Twenty-first Century playtime at Bedlington Park thanks to Leading Link charity

May 9, 2017 | Brenkley News

The new SONA dance and play arch at the Doctor Pit Park in Bedlington being used by local children

Young people in a Northumberland community are getting access to a state-of-the-art piece of electronic play equipment thanks to the work of a local charity in partnership with other key players.

Leading Link has been working with residents, community groups and local authorities to help revitalise the Doctor Pit Park in Bedlington, which had been suffering from a growing number of anti-social behaviour and vandalism problems in recent years.

The partnership have been making a series of improvements to the park’s horticulture, landscaping and infrastructure, and has now installed an interactive SONA dance and play arch in the ground after securing funding from site owners Northumberland County Council and the Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund.

The arch, which is believed to be the only one of its kind in the region, combines the best of outdoor play with digital and interactive activities, is fully accessible to people of all ages and abilities, and can be used by both individuals and groups.

Ten different activities can be selected via its single button control, including dance battles, reaction races, an animal quest and others specifically designed around the features of the park.

A motion sensor at the top of the arch recognises and responds to movements below, and speakers on the inside of the arch ensure that sounds are kept within the immediate space.

The arch is already proving popular with the growing numbers of local people who are visiting the park – and the charity is now hoping that the imminent arrival of warmer weather will encourage more families from across the wider area and beyond to come along to the park to see how it works.

Established in 2011, Leading Link aims to provide real life opportunities through a diverse range of activities which will help to maximise the potential of young people across North East England.

It works on a local, regional and national level to advance capability, opportunity and knowledge for all of the young people with whom it works.

Lyn Horton, manager at Leading Link, says: “Doctor Pit Park has been part of Bedlington for more than 80 years, and has provided a home for sporting, leisure and play activities for generations of local families, but it had become somewhat run down and wasn’t proving as popular as it ought to have.

“Leading Link is delighted to have been involved in taking an inclusive approach to revitalising the park by working with a wide range of local groups and residents of all ages to identity, plan and make the improvements that they wanted to see.

“The play arch is a fantastic piece of equipment that encourages children to be both active and creative, and it can be used by everybody in so many different ways.

“There’s been a brilliant response so far, with lots of great feedback from local children and schools, and since it’s the only one in the region that we know of, we think it’s going to prove a real magnet for families from right across the area to make the first of hopefully many visits to the park.”

Jeannie Kielty, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “Leading Link and their young people’s vision and commitment has added a great deal to the facilities available at the Doctor Pit Park, and we’re very happy to have been part of bringing such a terrific piece of equipment to Bedlington.”

The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.

Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.

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