Little Exeter opened at the beginning of March 2023 as a play space for under 7’s in Exeter city centre. The space is divided up into 12 individual play spaces where children can immerse themselves in role play and discovery. From a boat in the tranquil setting of the quay, to a ‘Hardware Shop’ will all the latches and locks under the sun’.
This space has been created as a case study and will run for one year with heavily subsidy from the Guildhall Shopping Centre as well as our partners which include InExeter and Lancer Scott as well as contributing partners, Griffin Chartered Accountants, Briggs and Co designers, Stalite Signs, Meraki Art School and Cornerstone Housing.
Nikki Fairclough, Guildhall Shopping Centre Marketing and Customer Experience Manager, as well as the Creator of Little Exeter said:
‘We are beyond excited to deliver a family focused initiative like this on site. It is a natural next step for us after the huge success of our indoor garden which will remain in situ and support Little Exeter’s needs. This space sees over 200 families a day and has become a valuable, Award-winning play space. It has also been incredible to see how quickly partners were willing to sign up and help us fund this space. It’s humbling and inspiring how they all got our vision for the space and the importance of making it accessible to all’.
Little Exeter will be £3 for a child and £2 for an accompanying adult per session. Sessions will be morning or afternoon and it will initially be open Monday- Friday.
Nikki Said: ‘ The reason for this shorter opening period is just so we can find our feet in the initial month and see how we can best run the space. We hope to add Saturdays within a few months and eventually full weekends.’
The space has been funded by some incredible partners including:
InExeter is the Business Improvement District for Exeter. They celebrate the city, support local business, and deliver change. Their valuable funding has helped us create this special space and purchase items from local brands.
Ann Hunter, InExeter BID Manager says “We are incredibly proud to be part of Little Exeter. This project reflects our core values which is about creating amazing spaces in our city for the people of Exeter to enjoy. Having child friendly areas in our city is vital for families and Little Exeter not only delivers this but is an inspirational play space”.
Lancer Scott is a major privately-owned Built environment construction, development and facilities management company in the UK. They have worked on a number of projects at the Guildhall Shopping Centre and they jumped at the opportunity to get involved with this community project, Supplying and fitting the space out with the little units forming our Little Exeter city.
Geoff Patch from Lancer Scott says:
‘Projects like this are excellent to get involved with as they really have an impact on their community. We think it’s an amazing space and we were thrilled to get involved and provide the building work’
Nikki Said: We wanted to make the space really interesting for children, and a real reflection of our high street and surrounding areas. So we have put real art up from local street artists like Steve McCracken and LP Edits as well as used grown up elements like real laptops for kids to play with. We have also woven some familiar scenes into the space such as The Quay with a real sailboat, donated by the Willis family in Dorset (which is over 60 years old and called the Sea Crab) as well as a climb on giraffe in the museum area. We worked with Cocreate on some of these items and its’ incredible what they produced. We are so proud to have them on site.’
Little Exeter is located on the first floor in an old café unit next to the family garden.. There will be a café serving hot beverages, a selection of ready to go cold drinks and cakes and pastries from St Sidwell Bakehouse. This café is exclusively for those coming into the play area. People are welcome to bring their own cold foods and snacks into the space – a step further taken to remove financial hurdles of play spaces for parents.
Nikki added: ‘We have kept the costs of entering as low as possible to remove the financial burden many people experience when trying to access spaces like these. In keeping with this, we would encourage people to bring snacks in for their children. We will however have a lovely coffee machine ready with local coffee from Voyager and local hot chocolate from Chococo for those in need of a hot drink fix.’
‘We hope this space will lay the groundwork for more spaces like this as in our city as well as others and we hope to share our learnings and results with the industry when this project comes to an end. Ideally we would just have it running for ever but it is heavily subsidised and we cannot tell what the future brings. However, we can enjoy it for now and work to make sure more of these pop up.’