Kate sets her stall out in Leeds as she takes early years campaign to market


The Princess of Wales took her early years campaign to Leeds on Tuesday following its launch in London.

Kate marked the start of her landmark project by visiting Leeds, famed for its Child Friendly Leeds initiative, and toured its Kirkgate Market to meet stall holders and the public to hear their views about her project.

Canvassing parents out shopping she said “they feel this is an issue for them” and praised Leeds for its “impressive” initiative having children and young people at the “heart of the city”.

Her Shaping Us campaign has been described as the princess’ “life’s work” and is aimed at highlighting the significance of the formative years of a child’s life.

In a video message to mark the launch Kate said: “Our early childhood, the time from pregnancy to the age of five, fundamentally shapes the rest of our lives.

“But as a society, we currently spend much more of our time and energy on later life.

“Today, the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood is launching a new campaign, Shaping Us, to raise awareness of the life-changing impact we can have when we build a supportive, nurturing world around children and those who care for them.”


When Kate stopped at florist Neil Ashcroft’s business, she admired his display of flowers and with Valentine’s Day just a fortnight away he said “William will be buying you some roses?” and then cheekily offered her a discount on the blooms.

After presenting her with a bouquet of hyacinths he claimed were her favourite flowers, the stall holder said: “I suggested William will be buying her roses and she said ‘I don’t think he will do'”.

William supported his wife when he joined Kate at an event on Monday night where the princess met supporters of her project and the first screening was made of a claymation film depicting how the development of a young girl from the age of zero to five.

During her tour Kate was mobbed by shoppers unaware the Victorian market would be having a royal visit and one pensioner referred to the future Queen as “love” when they chatted.

Shirley Wainwright, 75, from Harrogate said she made Kate laugh when she told her: “I didn’t know love you were coming, it was a complete surprise.

“I’m just coming on the bus from Harrogate when I came across you.”


Later Kate joined a discussion with a group of individuals who have been involved with Child Friendly Leeds, launched in 2012 and designed to encourage the city to make Leeds the best place for youngster to grow up in, with the belief the community will see social and economic benefits.

She told them “(Having) children and young people at the heart of the city and community here is really impressive.”

Later, speaking about Shaping Us, she said to the group, who included representatives from West Yorkshire Police and other local institutions: “Having a chit chat with some of the parents downstairs they feel this is an issue for them”.

Later, Kate arrived at the University of Leeds where she met students on the Childhood Studies programme, telling them: “I really want to come and study again.”

She told one group: “It makes me want to be back at uni.

“Everyone says it’s never too late.”

The princess discussed with students the importance of early years development, asking them about their dissertations.

One student said she was looking at the role of outdoor play in childhood and the royal visitor said “this is something I’m really passionate about”, discussing with the group her visit to a forest school, in Denmark.


Kate said she would like to see a study carried out of the impact of outdoor learning on the mental wellbeing of children.

She asked students about their courses, saying: “Do you think it’s slightly changed the way you think, not only about own childhoods but how you see childhood in general?”

Kate discussed the Shaping Us campaign with the university students as the film played in the room.

She spoke to one student about his dissertation work on the impact of the pandemic on schools and families, saying Covid has led to “massive challenges” for children in relation to speech and language development and social skills.

The princess said: “They haven’t had the opportunities that the film shows are needed.”

Kate told another student: “Creative play is so fundamental for the foundations for life. To be able to form relationships through play is really vital to break down some of the barriers.

“But, also, it’s a way of self-expression too.”

The princess said she visited a school recently that focused heavily on building social and emotional skills within a whole community ethos.

She said: “The kiddies were so articulate about expressing their feelings.


“They were so knowledgeable. It’s unusual but it shows that, when you can get it right within a learning environment, you can develop skills for life.”

Kate talked to the students about what she had seen at the markets earlier, saying: “Seeing this morning the market and what the community in Leeds here is doing in building a children’s city is new and groundbreaking in so many ways.”

The princess left, telling the students: “It’s amazing work you’re all doing.”

She said: “It’s fantastic there’s this interest, and a growing interest in this field. We need more students like you.

“The more we can do to raise happy, healthy children, the better.”

Childhood studies student Emma Joynes, 20, said after the visit: “I think she’s done an amazing job spreading awareness through campaigns and visits to schools.

“I think it is really important.

“Childhood studies is quite stigmatised.

“When I say to someone that I study childhood studies, they think it’s just to do with learning about children’s development, but it’s actually not.

“They don’t realise the impact it has on children up to five years old particularly.

“And I think it’s really important we raise awareness.”

Ms Joynes said: “She’s definitely knowledgeable. She definitely knows more than me.”