At the Trinity Ward meeting on Monday 2nd October, city councillors Margaret Waddington, Ewan Mackey and David Pears unanimously approved a funding bid from FOLIO Sutton Coldfield for their plans to establish an intergenerational play-café inside Sutton Coldfield library.

(L-R) Margaret Waddington, Ewan Mackey, Zoe Toft, Jenny Wilkinson, David Pears

As part of the overall package to secure the long-term survival of Sutton Coldfield Library Birmingham City Council announced in June their desire to commercially let out a space inside Sutton library, to generate rental income. FOLIO took this opportunity to develop an ambitious plan, drawing on feedback received during their campaign as The Library Lobby, to develop a proposal drawn up in conjunction with library staff to install a play-café in the space being let by the city council.

FOLIO submitted a Local Innovations Fund bid to their Trinity Councillors during the summer and after a rigorous assessment process this was formally adopted at Monday night’s ward meeting. Whilst the bid now has to go for Cabinet approval at the City Council, the fact that FOLIO’s bid has the unanimous and enthusiastic backing of the Trinity Councillors gives us every reason to be optimistic about it also being backed by the City Council.

Our Local Innovations Fund bid covers a large portion of the start-up costs to be incurred in installing the play-café; our play-café will be an independent coffee shop, with table service, including a fixed soft-play structure designed specifically for pre-schoolers. Our play-café will:

  • Create a valuable family-friendly place in Sutton Coldfield centre
  • Bring increased footfall to the library
  • Be an innovative space for community groups and events
  • Generate local jobs
  • Support local suppliers
  • Generate ongoing funds for FOLIO Sutton Coldfield
  • The play-café will be professionally run and managed by the team behind Lichfield’s very successful Little Green Frog café.

    FOLIO Sutton Coldfield chair, Zoe Toft said:

    We’re hugely grateful to Trinity Ward Councillors for giving their backing to our innovative and exciting project for creating a new, vibrant community space for all of Sutton Coldfield’s residents. We’re very optimistic about the future of the library now, and are already planning a whole host of events and activities, drawing on input from Sutton residents about what they’d like to see take place in the library.

    Jenny Wilkinson, FOLIO Treasurer said:

    It is almost exactly a year since Birmingham City Council announced plans to close the library in the centre of Sutton Coldfield. As soon as I heard the news, my response was to set up a group on Facebook to protest against it, which went on to become The Library Lobby and has now evolved into FOLIO. I could never have dreamt at that time that we would be where we are today. It has taken enormous amounts of drive, cooperation and vision from a number of people to get to the amazing position we find ourselves in now, where, not only is the library still open, but we are looking at enhancing the range of activities and facilities it offers. I am delighted that we have got here and I would like to express my particular gratitude to Zoe, without whose creativity and determination we would never have succeeded.

    Noran Flynn, FOLIO Trustee and lead on fundraising said:
    Sutton Coldfield residents were very excited that FOLIO was looking at a variety of activities to encourage more people of all ages to use the library. The idea of a Play Cafe within the library in Sutton Coldfield was met with unanimous support from residents who visited our stall at Sutton Expo.

    Cllrs Ewan Mackey and David Pears of Trinity Ward said:

    Ever since plans to close our library were announced our aim has been to work with Sutton Coldfield Town Council & local communities to protect library services by delivering them in line with local need. We were delighted that Friends of Libraries In Our… Sutton Coldfield (Folio) came forward with such an innovative proposal. Not only I am convinced it will help improve the offer of our own Library but this is a model that could be used across Birmingham to help other Libraries. As Councillors, we acknowledge the importance of the library to the town and are excited that Folio’s intergenerational play-café will improve the service further and make it even more accessible to its users.”

    Ben Birchall, one of the directors of Little Green Frog said:

    LGF Play Cafes are delighted to have been invited to work with FOLIO Sutton Coldfield in delivering a Play Café in Sutton Coldfield Library. We are excited about creating an engaging and stimulating environment where families with young children can relax and spend time together and with family and friends whilst enjoying great food and drink in a relaxed environment.
    We can’t wait to work with the team at the library to ensure that the Play Café not only complements but adds additional value to the excellent services that they offer. We believe in providing an environment where children can express themselves physically and creatively and we love to see parents and carers relaxing and reading books with their children, something that is often seen in Caleb’s Quiet Corner in our Lichfield Café.

    See coverage of this news on the Birmingham Mail website:

    See coverage of this news in Families Online:

    Original coverage in the Sutton Coldfield Observer

    Trinity Ward Councillors back our play-cafe proposals

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