HAIR and make-up stylists work alongside builders, whilst trying to defend themselves from plundering pirates, at a new town centre business.

The World of Make Believe children's roleplay centre opened in Bishop Auckland on Friday, March 29.

Proprietor Stacy Nicholson has had various jobs working with children from a youth club in France to social work.

The former St John's Catholic School pupil said: "I have two small children of my own and know how important it is to keep them entertained and to have somewhere safe to go.

"There are soft play centres on industrial estates which are great fun, but they are completely different and you cannot see your children at all times. Here you can get amongst it and play with them or sit and have a cuppa while watching them play.

"Working with children and young people is my passion, but in my previous job I missed out on the nice side of seeing children have fun and wanted to create an environment where I could work with kids in a positive way.

"I'm passionate about the importance of role play and imaginative play which is what this place is all about. It teaches them about the world around them, they can put the things they see around them daily into context and develop lifeskills."

She said her children Henry, two, and Harriet, one, have been the biggest driver for getting the business open.

"Henry loves imaginative play, if we go somewhere that he can dress up or pretend to be someone else he goes into a world of his own and we struggle to get him out.

"They are my biggest inspiration."

The former pharmacy, on Newgate Street, was transformed with different play zones created around the themes such as a pirate treasure island, a building site, supermarket, kitchen and hair and beauty salon.

There is also a baby area and rooms which will host specialist sessions such as baby massage and yoga classes, children's music and Spanish lessons, weaning advice and messy play.

It also has a cafe serving refreshments to children and adults attending play sessions, including fresh food suitable for weaning.

Mrs Nicholson, 31, said: "I have so many ideas for the business going forward.

"I nearly didn't come to view these premises, I didn't think it would be big enough but I'm pleased with how it has turned out.

"I think it will be a lovely place for my children to grow up around and hope lots of families feel the same."

Bishop Auckland Mayor David Fleming visited the centre with the Town Ambassadors who promote Bishop Auckland.

He said: "I'm very pleased to see this business opening in the heart of the town and hope it goes from strength to strength."

Visitors to World of Make Believe need to pre-book 90 minute play sessions. For this or more information, including about classes, visit or search for it on Facebook.