An adventure playground that started life in an old shipping container has brought generations of children joy to the world.
Known as The Venny, the beloved playground in Speke has been operating for 46 years.
Now a central provider of services for children in the local community, The Venny started from humble beginnings.
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The Venny was opened in 1975 and operated from an old sea container.
From day one, local mom Ann Shaw brought her passion to grow the project into a place that improved the lives of countless children.
Ann ran the center for more than 40 years before she developed cancer and passed away in January 2016.
She had lived in Speke all her life and became involved with the charity right after it was founded, where she stayed through thick and thin.
Her daughter-in-law Paula Shaw told ECHO in 2016 that “spunky” Ann “was passionate about the kids on the estate and wanted to make sure they had somewhere to play.”
She said, “When the Speke Adventure Playground first started, it was in a sea container.
“Ann helped raise money and the project grew and grew.
“It had to move to a different location and Ann fought against its closure.
“For forty years she made sure there was something for the children in Speke.”
For several generations of children, The Venny, under Ann’s direction, became an exciting place to spend part of their childhood.
The 1970s and ’80s Venny was mostly grassy areas full of swing tires, climbing frames and wooden rope bridges, which seemed an imposing assault course to be mastered by any kid with an adventurous spirit.
There was also a concrete soccer field and after the sea container a clubhouse with its own shop, gaming machines and pool tables.
A craft room, changing rooms and special accommodation for the disabled were also added to the project.
At that time there was nothing else for children in Speke.
After Ann’s death, Paula took over the running of the charity for the next five years.
The mantle has now been turned over to Kimberley Preston, 31, who is the interim center manager.
Speke’s mother would like to see The Venny serve more generations of children with happy memories.
She told ECHO that the playground has been updated to modern standards, but says the magic of the old Venny is still there even after it moved a short distance to Conleach Road to make way for the Parklands project early in the year. the 00s.
Kimberley said, “We still have an adventure playground and that is the main attraction as the most important thing for children is to play and climb.
“It is clear that our playground now meets all of today’s health and safety standards.
‘I imagine some things from back then had not met any of them!
‘I remember there was a huge wooden castle that you could play in. It was all fun.
“But we are constantly improving our park and we just had a huge slide and climbing wall installed.
“We still have a pool table, which is our focal point. And we have table tennis and there is still a tuck shop. We also have an art room and a relaxation area.”
Kimberley said The Venny is now the only full-time provider of children’s services in Speke, and her contribution to the community remains more important than ever.
She said, “Any kid can show up and it’s free, everything is free. And we’re a charity so funding is so important to us.
“The holidays are always chocka, you can’t move for kids, but it’s always fun.
“I think it’s a lifeline for some young people – it’s somewhere to go.
“I was raised by the youth service and I went to The Venny when I was younger.
“The opportunities I got were great. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“And that’s what we’re trying to do for the kids – give them opportunities they wouldn’t have in their life at home or at school.”
On the future of The Venny, Kimberley added, “I think there is always danger with a good cause when it comes to funding. We are always looking for sponsors and companies to fund projects or travel for the young people.
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“But it would be a huge loss to the community if we lost our funding and without volunteers we wouldn’t be where we are today.
“46 years could be three generations of family who participated and we want it to last for more.”
“The sense of community has always been there and it comes from Ann and it has been passed on to Paula.
“Now I hope I can keep going and let that grow.”