Primary School teacher Joanne Baldock runs Not-for-profit business ‘Role Play Lane’


The children’s role play centre in Llantwit Fardre was set up in 2018, due to seeing children coming into schools with increasing social and communication needs.

From having teaching experience, having her own children and teaching baby and toddler music sessions through her first business ‘Jingle Jangle Jo’, Joanne knew the importance of early invention and wanted to provide the local area with a role play centre that supports children’s learning through play and fun activities to enhance their wellbeing, social and emotional skills.

Joanne wanted to be the first role play centre in Wales as she knew the benefits the centre would have but was finding a suitable building difficult.

Unfortunately, after two years of planning, she was pipped at the post by a small role play centre in Cardiff. However, it only lasted 6 months, due to it’s location. It was a scary prospect to start her own business after this discovery, but she knew she had planned well, researched thoroughly and knew the potential. As well as having an educational and social aspect that was niche.

The business opened in November 2018, thanks to the financial support, emotional and physical support of her parents, husband, and family. During the first 18 months they did amazingly!

‘I was able to pay my parents back a proportion of what they had lent me every month, which was great. We were looking to extend our workforce, introduce more classes, help the community more…but then COVID hit, and it changed EVERYTHING! We had to close in March for 5 months due to the Governments orders. I had my employees asking me questions that I simply could not answer. I did not know what was going to happen, how it would affect us, whether I could keep the whole team. It turns out that we could not, I had to make redundancies (something which I had never experienced having to do before), reduce hours and increase the workload of those who stayed when we finally were allowed to reopen. It was just horrible. I felt awful. Mentally and physically, I suffered due to the strain. We reopened, had to reduce footfall due to the ‘rules’, lost money due to it and we haven’t really recovered since.’

‘Then there was the petrol increase, wage increase, utilities increase, Cost-of-living crisis, new competition on my doorstep, which all had a detrimental effect on the business. I could either close or change my structure so that I could continue something that I believed in so deeply.’

‘Having been a teacher, and seeing how much the children were struggling, I believed that the children in the local area and in Wales (we had people travel from afar when we first opened as we were the only one in Wales) deserved something that was fun, purposeful, educational, delivered opportunities for families mental health and well-being through a warm and welcoming hub/play centre. So, in 2022, I changed the business over to Not-for-Profit company ‘Heol Chwarae Rol – Role Play Lane’ with thanks to Kate Spear from Inspirational Futures and Joanne Bartlett from Cwmpas. They have been my rock throughout and helped me make the changes necessary to become a CLG – Not-for-Profit company so that she could help the community through funded activities.’

Jo and the five directors believe that all children should be able to access quality play and learning experiences, no matter what your income and status is. This is why she is frantically applying for funding to support the community, so that they can access quality sessions with their wellbeing in mind.

However, they are struggling due to the economic climate and the fact that grant funding is over subscribed. Jo is the managing director of Heol Chwarae Rol – Role Play Lane but only pays herself minimum wage and also has another job as an SNSA in a comprehensive school to support her wage. She is constantly applying for grants to help the community, which are time consuming, data heavy and not guaranteed. She has had to take a step back from running classes that she loves to do; due to the amount of time the grant applications take to complete, and they are not guaranteed.

On top of this work, she is analysing data from questionnaires that they send out regularly to customers to ensure they are meeting everyone’s needs.

When they have funded sessions, they are full with waiting lists, which shows just how much need there is due to the Cost-of-Living Crisis.

Non funded sessions are just £7.50 per child or a family/group ticket for £11.50 (2 children and 2 adults). The prices are significantly cheaper than local competition and they really need public support to keep going so that they can offer valuable sessions to the community.

They have a short questionnaire that they are encouraging the community to complete as part of their grant applications.

Link to questionnaire: – by filling this in, you are helping with our funding applications.