Building Blocks nursery in Beeston Hill marked 20 years since opening its doors with a celebration event yesterday (28 September 2023).
Among the guests were past and present staff, trustees, friends as well as the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Al Garthwaite and project founders Neil and Helen Bishop.
In her speech the Lord Mayor said she was especially pleased to attend as she had been involved the project from the beginning and is still involved as Chair of Trustees.
The origins of the nursery lie 25 years back when a pot of funding known as the Single Regeneration Budget Round 4 (SRB4) was targeted on the Beeston Hill area and a group of local organisations got together to look at what would be most useful for the local community. The group became Faith Together in Leeds 11 and the projects were Building Blocks and the Hamara Healthy Living Centre.
Neil Bishop and Hanif Malik recalled how they got together with no previous experience of creating such projects, but a determination to do something for the local community.
Building Blocks was conceived as a parenting centre, but when funding ran low was forced to look at a social enterprise model, becoming a childcare provider. Nursery Manager Sam Withell was one of the first members of staff and developed the nursery provision, gradually expanding further into the multi-purpose building.
Faith Together in Leeds 11 has recently purchased the building from the consortium of churches that owned it. This was not a straightforward process, taking seven years from start to finish.
Since taking ownership of the building Sam has overseen the expansion into the former hall space and creation of a covered outdoor play area as well as the overhaul of the garden on Tempest Road which includes the war memorial.
2,500 children have been cared for at Building Blocks and some of those children have now returned as parents bringing their children to the nursery.
Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Al Garthwaite, said:
“I am very, very proud to acknowledge all the work of everybody and of course the existing staff of the nursery who do so much to get very good Ofsted reports time after time.”
Hilary Benn MP, who had stepped in more than once to break a bureaucratic logjam that threatened to stop the project before it started and again during the purchase of the building said:
“The clue’s in the name. What you do here the raising of the next generation, the nurturing of them, the support, is an absolutely essential building block in any community.”
Main photo: Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Al Garthwaite cuts the cake with nursery founder Helen Bishop. Credit Jeremy Morton
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