SMILING faces returned to the former Florence Park Children’s Centre as families gathered to toast a terrific turnaround.

Closed in February 2017 - the victim of dramatic funding cuts - the East Oxford site has been opened again thanks to a community-led campaign.

With a cafe, nursery, meeting rooms and a community ‘drop-in’ space, parents who rallied to save the site hope it will now make enough money to survive on its own.


Speaking at the grand re-opening of the building - now called Flo’s, The Place in the Park - Annie Davy, who has been involved since the start of the campaign, said she was always confident the day would come despite ‘endless mountains to climb.’

She said: “This is the result of nearly two years hard work and at times you do question whether it will ever happen.

“I used to come here with my son and I know the place very well.

“As soon as we knew we were going to lose it, we had to do something but for a long time it was just a twinkle in my eye.

“I thought we can’t save all the children’s centres but we can do something special with one.

“We’ve been so lucky to work with such a committed group of people who love this place and we’ve shown it only takes a small group to make things happen.”


The campaigners have emphasised that Flo’s will not attempt to replicate the services of the former children’s centre - which had a £300,000 annual budget.

Residents are being encouraged to become members for £5 a year, giving them a say in how the place is run.

The centre will receive £30,000 over the next three years from the county council, thanks to a £1m pot set up to help groups reopen closed centres, but otherwise hopes to be self-funding.

Owners of the Vaults and Garden in Radcliffe Square have taken on the running of the on-site cafe while the nursery will begin taking pupils in January.

David Henwood, city councillor for Cowley, said he felt the model could be used to re-open other closed children’s centres.

He said: “This place has seen some sad times, it went through a dark period.

“I initially thought only a large organisation could run something like this but there is such a great community here and they’ve shown what’s possible.

“This is special but with the right mix of location and a dedicated team, it can be done.

“If it proves to be a success, let’s open more and show the county council what we can do.”


Dad Scott Urban, who used to bring his children to the children’s centre before joining the campaign to save it, said it was ‘great to be back’.

He said: “There were times when it looked less likely that it would ever happen, when it got pretty dicey, but we always had hope.

“This area needs somewhere like this to bring everyone together. We can’t replace what it was but it’s so lovely to have it back.”