Purple Dragon’s Sharai Meyers talks about her member’s club for kids in the heart of Chelsea.
There is a Purple Dragon living, all nestled at the base of a residential complex in London’s Chelsea. Did you notice? And this is not one of those everyday normal Purple Dragon’s that you see about the place. No. This Purple Dragon is a child’s wishlist of cool things to do.
The phenomena of the children’s playcentre was one that I must admit I didn’t know existed until fluxling #1 received an invite to a local one when she was at nursery. Your typical playcentre is a mass of kids running around a playstructure, tumbling down slides, diving into ball pools, climbing up ropes, in a unit in the local industrial estate.
Purple Dragon could also be described as a kid’s playcentre. And fun as they are, to compare Purple Dragon to all those adrenaline fuelled mapcap places would be like comparing I don’t know – McQueen to Primark, or Rome to Rotherham.
We visited Purple Dragon when we had some free time last time we were in London and were in for a treat. The idea behind the space is a ‘member’s club for families’. Emphasis on the family. The place is a veritable treasure zone for kids, with built in ‘phew’ for the grown-ups.
There are activity rooms – a baking room, a pottery room, a music room – each magnificently equipped; and also equipped with an expert grown up to assist, if not engineer, the play. There’s an area for dressing up as superheros, and for table football, and for lego (loads of it). There’s a dinosaur zone complete with mini volcano. There’s a book zone, and a massive nest chair suspended from the ceiling that can hold several little people at once. There’s an interactive golf room, and of course the obligatory soft play zone complete with slide. To top all that – and wow – this is just amazing – there is a specially designed pool complete with beach huts. All of this is in a kind of run around, relaxed, colourful space that flows full circle so the kids can’t help coming back to you.
Whilst all that is going on, there are relaxing zones for parents – the Taschen library / bar area. And the restaurant serves real food, not just burgers and beans on toast – by a proper chef no less.
Purple Dragon is a members club for families. So it operates like a member’s club. You have to join to and you pay annual subscription like joining the gym. And then you can visit as often as you like. Its popularity is shown by the fact that there’s a waiting list to join at the moment. There is a high price tag attached – and sure, it’s for a London elite for who money is no – or not so much of – a worry. But take the notion of kids play being about quality and care and building confidence and style as well – then there’s inspiration here for every neighbourhood in the UK. So we spoke to chief Purple Dragoness, Sharai Meyers, on the most stylish, fun-est and just pure funkiest dragon’s den in town.
FLUXINGS: When did you first come up with the idea for Purple Dragon?
SHARAI MEYERS: The idea first came to me after my first son was born and I was pregnant with my second son. I wanted to create a space for families to hang out together, where they could drop in and there would always be something fun happening and which worked around your schedule and your family. Somewhere that would be safe, engaging, nurturing and social.
FLUXINGS: What is your background in childcare?
Sharai Meyers: None at all, apart from the fact that I’m a mother of two small boys. Purple Dragon is not about childcare, it’s about making the most of family time and having a place where the whole family can enjoy themselves.
FLUXINGS: The club has a wonderful, relaxed feel. Did you work with designers / architects to come up with the designs? Did you / they have any special skills in kids design?
SHARAI MEYERS: I had a very clear vision about what I wanted the club to be from the outset. The focus on design was a key consideration for me and I wanted it to be a space that would be seen and enjoyed through both the eyes of an adult and a child. I spent a lot of my time on my knees during the design process imagining how it might look to a four year old! Most of the features in the club were custom built for us ranging from the active play area, interactive projectors and the wet play and swimming pool with beach style changing huts.
FLUXINGS: The range of activities on offer is amazing, from the kids kitchen to the music lab and seemed really popular with the kids.
SHARAI MEYERS: Thank you! As well as the signature classes which run throughout term time, we also have weekly themes. For example, this week is Fairy Tale Fantasy so we’re cooking Rapunzel sausage plaits and toadstool cupcakes; making clay garden dwarves and rescuing princesses in high rollers! The activities that take place in the club are designed to tie into the themes. I’m a big fan of ‘stealth’ education, focussing on learning through play.
FLUXINGS: Purple Dragon is a member’s only club. Is there any criteria for membership or can anyone sign up?
SHARAI MEYERS: We are very fortunate that most of our members have come through referrals and recommendations. We are currently operating a waiting list but many of our members are international and move around quite a lot or are relocating, so get on the list quickly!
FLUXINGS: There seemed to be a mix of people in the club and especially a range of nationalities. Do you think the club works especially well for say international families without family nearly as a kind of home from home?
SHARAI MEYERS: One of the things that is so fantastic about the club is the spread of nationalities and cultures that we have. There is also a large ex-pat community and the club is a great resource for them and offers a ready made community, social life and an inside track into London.
FLUXINGS: Also, it was great to see a mixture of male and female staff at Purple Dragon – too often childcare seems to be totally female dominated. Is this a conscious decision for you?
SHARAI MEYERS: We are really lucky that we have an amazing team – they are dedicated and great to work with. Because we are a hospitality club, rather than a childcare centre, we have a wider pool to choose from and are able to attract a real mix in terms of our staff. A lot of young children spend a majority of their time in female-dominated environments, so it’s nice for them to have big boys to hang out with too.
FLUXINGS: Do you have any plans to open more Purple Dragon branches? I could imagine it is a very transferable concept.
SHARAI MEYERS: Absolutely! I wanted to get the template for this club 100% right before I started thinking about opening up additional clubs. The second Purple Dragon is due to open in the Marylebone area at the end of the year and I’m also considering a couple of international offers. Watch this space…
To find out more about Purple Dragon see www.purpledragonplay.com