As further lockdown easing takes place from May 17, soft play areas in Hackney can now open their doors to children and parents once again.

Jocelyn Crome, owner and manager of Kidzmania, a community play space for young parents and families in Lower Clapton, said: "It's like we've been closed forever."

Kidzmania closed right at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, along with many other soft play areas, opening briefly, only to shut again for the entirety of subsequent lockdowns.

Jocelyn said she was "pleasantly surprised" that the space was fully booked today (May 17), adding: "That really shows you how much the community values Kidzmania."

She continued: "Every business now needs the support of the community and the customers to come in and really use all these facilities which have been closed now for such a long time."

Ham & High: Kidzmania is a community soft play area in Lower Clapton.Kidzmania is a community soft play area in Lower Clapton. (Image: Kidzmania)

The owner described how nice it was hearing "kids laughing, parents having coffee and babies crying in the background".

She says play areas like hers are important for the wellbeing of children and parents: "It's about getting out of the house meeting other families, kids socialising and its about exercise.

"I mean the smiles on people's faces in there is just unbelievable – really nice to see."

Jocelyn hopes residents will support all small businesses as lockdown eases, adding that many soft play areas have had to close due to the pandemic.

"We have managed to hold on in there but its been really really tough," the owner added.

She attributes her play areas survival to having an "absolutely great landlord", the ongoing furlough scheme set to end in September and government grants.

The children also made the most of the space today, with Jocelyn mentioning one mother who said she "literally had to drag her child out screaming because she didn't want to go."

She added: "What I love about Kidzmania is the diversity of people coming through the door and I saw that again today – its like we've never been shut.

"The kids just jumped straight back in - they are quite resilient."

Learn more about Kidzmania at