IF anyone knows how to throw a good party it is Craig Simpson and the staff of Sparkles play centre in Royton.
After all they have been doing it for 15 years at the purpose-built location in Market Square.
At the last count, Sparkles has catered for nearly 8,000 parties since opening its doors in March 2005, entertaining every age from babies to 10-year-olds.
It adds up to a lot of laughter, smiling faces and sometimes a few tears.
But Royton born and bred Craig wouldn’t have it any other way.
A touring DJ before he decided to embark on the Sparkles project, the former North Chadderton School pupil says: “I know it is a cliché, but it has been a rollercoaster.
“However, when you see the kids’ faces, especially at Christmas, it is fantastic.
“I am not sure what I expected when we decided to purchase the land back in 2004 and plan Sparkles.
“But it is great to see it has become such a community hub.
“It is a great location even if you still get some people who say: ‘I have lived in Royton all my life and never knew this was here.”
There are far more though who head for Sparkles looking for a place their children can enjoy themselves and burn off excess energy.
There are disco parties, ‘stuff and fluff’ parties to make that lovable cuddly toy, parties at Christmas, Easter, Halloween and next the big birthday bash on Friday, February 28.
Sparkles is open seven days a week, operating with three full-time and eight part-time staff.
Manager David Kenyon has been with Craig since the play centre welcomed its first young visitors while Craig’s mum and dad, Ann and Maurice, still help ensure the smooth running of events.
Opening hours are: Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm.
Sparkles, which caters for parties for between 10 and 40 children, also hosts baby ballet classes and Wednesday morning toddler groups during term time.
“Some of my staff who started working here when they were 15 or 16 now bring their children in,” explained Craig.
“And one of my current team, Dillon, his mum used to bring him to Sparkles when he was three or four.
“It can be hard work but is rewarding to see the kids enjoying themselves,” added Craig.
“And I am used to the noise now,” he laughed.