Playgroup that ‘started from nothing’ celebrates 50th

S40102H13 The opening of the new Glebe Room in the 1970s, where Southwick Pre-School Playgroup is now based
S40102H13 The opening of the new Glebe Room in the 1970s, where Southwick Pre-School Playgroup is now based

A PLAYGROUP that started with mums rubbing down wooden blocks has celebrated its 50th birthday.

Southwick Pre-School Playgroup, based at Southwick Community Centre, was set up by a group of mums in 1963.

S40104H13 Teresa Dickinson and Beryl Clark (front), who helped set up Southwick Pre-School Playgroup, with staff members and children.

S40104H13 Teresa Dickinson and Beryl Clark (front), who helped set up Southwick Pre-School Playgroup, with staff members and children.

Two of the women who started it were among guests at the party, at the Southwick Street base, on Friday.

Beryl Clark explained a notice had gone out with the centre’s newsletter, asking for people to help set up the playgroup, and the district nurses had also passed the word around.

Teresa Dickinson, whose surname was Grace at the time, added she was made treasurer and Beryl was put in charge of equipment.

They were given wood by Albion Timber and the very first meeting was rubbing down blocks in Teresa’s loft.

Teresa said: “We started off with one shilling and sixpence. We paid for the coffee at that meeting and that was our first money.

“We got together and started jumble sales to buy equipment. We gradually got more and more.”

From there, the group soon grew to 20 children, meeting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then a separate Tuesday and Thursday group was set up because more places were needed.

Teresa added: “We enjoyed it. We had fun and we made friends for life.”

She remembered when a man built them a climbing frame, and they walked it across Southwick Green from his house to the playgroup.

Beryl added: “It was a lot of hard work. We had no funds, nothing, everything came from us fundraising.”

She remembered that at first, the idea of a playgroup hadn’t gone down well with other centre users.

“It was very difficult because people said we would wreck the place,” she said.

But the playgroup proved popular with families in the town and was later moved to bigger rooms at the centre.

Now, the playgroup has a large register and takes 22 children, aged two to five, each day. Supervisor Roxanne Beauchamp took over last year from Veronica Pratt, who retired last Easter after running the group since 1988.

Veronica said she remembered the children entering the Southwick Carnival every year, and even winning one year.

Guests, which included past and present children and parents, enjoyed a buffet and special birthday cake, in the shape of 50.

They had the chance to look through old photo albums and many delighted in spotting themselves in the photos from the past.