A PROMINENT building in the centre of Hexham is to be transformed into an imaginative play area.

Work has been ongoing inside the premises on St Mary’s Wynd which was formerly the Graduate salon, which has stood empty since the salon, run by Northumberland College, closed in April 2017 and moved to a premises on Cattle Market.

Gayle Baty, who runs Little Badgers Childcare in Haydon Bridge, is taking its place with a new project named My Little Place.

The role play cafe, which is an idea new to the Tynedale area, will see parents bring their children to 90 minute sessions where they can enter a number of rooms to dress up and take part in role play.

“This is just something different that I can use my early years experience with and it’s something that Hexham desperately needs,” explained Gayle.

“It’s something different to a soft play. They can be so big and busy and you can’t see the children. What I like about this is we can control how many children are come in by asking people to book sessions in advance, and it will be easy to keep an eye on the children.

“Children love to engage in imaginative play, they like to copy adults and they have role models so early on.”

She explained that many people from the Hexham area travelled outside the area to take their children to soft play or similar role play settings in Gateshead or Newcastle.

Gayle, along with manager Suzanne Keen, staff and helpers, has been working to bring the idea to life by creating nine rooms of different themes.

There will be everything from a builders’ yard to a police station to a supermarket for little ones to get stuck into, as well as a room which will change with the seasons or to represent different events which are going on at the time.

Gayle said the facility would be best for children aged from two to seven years old, who would need to be accompanied by an adult.

There will be a cafe area for adults, with produce from North Acomb Farm Shop, and four sessions will run per day, with three on Sundays. There will be a launch weekend on June 1 and 2, but with half-term coming up at the end of May, Gayle and Suzanne are planning to open on Sunday, May 26.