Penlan, Swansea

Penlan Big Red Bath Jamboree

September 2009
Audrey Hunt, Bookstart/Flying Start Coordinator, City & County of Swansea Libraries

As part of our celebration of Bookstart week in Swansea in June 2009, children’s author Julia Jarman came for a couple of days to read aloud some of her fabulous picture story books.

Two of our Flying Start childcare settings are in the Integrated Children’s centre close to the local library in Penlan and we thought it would be a great opportunity for the children to have a story read by Julia. As so easily happens the planning of the event began to escalate! We work very closely in partnership and it seemed a natural course of events to get together with our key partners to plan the event for Penlan. Penlan is one of the most socially and economically deprived areas in Swansea but also has strong community settings and children’s projects and the most wonderful local librarian.

Next thing we knew the planning meeting consisted of the Penlan librarian, Bookstart/Flying Start Coordinator (libraries), Mobile Toy Library, Language and Play, Flying Start childcare and the Integrated Children’s Centre. We decided that it would be a shame not to offer the opportunity to see Julia as widely as we could but in a way that would also be practical. We all agreed that we should invite the Flying Start childcare setting, children from the children’s centre, parent groups from the centre and early years classes from the two local primary schools. With so many children to invite the next question was where could we hold the event. The library is right next to the community centre that is coordinated by Communities First. They were delighted to offer us the use of the large hall for a nominal fee and a kitchen to make refreshments.

Julia’s session would last for around 30 minutes so we decided that we should extend the event into a morning of activities. Each partner organisation would organise and deliver an activity that we would organise on a carousel basis so that all children could experience each activity during the morning. This took some really careful organising but proved really worthwhile in helping all run smoothly on the day.

The morning was the most wonderful success. An amazing 87 children came along. Julia read The Big Red Bath in a big red bath made by the Mobile Toy Library – and loved it! Activities then included making musical instruments, getting on board the playbus to enjoy bubbles and music, icing biscuits and mask making. Everyone involved gave very positive feedback and the local librarian noticed that some parents who were at the session in the morning had come to join the library by the afternoon! Julia Jarman wrote a lovely thank you letter saying how impressed she was with all the community groups that she came across during her stay in Swansea.

Organising such a large event was only made possible by the strong partnership working which allowed us to organise things so well as a team. Thanks to everyone who helped to make the event such a success. Looking forward to doing it again next year.

The main cost of the event was the cost of the author visit. If we organise a similar event it would be nice to be able to purchase some of Julia’s books to gift to the children’s settings and classes that come along.