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Business / Boost for families – and Voe – as new soft play centre opens

Staff at the centre on Thursday. From left to right: Clair Smith, director Sarah Manson, Logan Paton, Lauren Brown, Sadie Dearden, Lucy Manson. Not pictured is director Abigail Manson. Photos: Shetland News

A LONG-awaited soft play facility for children has now opened in Voe.

The centre, which is named Da Mad Hoose, is Shetland’s only dedicated soft play facility.

It opened its doors at the former Olnafirth school to the public for trial sessions on Wednesday and feedback so far has been positive.

With a cafe – Da Grub Hut – also open inside the building and able to be used by folk without children, it also provides a boost to the village of Voe, which experienced the closure of the Pierhead bar in 2020.

The centre employs a number of people across the kitchen, cafe and soft play area.

A quick scan around the building on Thursday morning and it was evident that both bairns – and parents – were enjoying the novelty.

But it has been a fairly long process. Plans were first submitted to the council by the family-owned business back in 2020, and the Covid pandemic has naturally had an impact too.

Director Sarah Manson said: “It’s just been one hurdle after another. It’s been quite a struggle, but I’m glad it’s all come together finally. We’ve still got some finishing touches to do.”

The soft play equipment was shipped up from the mainland before being reassembled – something which Manson described as a “mammoth task”.

It can cater for bairns aged up to 12, and there is a separate toddler area.

After the trial days there is a hope to offer five sessions a day before staff take stock of demand after the summer holidays.

Manson, whose daughter Abigail is also involved in running the centre, said there is a plan to turn one of the former school huts opposite into an area for birthday parties.

Local councillor Emma Macdonald, who lives in Voe, said it was “fantastic” to see a new business opening in the area.

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“Employment opportunities of this type are often rare in this area so it is very positive to see,” she said.

“Hopefully it will encourage more innovative businesses to open up in more rural areas. I wish them every success and very much look forward to taking my grandson for a visit next month.”

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