playarea_dorset_policeThe concept of a "teenage playground" was developed as part of the first SUMMENTOR – a Summer mentoring project focusing on local junior school leavers who, it was felt, would struggle with the transition to Senior School. Involving children who were disadvantaged, the victims of bullying and rural isolation and, in some cases, with a disability, they were mentored by students from the Sir John Colfox Academy for three weeks over the Summer of 2006.

wb-play-1The Project won immediate national recognition through an article in The Teacher Magazine, written by local journalist Keith Hatch, who had also been one of the Youth Workers on the programme.

With the support of WDDC's Cultural Development Officer, Jude Allen, the members were able to work with professional artists and designers to develop their ideas.

It took another four years until sufficient funding could be raised to actually create the West Bay Play Area, by which time the seven young SUMMENTOR members still involved decided that they didn't want a teenage play area after all, but one that could be shared by "Everyone – from 0 to 99."

Although an undoubted success, described by Jenny Driscoll in the Spectator magazine, as "one of the wonders of the West Dorset coast" the Play Area wasn't in fact offering equality of access and enjoyment to everyone – those with a disability could in general only look on whilst others had the fun.

Another six years on and that has now hopefully all changed, thanks to the efforts of a working partnership between Bridport Town Council and the Bridport Young Persons Action Trust (BYPAT).

Members of the original Steering Group from 2006 to 2010 – Jude Allen, Debbie Bird (one of the first SUMMENTOR mentors), Town Surveyor Daryl Chambers, Town Councillors Maggie and Martin Ray, and BYPAT Chair and SUMMENTOR creator Arthur Woodgate – were joined by Sandra Brown and Kelvin Clayton of the Town Council, James Ward-Rice of the Youth Service, and Ian Bennett of DCC Children's Services. The group was also joined by Tess Hawley and Gail Lambe, both parents of children with profound disabilities.

Consultation sessions were held over a two year period with members of the Fishermans Arms and Flood Lane Day Centres, the Mountjoy School Council, and the Sir John Colfox Academy.

wb-play-2A lengthy fund-raising campaign was given a tremendous boost with a contribution of £50,000 from Dorset County Council's Children's Services, and then a further £10,000 via DCC through the 2012 Olympic Health Legacy Fund. More locally, donations were received from the Round Table, Lions Club, Bridport Charities, BYPAT, West Dorset MENCAP, West Dorset District Council, Denhay Farm and Fowler Trading Estates. At that point, and with still a gap in the funding, Bridport Town Council came to the rescue and committed to cover any shortfall.

More meetings, more consultation sessions – no decisions were made without reference to the Consultation Groups – a "test run" and, with Daryl Chambers working his usual but distinctly personal brand of magic, all of the ideas came together with the Official Opening of the extended West Bay Play Area on 7th July 2016.

Representatives from all the groups involved, both in creating the Area and supporting its creation, were joined by Sir Philip Williams, High Sheriff of Dorset, members of the West Bay Forum and the Dorset Parent Carers Council, and other interested parties.

The Area was declared open by local Paralympian Paul Blake, off to Brazil in August, and this declaration was confirmed (in a pleasantly thunderous manner) by Town Crier John Collingwood.

The sign now on display, designed by students at the Sir John Colfox Academy, about says it all...

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