It’s high fives at shortlist for Leeds child-friendly venues

SUPERHEROES: The Rainbow Factory's We Are Mini coordinator Emma Roe with Archie Russell at a Mini Heroes session.
SUPERHEROES: The Rainbow Factory's We Are Mini coordinator Emma Roe with Archie Russell at a Mini Heroes session.
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Your top five places to go for children and young people in Leeds have been announced with the unveiling of the shortlist for this year’s Child Friendly Leeds Awards.

They’re the venues that put youngsters at the heart of what they do - and their hard work has been rewarded by netting the most nominations in the ‘Best Place for Children and Young People’ category of the city-wide awards.

The popular Rainbow Factory in Farsley is one of those making the shortlist.

The creative arts play centre brings children’s books and characters to life through theatre, music and craft.

From inspirational school trips to bespoke birthday parties, unique baby and preschooler classes to its action-packed February Half-Term entertainment - all of its events encourage youngsters to use their imagination.

The business is the only attraction of its kind in the north and was also shortlisted in last year’s Child Friendly Leeds (CFL) Awards - just six months after it first opened.

Rainbow Factory managing director Hazel Merlino said: “We’re so excited and honoured to have been shortlisted for the CFL Award for Best Place for Children and Young People.

“Our aim has always been to inspire youngsters with a love of reading and it has been so rewarding to see the way families have engaged with what we do.

“So many children leave the factory feeling exhilarated after hours of fun-filled activities - not even realising that they’ve improved their communication skills, confidence and vocabulary in the process.”

Another nominee, Angel of Youths, on New Market Street, Leeds, offers entrepreneurial opportunities for young adults from deprived or marginalised communities on projects which improve society. Founder Marvina Newton, who has worked with young people on projects including bullying, teen domestic violence, eating disorders, homelessness and refugees, said: “It feels absolutely great that Leeds recognises us. Whether we win or not we will keep doing our best to make sure that Leeds is the best place for young people to have a voice and influence.”

Health For All’s Belle Isle Family Centre - which offers activities for children including cooking, dance, movie nights and pantomimes - also scooped a nomination.

Manager Vikrant Bhatia said: “All our groups and staff are very excited to be nominated and are looking forward to attending the awards ceremony. We are keeping our fingers crossed but whatever happens with the outcome, we’re thrilled to be part of it. We’re just over the moon.”

The Tetley centre for contemporary art has also been nominated for the activities it offers for children and young people in Leeds.

Since opening at the end of 2013, the centre hosts regular free drop-in family art workshops and Tiny Tetley sessions for the under fives. It runs after-school activities for children and teenagers in south Leeds.

Creative director Bryony Bond said: “It is fantastic to have our work with children recognised with a nomination for this exciting award. Involving children in creative workshops and activity is a vital part of our work, and something we’re passionate about making accessible to all. We aim to feed the imagination and open up new possibilities for all young people and to make it as fun and easy for families to enjoy our facilities.”

The category’s final nominee is CATCH Leeds - a charity based in Harehills which, with the help of young people, recently refurbished a building called the ARK. Youngsters meet to play pool, table tennis, computer games but also receive help and advice on homework support, employment support and other issues.

Founder Ash Razzaq said: “To be nominated is fanastic recognition for our young volunteers who have helped make the building what it is.”

The five nominees join 24 other children’s champions on the full shortlist.Six winners will be chosen by a judging panel and announced at the awards ceremony tomorrow at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall.

Coun Lisa Mulherin, executive member for children and families, said: “We would like to thank everyone who took the time to put forward nominations for these awards. We were amazed by the sheer number and quality of nominations received and touched by the commitment and hard work shown by all those nominated for an award. There are some fantastic people, places and organisations committed to making Leeds a better city for children and young people and it’s great that we are able to celebrate their work, through an event such as the child friendly Leeds awards.

“What a wonderful way to recognise just some of the work being done across the city to improve the lives of children and young people that goes towards making Leeds a child friendly city.” The awards ceremony is being organised by a group of 14 young people who make up ‘YP Productions’. The team, some as young as 12, are busy making the final preparations for the ceremony, which will be watched by an audience of nearly 400 people, including a number of city leaders, VIP and surprise celebrity guests.