Party as toddler group celebrates half a century of welcoming in little ones

A volunteer-run toddler group is celebrating half a century of providing fun for the little ones – and respite for the adults.

Great Lumley Toddler Group was founded in 1972 by local health visitor Edith Barker. It is testimony to the dedication of Edith, who passed away in 2021, that the group is still going strong.

Fifty years ago there had been a playgroup for children aged three and four, but nothing for the even younger ones, particularly those whose parents needed a break. So with help from local GP Dr Len Featherstone, the group began.

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Sessions are run each Tuesday and Thursday mornings from Great Lumley Community Centre in Chester-le-Street.

Great Lumley Toddlers Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Picture by Craig Leng.

They have had a special party session, with food and drink that the youngsters love, to mark the anniversary. Special guest was the Lumley Lion. The invitation was open to members past and present.

The first toddlers to attend the group back in the day are now in their 50s. It is as much loved now as it ever was and was a huge miss for all concerned when lockdown prevented them from attending

The group’s secretary is childminder Keelie Green. The youngest of her four children is Alfie, who loves being part of the group.

Keelie said: “It’s always been run by a committee of volunteers and 50 years later we’re still doing it.

Great Lumley Toddlers Group secretary Keelie Green, holding five-month-old Ezra Noble. With supporter Joan Smith and the Lumley Lion. Picture by Craig Leng.

“The group was set up because so many parents didn’t have anybody to support them, So it was st up for the children to have somewhere to socialise and develop, but also for the parents to meet other people so they weren’t alone and had a bit of support.

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“That was highlighted more when we were in lockdown – the amount of parents who needed to see people.

“Some people who had their children here years ago; then came back when they had grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.

"A lot of people know each other because of toddlers. It used to be the only thing on in the community centre. It’s something that brings many people together.”

Great Lumley Toddlers Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Picture by Craig Leng
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Great Lumley Toddler Group is hoping that the community centre they use will be refurbished soon. For more information, visit