‘Save our indoor play industry’ says St Albans DJ’s Play owner

PUBLISHED: 14:34 15 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:55 15 July 2020

DJ's mascot will be supporting Helen at the gathering of soft play centre owners in Westminster tomorrow. Picture: Courtesy of Helen Whittington

DJ's mascot will be supporting Helen at the gathering of soft play centre owners in Westminster tomorrow. Picture: Courtesy of Helen Whittington

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A soft play business, with centres in St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted, is “holding on by its finger nails” and is calling for clarity from the government on when it can reopen.

DJ's mascot will be supporting Helen at the gathering of soft play centre owners in Westminster tomorrow. Picture: Courtesy of Helen WhittingtonDJ's mascot will be supporting Helen at the gathering of soft play centre owners in Westminster tomorrow. Picture: Courtesy of Helen Whittington

Owner of DJ’s play, Helen Whittington, and the company mascot, will be two of many representing indoor soft play centres from across the UK to descend on Westminster tomorrow.

This comes after the British Association for Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions – of which Helen is a committee member – launched a petition to rescue indoor play from closure.

The national petition has gained the support of more than 16,500 people so far.

Helen told the Herts Ad: “I have three children of my own, and when I bought DJ’s in St Albans almost 10 years ago I wanted to make improvements and over the years we’ve started to attract childminder groups and mum and baby classes.

“It’s a really good facility for young families to enjoy.”

Off the back of the success of the St Albans centre, Helen was able to expand into Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted. However, since the COVID-19 induced lockdown, the business has struggled due to a lack of grant support, with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

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A recent survey undertaken by BALPPA, the trade body representing British leisure parks, piers and attractions, revealed up to two-thirds of the country’s indoor play centres are facing permanent closure within weeks.

“We are clinging on by our finger nails to survive”, Helen continued.

“We have no insurance as they’re refusing business interruption claims due to COVID-19, and it’s too big to receive any grants. We haven’t had any support.”

The petition states that throughout the pandemic children have been overlooked, and Helen says continuing to keep children’s facilities closed will have a greater impact of their development and mental health.

“People will have had babies in the last six months and will not have been able to go to baby groups or socialise – post natal depression will be on the up, and children learn a lot when they play in terms of sharing and growing in confidence.”

Helen works closely with the It’s OK To Say campaign for mental health in St Albans. She added: “We need to be thinking about children’s mental health and how it’s been impacted in all this, as well as parents – soft play can be a real life line.”

Organisers of the petition, who are heading to Westminster tomorrow, have asked their MPs to support them.

To sign the petition, go to bit.ly/2Wnoasj.


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