Gympanzees Activity Centre


Creating special places to break the isolation felt by many Disabled children.

Gympanzees is a Bristol-based charitable organisation established by Stephanie Wheen, a Chartered Paediatric Physiotherapist, who drives to improve the lives of children with mobility and physical impairments.

Gympanzees’ mission is to create fully inclusive leisure and activity facilities for disabled children, young people and their families across the UK. Their aim is to provide these facilities in buildings that accommodate a range of activity spaces furnished with specialist equipment to enable users to be more active and share their experiences with their families and friends, in a safe and supportive environment.

Stride Treglown was asked to get involved with the Gympanzees project in January 2018. We helped support them in their quest to explore ideas that would inspire and gain support from developers, contractors, and funders.

We worked on a pro-bono basis on a building concept that would provide activity and support spaces, tailored to the very specific needs of children and young people with disabilities. The facility would be run on a membership basis, with users booking spaces for physical activities, birthdays, fun and therapy. It is envisaged that the building would be staffed by health professionals who are skilled in physiotherapy, paediatrics and behavioural management.

Our design aims to be flexible enough to accommodate the particular characteristics of each site and location, being able to expand or contract in size to cater for the local needs and demands of each situation.

At the heart of the scheme is a café that acts as an orientation and gathering space for the activity rooms that are located around the perimeter of the plan. A trampoline, soft play, gym, indoor play, music and sensory room connect with the café which is home to a ‘try and buy’ shop that aims to demonstrate games and toys that are designed for disabled users to try out before purchasing.

Each end of the building connects to an external secure garden and play area, both provided with bespoke accessible play and fitness equipment. Parking would be provided close by with a dedicated entrance for members who have already joined the activity centre club, and a separate entrance for visitors and those wishing to book space in the centre.

The project has recently been promoted and presented to developers and potential funders. An interpretation of the concept was recreated in a temporary home in a Bristol primary school, which took the form of a ‘Pop Up’ that demonstrated how the activity centre would operate and what facilities would be on offer.

The Pop Up aimed to gauge interest from children, parents and others interested in supporting this unique opportunity. It was a huge success and received positive feedback from those who went along. It featured on the BBC, a Bristol radio station and has been widely publicised through social media and advertising.

Thanks to you [Stride Treglown], we’ve been able to showcase the vision and get people behind what we are doing. And thanks to the Pop Up, we now have the evidence to move forward with the main leisure centre. We couldn’t have done this without you.

Stephanie Wheen, CEO and Founder of Gympanzees