Future of playbus hangs in balance

PUBLISHED: 07:30 12 April 2007 | UPDATED: 10:19 31 May 2010

From back left, Isabelle O’Hara, Catherine Fenn-Smith, Jan Menell, Rosie Juhl, Beck Howe and little ones Osh and Morgan Evans, and front Zoe Birch and daughter Maria – Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

From back left, Isabelle O'Hara, Catherine Fenn-Smith, Jan Menell, Rosie Juhl, Beck Howe and little ones Osh and Morgan Evans, and front Zoe Birch and daughter Maria - Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

AFTER providing thousands of families with a valuable and friendly service for more than a decade, Buffy the playbus is facing closure. The free Buffy Bus service, established in 1996, is desperately in need of funding to help it meet its £1000-per-week r

AFTER providing thousands of families with a valuable and friendly service for more than a decade, Buffy the playbus is facing closure.

The free Buffy Bus service, established in 1996, is desperately in need of funding to help it meet its £1000-per-week running costs.

Without financial intervention the Buffy Bus charity - which recently had grant applications to the Big Lottery Fund and Essex County Council turned down - will cease to operate after the first week of May.

Jan Menell, chairman of the Uttlesford Buffy Bus Association, said: "The bus is incredibly expensive to run and even with our own fund-raising we can't afford to keep it going.

"The bus has been my baby for 10 years. I've devoted many, many hours to it and am delighted to have been part of it.

"It's terribly sad that it's folding now, when it's doing so well and providing a service for so many children."

Ten years ago Mrs Menell and a group of young mothers raised £15,000 to buy a 1974 second-hand double-decker bus to provide a fun place for children under five to play and families to meet.

In 2003, thanks to a grant of almost £200,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, a replacement bus was bought and Buffy has operated five days a week since then.

Rosie Juhl, who managed the bus for the last three years, said the charity urgently needs revenue to help cover day-to-day costs.

"Over the years, Buffy Bus has become a much-loved and respected part of the community," she said.

"More than 5000 families have benefited from Buffy, often in rurally isolated communities that would otherwise not have access to this kind of service."

Each week an average of between 100 and 120 children board the bus in the 13 different communities it visits, where they can enjoy painting, playing in sand, using a computer, playing with wooden toys and a reading area where they can look at books or be read to.

Much-needed donations from families normally provide around £100 a week, but this does not even cover fuel costs. Buffy does just seven miles to the gallon and diesel costs alone are £200 per week.

Any form of fund-raising for Buffy would be warmly welcomed by the team, but Mrs Juhl said a long-term commitment from a company or organisation would be ideal.

"We would be more than happy to prominently display the logos of a company or sponsor in exchange for funding, so we can continue supporting and providing a service for the community," she said.

If you think you can help save the service or would like to donate or arrange any type of fund-raising event, visit www.buffybus.co.uk or email info@buffybus.co.uk

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Saffron Walden Reporter