This story is from Lynda Austin and her time working at the play group at Brookside Community Centre from 1974 until 1976. The image is of Thorplands Brook private development and is similar to the one Lynda would have moved to.
We moved to Northampton in September 1974 and I had two boys aged 2 and nearly 4. We bought a new house on a small private development at the top of Lings. At the time this was on the edge of the New Town developments. There was Lings Wood behind us and the rest was fields.
My kids had both been at play group before so I was looking for another one for them. We could walk to the Brookside Community Centre by a path between the houses and an underpass beneath Billing Brook Road. No danger at all from traffic. The play group was already running but the women in charge wanted to give up, so I became involved along with another three new people. Of the four of us three were qualified teachers.
At that time, children did not start school until the term before their fifth birthday, so play group ran every morning from 9.30am until 12noon. Children had to be three and a quarter to come but later on we ran an afternoon session for those who were over two and a half.
In each session there were five staff and 30 children, and it cost £1 a session per child. The centre had one very large room that had windows all around so it was bright and airy. There were toilets and a kitchen.
Activities were designed to increase children’s fine and gross motor control and speech, language, confidence and independence before they went to school. There were toys to ride and climb on and small group activities such as cutting and sticking, drawing, painting and model making. Activities were changed half way through the session and they always ended up with a story and singing. Very much what happens in nursey schools these days.
We were lucky in being given may materials such as paper and card by local firms such as Robert Horne. Local health visitors used to ask us to help with children who had particular needs because of their health or development requirements. At times we were also asked if we could help lonely mums who had just moved to Northampton by involving them in the sessions or in fundraising activities.
I think much of what we did has been taken over now by the fact that children start school earlier and most now go to nursery school. I did enjoy my time at play group and made friends there that I still have until today.