Ep 8: Family life and opportunities for young people in Weston

What’s it like to raise a family in Weston? We talk to Lynsey McKinstry, who grew up here, and is now bringing up her two children in the town. Lynsey now works full-time for Weston College as Business Partnerships Manager & SEND Employment Coordinator.

Lynsey McKinstry podcast cover

What’s your earliest memory of fun things that you did as a kid in Weston?

The beach and the old pier. I remember the penny machines on Birnbeck Pier, the donkeys and the air show over at RAF Locking, called Flower Down – the noise of the Hercules over the crowd. 

Tell us about some of the things that you do with your kids in and around Weston.

We do a lot of skateboarding, we go out on our scooters quite a bit – I’ve got an adult scooter.

I work full time and have done so for about 4 years, so the time we have together is very precious and Weston is the perfect place to just chill together. We go out on the seafront – there’s two miles to just scoot and chat, we always see someone and stop and have a chat. 

We spend a lot of time in the garden, we’ve got great sunsets, so sometimes we go out at sunset, get some chips and huddle up under a blanket. 

If we need to do something a bit more energetic, we may venture out, there’s so much going on here – there’s always something happening that we can get involved in. A couple of weekends ago, we went to see an Elton John tribute down in Grove Park as part of ‘Garden Grooves’. We sat while the children laughed and zoomed on their skateboards around the park.

We’ve also got a brilliant little theatre, Front Room, along with our main theatre (Blakehay Theatre), and a cinema.

Birnbeck Pier
Birnbeck Pier
Family time on Weston beach
Lynsey's family time on Weston beach

Do you take advantage of the Culture Weston stuff – the free stuff that’s on in Italian Gardens?

Yeah, the team at Culture Weston are brilliant. They have made Weston into a really great community – there’s always something going on. If you want to go out and do something a bit wacky and zany, or just see something a bit different, Culture Weston just knock it out of the park. 

Culture Weston love working with the college too – the students are always involved in something, so there’s career opportunity there as well. We’ve got students who may be doing something creative, or media and performance-based, and they might actually end up staying and working here, and not having that expense of having to go out to a major city, if they don’t want to. Performing arts students have venues here that they can work in now. There’s real job opportunities.

Culture Weston surprised me. They come up with things that are really bucking the trend with thinking of really great stuff to do and see.

We’ve got the literary festivals coming up, Whirligig (9-10 September) – that’s such a great place to take the kids – and performances at the Super Wonder Shrine on the High Street. 

Also with The Front Room, there’s been so much for From the Mud – they started at Weston College, they’re improv comedy theatre and they’ve created a really amazing show called Me, Monster, off the back of SEE MONSTER (but nothing to do with SEE MONSTER at all). 

We go to The Grand Pier – we’ve got loads of cards – if you live within postcodes BS21, BS22, BS23, BS24, BS25, BS26, BS29, BS48 and BS49, you can get a locals’ membership card.

With this card, you and your family will receive free entry to The Grand Pier plus a 10% discount on retail, ride wristbands/credits, food and drinks all year-round, plus exclusive promotions and discounts.

Your My Grand Pier card is completely free to sign up to and each household can have one card, which covers up to 6 family members. For more info, and to apply for your free MY Pier Card visit: My Grand Pier Card.

You also get emails to say what’s going on, like the fireworks, or if they’re doing something at Christmas, or when there’s art installations because they do a lot of brilliant stuff on the sand where they’ll get sculptors in, or people will draw on the sand and the best place to see it is from the pier.

Any time we’re on the seafront, we’ll go on The Grand Pier – the rides are always really good too. You’ve got the rides for The Tropicana as well in the summer. 

Marvin Muoneke, Super Wonder Shrine
Marvin Muoneke, Super Wonder Shrine, credit Paul Blakemore
Grand Pier rides
The Grand Pier, Weston
The Grand Pier

What about the water adventure play park? Did you take your kids there when they were younger?

I’ve had loads of playdates there and that’s a perfect place to go with your friends, when they’re at a certain age and they want to just splash around, you can just put them in a swimming costume and take a picnic. My friends and I used to spend all day there. When the kids have had enough of being wet, they can just go and play on the climbing frames and go in the fort.

The new SEND all-inclusive play park at Castle Batch has just opened – £400,000 pounds worth of investment. It looks phenomenal. It’s got special swings and roundabouts, and a designated wheelchair swing in the park which can only be accessed by using a ‘radar’ key. It’s got this incredible rope thing, the trampoline is all on ground level, so you can put a wheelchair on it – so much thought and colour has gone into it. 

