Play Bus will be coming back to Banbury with Castle Quay deal

The Banbury Play Bus will be coming back to the town with sessions in Castle Quay Shopping Centre after the community saved the charity.

The Banbury and District Community Play Bus volunteers will be providing a sanctuary of fun to children and their parents or guardians every Monday from the end of February.

The charity revealed the deal with the retail centre and Banbury Business Improvement District (BID) during an event at Norbar to thank those who helped raise £50,000 last year.

Project manager Michelle Pollard said: “We’re grateful to Castle Quay and Banbury BID for the opportunity to pop-up in our local shopping centre to demonstrate how a creative play atmosphere can benefit young children and their families.

"We’ll be on hand to introduce children and parents to fun activities and as a listening ear for those who may need advice and support on parenting issues.”

The Play Bus team are now out of ‘crisis mode’ with the charity secure for now after a desperate fundraising appeal in 2018, but its long-term future is still not guaranteed.

Three of the Play Bus team outside Norbar where they held a 'thank you' event for donor. Photo by Steve Gold

Three of the Play Bus team outside Norbar where they held a 'thank you' event for donor. Photo by Steve Gold

Many grant applications and sponsorship deals are in the pipeline to support expansion plans, with hopes to buy a van to make life easier.

But the issue of not actually having a session in Banbury has long been a sticking point for the team, caused by the awkward logistics of manoeuvring a double decker bus around the estates.

So Castle Quay has offered to host the team in its soft play area opposite Debenhams from 9.30am to 12pm and 1-3.30pm.

Shopping centre manager Paul Jackson said: “It’s fantastic to be working alongside such a great award-winning charity as Banbury Play Bus, and we’re looking forward to welcoming local families to the free stay and play sessions.”

The Play Bus is a friendly sanctuary for parents to relax and kids to have fun. Photo by Steve Gold

The Play Bus is a friendly sanctuary for parents to relax and kids to have fun. Photo by Steve Gold

Iain Nicholson, interim manager for Banbury BID, added: “The Banbury BID team are thrilled to have been able to make connections which have helped this opportunity become a reality.

"We wish the Play Bus crew well with their pop-up, and look forward to working with colleagues at Castle Quay on more initiatives that add to its offer and that of our whole town centre.”

At Norbar on Friday, the team thanked everyone who donated towards their appeal and had the chance to explain what they do and why it is so valuable.

The Play Bus provides families with a space to have fun and meet new people, free of charge, on a weekly basis –meaning stimulation for the children and respite for the parent or guardian.

Businesses interested in talking to the Play Bus about community support or funding opportunities should get in touch with Michelle on BDCBP@btconnect.com.