A PRE-school playgroup in Bradford that was damaged by fire earlier this year is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Wibsey Methodist Pre-School was all set to mark its October 13 anniversary when arsonists struck at its base on School Lane in mid-August.

Organisers of the celebration event were forced to postpone it because of the blaze - and it will now take place this weekend.

Audrey Frost, who founded the playgroup in 1966, has helped organise the event.

The 83-year-old said: “It is absolutely wonderful to think that it is still going.

“We started it because there were just not enough nursery places for children at the time.

“We were at a coffee morning at the church and all these children were running around.

“I said to a woman that there were enough children there for a playgroup.”

Mrs Frost said four committee members got the playgroup up and running and held its first session, with 21 children, on October 13, 1966.

They quickly increased to six sessions a week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and afternoons.

She added: “We had voluntary help from mothers on rota duty and we are still friends with some of them 50 years on.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ahead of Wibsey Methodist Pre-School's 50th birthday celebrations. Founder Audrey Frost (right) chats with current manager Michele ArundellWibsey Methodist Pre-School founder Audrey Frost chats with current manager Michele Arundell

Mrs Frost said she was trying to find people who had attended the playgroup, and those who had worked there, to tell them about the 50th birthday event.

“We want to get people who went to the playgroup throughout its 50 years,” said Mrs Frost, who stepped down from the playgroup in 1982.

“We want people to tell everyone and to spread the word.

“We hope lots of people will come along.”

Mrs Frost has shared her collection of nostalgic photographs with the Telegraph & Argus, showing a variety of fun-filled events taking place at the pre-school over the years, along with key moments in its history.

Michele Arundell, 47, runs the playgroup now and there are 62 children on the register.

A former retail manager at a River Island store in Bradford, Mrs Arundell said she fell into working at the playgroup by accident when her son failed to settle there.

She has now worked there for 16 years - 11 as manager.

“I didn’t want a career change, I was happy there,” she said.

“But I retrained. It has been a hard slog, but I wouldn’t change it.

“I really enjoy it.

“We are a really good nursery, we have a lot of children and we help a lot of families.

“And my team is brilliant.

“We genuinely care about the children and their families.”

Arsonists struck at the playgroup’s base at Wibsey Methodist Church on August 13.

Witnesses reported seeing vandals on the church roof shortly before the fire started in a recently-built wooden summer house in the church grounds as part of the pre-school.

The intense heat from that blaze smashed church windows near to it and flames spread to the church hall kitchen.

The incident caused significant damage and smoke logging the building.

On the fire, Mrs Arundell said: “The fire was just devastating, but it makes the anniversary even more special.

“There is definitely a feeling of pride.

“It is fantastic.”

The event is on Saturday, November 12 from 2pm until 4.30pm.

There will be displays, memorabilia, play facilities, raffle, refreshments and stalls.