Nick Stanton, the leader of Southwark Council, joined more than 50 toddlers in the sports hall of Training for Life Downside for the launch of new soft play sessions promoted by Riverside Parents & Carers Association.
The soft play sessions for toddlers are just part of a packed weekly programme of children's activities at Training for Life Downside that has been facilitated by Riverside Parents.
As with so many community initiatives funding is precarious so Riverside Parents invited Cllr Nick Stanton – in whose Riverside Ward the Training for Life Downside building sits – to hear from the children themselves how much they enjoy the play sessions.
Now the group is looking for more families to sign up so that they can prove to prospective funders the strength of the demand for local play spaces and events. And more volunteers are always warmly welcomed.
The soft play sessions currently run on Monday afternoons, Tuesday mornings and Friday mornings.
"We all live in flats with limited or no outside space and our children need to be active," says Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon.
"There's a high level of childhood obesity in Southwark and our hope was that we would be able to put on something exactly like this so that our children can be safe and active.
"Our aim is to create a sustainable community through our children and for our children so that growing up in this area we have a support network.
"As you can see it's working and we're having to turn people away at nearly all of our sessions."
Fiona Pryor confirms that there's a huge demand for the activities Riverside Parents have been organising: "People are clamouring for this. They want a community.
"What you get from that is people who want to know each other, who want to live with each other and want to stay in this community rather than it being a place you pass through until you find somewhere else to live.
"It's a very mixed community. I come from the estate side of it. It's mixing people who come from all different backgrounds, different races and beliefs. It's the children that unite us because you can see them all playing happily together."
Simon Hughes MP has welcomed the agreement which been reached after many months of negotiation for new working arrangements between Downside Fisher Youth Club and Training for Life, the organisation which has taken a 25-year lease on the club building in Coxson Place.
"As a former voluntary youth leader in Southwark, I take a special interest in making sure we have youth centres which are used to the full and reach out to the maximum number of local young people.
"I really hope now that the final agreement between Downside Fisher and TFL can be signed so that everybody can have confidence in the way the refurbished building in Coxson Place will be used.
"I look forward to the selection of the new centre manager and senior youth leader and hope many good and qualified youth workers will apply.
"It will be great if the Downside Fisher building known to so many Bermondsey families over the years can be fully operational – swimming pool, rooftop pitch and all – in the next few months."
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