Penzance mum judged for having son at 17 now runs successful soft play centre


A mum in Cornwall who was judged for having her son young has gone on to create a hugely successful soft play centre. Sea Life Soft Play, at St John’s Church in Penzance, celebrated its tenth birthday earlier this month.

It was set up by Molly Blewett, now 28, who started the project while at university to have somewhere to take her son, Mason, after noticing a lack of play facilities in the area. It also became a space to go which was free from judgement for being a young mum.

“I was pregnant at 16 and had Mason at 17 and there was a lot of pre-judgement from people,” Molly told CornwallLive. “If I went to baby groups or the park, I felt like people would stare at me or think he was my younger brother or a family member.”

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Initially, she started a pop-up shop to get an idea of what other parents felt was needed in terms of a soft play facility in the area. She was then offered a space in St John’s Church and began offering sessions with just a few pieces of equipment.

Now, a decade down the line, Sea Life Soft Play has grown to facilitate a large play structure and a bouncy castle for families with young children to enjoy. Molly said she never imagined it would become what it has but feels like she has created a “safe and secure space”.

However, being a young mum and trying to set up the project didn’t come without its challenges. “The main issue [at the time] was that I had this idea but the rents for shops were extortionate,” she explained. “If it wasn’t for Sian, the local vicar, I wouldn’t have the space I do today.

Pictured with her son, Mason, founder and manager of Sea Life Soft Play, Molly Blewett, is joined by members of the local community and supporters of the project to celebrate its 10th anniversary on Friday, May 10, at St John's Church in Penzance.
Pictured with her son, Mason, founder and manager of Sea Life Soft Play, Molly Blewett, is joined by members of the local community and supporters of the project to celebrate its 10th anniversary on Friday, May 10, at St John's Church in Penzance. -Credit:Greg Martin / Cornwall Live

“At first, there was just the floor equipment and then over time, we got grant funding for the larger play structure and the bouncy castle. It was a bit trickier because I was younger but if I didn’t have Mason, I probably wouldn’t have set this up because I wouldn’t know there was a need for it.”

The centre now offers birthday parties and themed events - including a Halloween party and Santa's Grotto - which Molly manages alongside her job as a family worker. While she admitted it can all become stressful at times, she said she is proud of what the project has become.

“I feel really proud that it’s grown into what it has,” she said. “Mason has always been involved, he’s 11 years old now, and he likes to sit behind the front desk, so maybe if it lasts another 10 years, he can maybe take it over.”

When asked what advice she would give to other young mums who want to set up their own projects, she said: “You can feel a lot of pre-judgement from having a child at a young age but I feel you can have a child at any age and it’s how you look after them regardless of your age.

Inside Sea Life Soft Play at St John's Church in Penzance
Inside Sea Life Soft Play at St John's Church in Penzance -Credit:Greg Martin / Cornwall Live

“[Sea Life Soft Play] has gone really well and I didn’t think it would get to 10 years but I’m really grateful and thankful to everyone who’s supported it and for the church for allowing this to be in their space.”

Molly hopes the centre will continue to grow in its success, as well as her newer project called Generations United, which she set up in March. The project aims to facilitate intergenerational activities between schools and 12 different care homes in and around Penzance.

She said the idea came about from doing a buddy scheme, where elderly residents visited schools for an activity and she found they all “loved it”. However, she said: “People in care homes aren’t able to come out to do the same thing, so I thought about bringing the project into the homes. It’s been really successful so far.”

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