‘It’s a lifeline’: Charity offering free childcare calls for community support to stay open

A charity which offers free activities and holiday clubs for young people is calling on the community to help save its playground from closing down, due to funding shortages and disrepair.

Big Up Communities (BUC) is a not-for-profit organisation that offers free activities and holiday clubs for young people and their families at the Stewarts Road Adventure Playground in Nine Elms, Battersea

The playground is in need of essential repairs and safety maintenance, to ensure the charity can continue operating from the site.

The charity is funded by The Million Hours Fund – part of the The National Lottery Community Fund – and The Lightbulb Trust. But this funding is restricted to running the youth activities and the charity says it is struggling to afford building costs and maintenance.

Peggy Shimmin with her baby and members of Stewarts Road Adventure Playground (Picture: Big Up Communities)

Peggy Shimmin, 41, of BUC, said: “The playground is a very special place, filled with potential, and it would be awful to have to close it when it’s a lifeline for so many families. 

“Our team has a broad range of skills that go beyond youth work, including filmmaking, music production, singing, songwriting and art. 

“This means we can offer free specialist activities that are often too expensive for families.”

Ms Shimmin said BUC had “exhausted” all temporary options and the roof of the building in the playground where it hosts holiday clubs is now past repair and needs to be completely replaced, at an estimated cost of about £20,000.

London Play, a charity which supports children’s play in London with funding, has helped fit a temporary “shower cap” to the roof to stop leaking, but this will only keep the water out for a limited time, Ms Shimmin said.

The building in the playground. The roof has been secured with a “shower cap” funded by London Play (Picture: BUC)

Parents are calling on the community to help save what they describe as a “lifeline” of free childcare.

Pauline Avenell, 57, from West Norwood, has been taking her son, 22 – who has autism, learning difficulties and anxiety – to the playground for almost 10 years. 

She said: “The Stewarts Adventure playground is a lifeline for me.

“I’ve been to other places and they are not as equipped to look after SEND children. 

“I can’t take him to a normal playground because people judge him – he’s older than the other children. Here he is never judged.”

Peggy with children at the playground during their lunchtime (Picture: Big Up Communities)

Another parent, Agnieszka Strzechowska, 41, is a single mother who has been taking her daughters, Holly Strzechowska 13, and Olivia Strzechowska, 16, to the playground for four years. 

She said: “The playground has been a lifesaver for me. When I got separated I was so low and income was very challenging for me – this was the main reason I signed the girls up.

“The club offers everything my children need and more, their insight into children with ADHD and ASD is remarkable.”

Ms Strzechowska lives in Wandsworth and travels 20 minutes each way to drop her daughters to separate sessions at the club.

She said: “Four times a day is a lot but it’s worth every single visit. I couldn’t manage without it.”

Her daughter, Holly, said: “Peggy is great, she always takes care of everyone and she gave me a chance to have fun over the half-term, otherwise I would be at home and bored.”

It comes as the childcare sector across the country faces immense challenges as the number of childcare providers is falling, mainly because of childminders leaving the profession.

Yessica Ottey joins in with arts and crafts at Stewarts Road Adventure Playground (Picture: @Yomi.Kadejo)

​​In just one year, between March 2022 and 2023, registered childminders in England fell by 3,500, meaning a loss of more than 20,000 childcare places, data from Ofsted shows.

The most recent figures show there are 334,000 early-years workers, down 10,000 on the peak seen in 2019.

BUC said it needs to raise a target of £30,000 in funding for the repairs.

To get a kick-start, the charity has organised two fundraisers – a relaxation wellness session on May 9 and a one-man show by Peter Searels on May 30. Both events will be held at St John’s Community Development Project in Clapham Road, Brixton.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up which has already received £1,410 in donations. To donate Click Here.

Pictured top: Children and BUC staff during an MMA session at the playground (Picture: @Yomi.Kadejo)

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:


If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.