Art Playground Cheltenham: Business Start Up

The thrills and spills of a social enterprise start up


The best day of my life

I just wanted to tell you about the best place on earth: City Museum in St Louis, USA.

This was the place that started the whole Art Playground idea. I don’t intend to try and recreate it- it definitely stands alone- but it gave me the inspiration for a place where rather than “don’t touch” and “be quiet” the signs say things like “please climb on the artwork”.

We spent nearly 6 hours climbing around in the 10 story ex-shoe factory, created by artist Bob Cassilly.

They describe it as “an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects.” It’s called City Museum because almost everything in it comes from within the city of St Louis, including the two aeroplane fuselages and the school bus on the roof!

The photo of Jamie in his hat below was taken just as the organist started playing the theme to Indiana Jones on the huge tarnished church organ that sat halfway up the wall of the factory. Surreal and brilliant.

Images of the City Museum playground

Every time I go to a museum or stately home, I always seem to be most interested by the doors and staircases that have “no entry” signs across them and I tend to want to explore or climb on exhibits at exhibitions in a way which isn’t usually encouraged! City Museum is the antidote to that. As we walked in I saw a hole in the ground, a tunnel, and thought “I wonder what’s down there?” and then I had an amazing moment of realisation, like Christmas day; because it was the City Museum I could just jump in and see where it led. So I did. Many hours later we made our way back to the entrance. I was tired from crawling and climbing, covered in grime and bumps and scrapes and the happiest I have ever been.

If I can give someone even a quarter of that experience through Art Playground, it will be worth it.

montage of images of the City Museum


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Day 2 of officially being a social entrepreneur

I found a good site for getting stock images free and out of interest searched for entrepreneur, to see what I should look like. This image came up and is called “Thoughtful Business Lady Seated in Office.” I wonder if she is thoughtful about why she was required to wear a wig for the photo.

"Image courtesy of stockimages /"

“Image courtesy of stockimages /”

I came across this awesome project on Kickstarter (gallery in rural wales), courtesy of a lovely friend and backed it. I am planning to do a Kickstarter as part of the funding for the Art Playground so have been looking through some of the great projects on there.

Also, I think it’s very likely I am late to the party but have also just discovered Pixlr for free online photo editing. It’s amazing. Below is a little collage I made to depict the modern social entrepreneur lifestyle.




image of laptop screen, wall planner, business cards and sculpture of books.


Pinterest party

I have joined Pinterest as Art Playground Cheltenham.

These are my boards so far- sort of an online tour of my head at the moment. Feel free to follow and if you find any other images you think should be included, just drop the link into the comments below.


image of Pinterest boards

The boards so far. Click around to explore a virtual Art Playground.

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More serious research: the adventure maze.

One of the terrible downsides of this whole project is that I am compelled to visit adventure playgrounds, mazes, galleries, museums and play about as much as possible, as part of the stage of research known as market analysis.

Whilst visiting Elton Farm adventure maze  this weekend I conducted a detailed SWOT analysis of the competition, whilst negotiating the water sprays, spider’s web and gibbon swings. It’s tough at the top.

Christina, Matt and Katy balancing on wooden stepping stones.

At this point Matt was pretending to be a caring boyfriend and helping Katy to balance.

Matt hides behind Katy to avoid the water spray

Matt shows his true colours, using Katy as a human shield to avoid the water spray.

Christina, Matt and Jamie on the trapeze swings

The boys battle it out on the trapeze swings.

Christina crawling through blue cargo net

Once in the Hamster Crawl, there’s not really an option to give up, despite having lost both shoes by this stage.

Christina in a spider web obstacle

I am Spiderman. Sort of.

Christina crawling along a wooden tunnel.

Crawling to the slide in the climbing tower.

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How important is cake? Serious market research.

Using the free version of Survey Monkey, I have set up a questionnaire to do a bit of market research. Via the power of Facebook and Sunday night timing, I posted it 20 minutes ago and have 15 responses already. Pretty awesome thing, social media.

As someone with weird food habits (no wheat, no dairy, no caffeine, no fun), it’s important to get normal people’s responses as to what refreshments I should provide at the art playground.

I am determined to offer veggie and wheat and dairy free options, but having done a bit of basic research which puts the number of vegetarians in Cheltenham at about 2,000, I clearly need to have a broader appeal than that. (Unless they can all pledge to do their veggie duty and come to the cafe at least once a week each or something).

So if you’re able to spare a couple of minutes to let me know how important or not cake is to you and what your favourite family day out has been, I’d really appreciate it. If you could also share the link with others (and the link to this blog so they can see what it’s for) that would be really helpful.

Survey link:

Thank you!



Christina eating cake.

Me with a face full of vegan wheat free cake, courtesy of my sister’s baking. (Sitting on the pavement like the classy member of cafe society that I am)