"It's going to be emotional" - how one Lancashire soft play centre owner has got ready for reopening
A popular soft play centre is looking forward to reopening on Monday with a fresh new look.
Owners of Jollies Barn in Mere Brow have spent lockdown making alterations to the venue, ready to welcome families back after months of closure.
With donated wood, the team-led by husband and wife Laura and Jonathan Brookes- have created brightly-coloured 'beach hut' booths, ball pits have been transformed into disco areas with sensory lights and music, and with a grant from Lancashire Boost, a new entrance has been created so people don't have to congregate together in the lobby, and there is a new sheltered area outside.
"This lockdown has affected us more, financially and mentally", said Laura.
"But it's given us time to do things that we wouldn't have had time to do when we were open.
"In the two months that we were open, between lockdowns, we had so much great feedback about the team, the cleanliness, the organisation, and it really spurred us on."
>>>Click here to read Laura's thoughts on the importance of soft play for good mental health.
As well as the new additions, the team will be continuing with the Covid-secure changes they made last year, which include one-way systems, an online booking system, reduced capacity and now there will be iPads to order food at the table.
Laura added: "Last year I got all my hopes up for reopening, and then I was crushed when we had to close again. So this time I am more cautious, but still positive, because now we're in a different place with the vaccines and the way people are thinking.
"They are ready to come back and have some bit of normality."
She added: It's going to be emotional. The last time we reopened, it was very emotional to see people coming back through the doors and to hear children laughing.
"It's emotional for the parents too.
"But we do have to be careful and remember that this can be overwhelming for children. All of a sudden, they are mingling around other kids who aren't in their bubble, and for other children, this will be their first time at soft play.
"We are being contacted by a whole new clientele-parents who have had children since the pandemic began who have never been before, and don't know what to expect.
"It's going to be really interesting and exciting."