I have been involved with the Ipswich Community Playbus as far back as 2000 and have been Chair of the Charity for many years.
The bus first entered service in April 1985 for Ipswich Buses and they gave her the livery name of Margaret Catchpole; subsequently shortened to the more child-friendly name of Maggie. She is a Dennis Dominator double decker, with the original seating capacity being 71 including the driver.
Because of her single door entrance, passengers with pushchairs and shopping trolleys found it difficult to get on and there were apparently many complaints! She was then used for long distance routes and rail replacement services prior to becoming a Playbus. The Ipswich Community Playbus was originally registered with the Charity Commission during 1979, as the “Ipswich Playbus Project”.
In the late 90s, she was bought by the Project from Ipswich Buses and the conversion was carried out and people will remember her initial colours of green with an orange stripe. Maggie spent the summer of 2010 having new panel work undertaken and a complete re-paint: thus becoming bright, bold and colourful -complete with eyelashes and red lips!
The Playbus is a non-profit local registered charity run by a board of Trustees. It provides eight free, quality, early years play experiences and support, for under 5s and their families in Ipswich. These take place at various locations Monday to Friday mornings and afternoons during term time. The staff are fully trained, hold First Aid certificates and have enhanced DBS checks.
The Playbus is a member of the Pre-School Learning Alliance and Association of Mobile Projects (formerly The National Playbus Association). She is fully equipped to be a unique, multicultural learning environment for young children. The toys, equipment and themes are changed termly to keep parents and children stimulated and flourishing educationally. On board there are craft and art activities, sand play, home corner, baby areas, small world sets, construction sets, puzzles and lots more. We also offer a library lending service and have onboard toilet facilities. Last October Maggie celebrated 15 years on the road as a unique and very much loved Playbus!
The above article was written in a recent Waterfront Life Magazine by Holywells Councillor Liz Harsant.
The full magazine can be accessed here