further.
It is able to offer free training courses in areas such as paediatric first aid - which are open to all members of the Ashfield community - and it has rooms for hire by businesses and other community groups.
But it is its Toy Library, funded by Children in Need, that proves particularly popular.
It is stocked full of toys for children aged up to eight and for 20 pence a week, children can take home a new and exciting toy to play with.
“The idea is that any child up to the age of eight can come here, choose a toy and take it home for a week for 20p,” said Lynn.
“Then they can come back and have another toy.
“It’s giving the child a choice that they might not otherwise have and is giving them that extra experience that otherwise their parents might not be able to afford.”
The Play Forum’s school holiday play days are also always a success.
Held in locations such as on Sutton Lawn, they are free to attend and regularly attract up to 1,000 youngsters and their parents.