The first BOSCAPS - Barrow on Soar Community Association Playscheme - was held in August 1976. A chance remark in the autumn of 1975, by Judith Rodgers, Edith North and myself, outside Hall Orchard School gates quickly led to a volunteer committee of seven being formed and plans made! We already had playgroups, let’s have a playscheme for the village children.
What activities would we offer? Where would the money come from? Would we organise trips? The list grew and the work began. One of our very first fundraising activities was making Hobby Horses in Judith’s lounge and then selling them on Loughborough Market (pictured below) and we made and sold 80 pairs of children’s trousers! We had a Mini Play-Day, Bazaar, Crazy Sports and sold pens. Money from the Annual Pancake Race was donated to us too. We also had, and were very grateful for, the financial backing of the Community Association and Parish Council.
People were very generous and we made many Land Rover trips to a Swadlincote Pottery to collect “seconds” and a whole load of heavy rolls of pottery clay. Plaster-of-paris awas collected from British Gypsum at Newark, and one child’s granddad donated leather and suede remnants. All kinds of craft material quickly followed. An appeal on Radio Leicester resulted in us receiving wooden offcuts from a Nottingham company. The pots were used in the Art room; clay in pottery and the plaster-of-Paris was dumped outside Orchard Block to be turned into a myriad of plaster models using a growing collection of rubber moulds. Judith got even dirtier than the kids! We didn’t find out until years later that the premises officers, or caretakers as they were known then, dreaded the clay and plaster work because after the classes the kids used to go round to the back of Orchard Block, use the plaster models as chalk, and draw all over the brick walls!
We decided to run for the first two weeks in August with activities in the morning and trips out in the afternoon. We wanted to keep the admission price as low as possible so that no child was prevented from attending because of the cost – registering a child bought a badge before the playscheme at 20p, if purchased during the playscheme it was 40p and we had a different coloured dated badge every year! By 1982 this had increased to 70p or £1 and as one child rightly said “BOSCAPS costs 7p a day!” The first year we had 640 children register from Barrow upon Soar and surrounding villages.
We had the run of Humphrey Perkins and the cleaning staff were very supportive and helpful - but we couldn’t have done any of it without the help of the 150 people who came forward to volunteer - they were absolutely brilliant! The weekend before, we erected a huge climbing frame made out of scaffolding outside Orchard Block, this was to be used by the children to jump onto mattresses and later we progressed to hiring a “Fun Bag”, a flatbed bouncy mattress. A double mattress was placed at the bottom of the slope in front of Orchard Block and the children used to roll or run down onto it. The boys built a kiln with a lovely elderly gentleman called Mr Finney who had spent all of his working life in rural Africa and told them tales of his adventures. They dug a shallow hole and built up the kiln using clay to bind the bricks towards a small round hole at the top, scraps of wood from the woodworking room were fed into the hole and quickly a fire was created - they did try firing pots but were more interested in cooking sausages and baked potatoes! We would never have passed today’s Health and Safety rules!
Sports and games were run by John Fletcher (Flea) and Norman Meeke and took place on the playing fields for the older children with the younger ones in the Hall. We had the use of the swimming pool with trained lifeguards on duty and we provided both swimming sessions and water games together with beginners and advanced canoeing tuition.
A typical morning at BOSCAPS began with long queues of children in the Main Hall ready to register for the various activities – helpers’ children queued along with everyone else. Once registered they made their way to the allotted room and the day began! A tuck shop was open from 10.30 -11.30 am each morning, with coffee for the helpers, and this was always very popular - in 1980 we sold £400 worth of tuck. A crèche was provided for helpers’ children. The Land Rover ran a taxi service, with two pick-up points on Sileby Road, returning the children at lunchtime.
We had woodwork and I remember my girls making “Scholl” sandals with Barrie Doxey and Barry Leader and they wore them around the house and garden for ages. We had Macramé and made hanging plant/pot holders, purses and wallets were made in Leatherwork, a lot of Artwork, cane-work, decorative painted pots, “nail” pictures, flower arranging, drama workshops, music making, hairdressing, beauty care, marbling, screen-printing, present and soft toy making, First Aid training, flower arranging, junk modelling, bead stringing and cycling proficiency. Cookery was always popular and Sally Topley collected last minute ingredients from “Strettons” every morning on her way up to playscheme - “Melting Moments” were always a great favourite. In those days Humphrey Perkins still had a row of Nissen huts, nicknamed the “Horsa Huts”, which we used for some activities but later everything took place in Orchard Block. Visits from the Police and Fire Brigade and sporting personalities were also popular. On the last Friday morning we had some form of entertainment; magician, puppets, drama or a disco.
We organised trips to Quorn Outdoor Pursuits where the children took part in canoeing and learned how to get upright again after capsizing – they thought this was great fun! Other trips took place in the afternoon when we: hired a bus and went “glice” skating or roller skating at Leicester’s Granby Halls, ice skating in Nottingham, visited Paudy Farm, Newark Air Museum, Filbert Street Football Ground, Boots Nottingham factory, Loughborough Fire Station, Wollaton Hall, Rutland Water, Drayton Manor, Elvaston Castle, Gulliver’s Kingdom, the Loughborough Echo, Brass Rubbing at Cadeby, Ladybird Books and Quorn Hunt, which was then still based on Paudy Lane – I don’t think I will ever forget the noise of the hounds in the compound! The older children visited the Sewage Treatment works and they loved hearing about the stuff going in one end and the processes until it came out the other end as water pure enough to drink – apparently the only thing that survives the various processes is tomato seeds and there was a huge bed of tomato plants around the filter – I wonder if it is different these days. All in all it was hard work, but we had a really great time and it was always sunny for BOSCAPS! I am so glad we didn’t have the stress of present day Safeguarding and Health and Safety regulations because we would never have passed! I admire and congratulate the present organisers for their hard work in keeping BOSCAPS going and I know that some of those who attended in 1970/80s are now part of the organising and volunteering team and think they would agree that they did benefit from the experience of seeing the community pulling together to make BOSCAPS something that Barrow upon Soar can still be very proud of - long may it continue.