I do a lot of work with our inclusive practice team at the college and we’ve done a lot of work with the Grand Pier, Puxton Park and Mendip Activity Centre – they’re becoming more inclusive as well. If your child has additional needs, there’s things like ear defenders, and they’ve really put a lot of effort into making sure their experiences are inclusive. 

Weston water adventure splash park
Weston water adventure splash park
Castle Batch SEND play area
Castle Batch SEND play area

Would you say Weston caters well for all the different age groups?

I think there’s a lot here. Seeing my kids move into their early teens, I know there’s so many great things happening, and they can just go and spend some time on the beach and chat with their friends. Weston Marine Lake is great for that. I was there last summer and just seeing the teenagers going for a swim was pretty cool, and then getting chips on the way home. Uphill’s really great for that as well.

Quite a lot of the investment from the levelling-up fund is going to Marine Lake, so that’s going to be quite a different space for eateries around there.

What I like about Weston is there’s a lot going on for kids. I don’t really have sporty children, they’re more creative, but there are some brilliant sports teams in Weston. The girls’ and the women’s football teams are really rocketing.

Rugby is really strong in Weston, we’re a real rugby town, but also a real football town. 

We’ve got gymnastics clubs, drama clubs, art clubs, photography clubs, there’s something for kids of all ages. My daughter does dance club. 

When the kids start to get a little bit older, maybe when they get a car we’re not too far from other things – Bristol’s literally 25 minutes on the train. If they want more, it’s there, but they have this little lovely cocoon to come back to. We go to Bristol quite a bit because we’ve got friends there and they like it but then they say ‘it’s really busy, can we go home?’

There’s enough going on here to keep you busy, but if you want more, it’s literally up the road.

Weston Marine Lake
Weston Marine Lake

Tell us an interesting fact about Weston that perhaps people don’t know about.

I remember hearing at school that Roald Dahl lived here once. (He arrived on a paddle steamer and then attended St Peter’s School for four years).

He’s got a blue plaque. If you go on to the Weston Town Council website, there’s a page there that’s got all of the blue plaques in Weston (see below) and it’s got a little walking audio tour.

Tell us some of your favourite places to eat out in Weston?

We’re really lucky because we’ve got some great Japanese in Weston, great Thai restaurants. Friday night, tired from work? Let’s just get loads of sushi in!

We’ve got the Ginger Pig, which is a brilliant restaurant if you like your roasts and proper, wholesome gastropub stuff.

There’s some brilliant curry houses, some really good independent restaurants. Places like The Old Thatched Cottage, if you want fresh fish and Greek-influenced cuisine.

The seafront bars, we’ve got some really good pub grub stuff. We’re not short of different cuisines now, which weren’t around when I was young.

The Old Thatched Cottage, Weston
The Old Thatched Cottage, Weston

Where do you go for coffee?

Because I work at the college and I work at the university building. I like The Greenhouse – anywhere that does a great oat milk flat white is a winner in my books. They do really good coffee there.

Favourite pub?

I love Vaults. It’s got a speakeasy opulence to it. It’s owned by a local business woman who I’ve known for a while. The team, they’re so friendly, they do a really good gin and tonic, I don’t drink a lot, but her gin and tonics are great. 

I’d say Olea is really nice – if I’m going out with the girls or any friends, we tend to go there. They do good tapas. 

The Duke of Oxford, Fork ‘n’ Ale do a great roast dinner. I don’t live in the centre but I’m really close to some other pubs like The Windsor Castle, The Nut Tree and The Woolpack Inn

If you’ve got a dog, Sand Bay’s a really great place to go for a good dog walk because it’s not as busy and it’s just got a wildness about it. There’s a really good hotel/restaurant/bar there called South Sands. We tend to go there with the kids if we just want to blow the cobwebs away. We’ll go and have you crab sandwiches. 

Do you go shopping in Weston? 

I like rummaging through the secondhand shops. We’ve got a lot of charity shops in Weston and I have found some really great stuff. Vintage ABS is great. Some of the stuff they rework and put in the window is so cool – lots of 90s vibes. 

I like buying local. I’ll go into places like Loves Cafe – they have things in there to buy. 

I’ll just see what’s out in the high street, I like having a walk around and the kids like the toy shops. There’s a lot of really cool toy shops- here’s a lot of shops that do Japanese-influenced and collectibles items for kids.

Loves Cafe, Weston-super-Mare
Vintage Abs Weston

You’re working at Weston College and involved with older kids, and a lot of adults. Tell me about your role there.

I work in the business partnership team and in essence, the team that I’m in joins the dots between industry and student. Weston College is for further education students, so 16-18 year olds, but we also have a really great University Centre for those students that maybe don’t want to leave home, or are looking to stay on to do their studies, or go back into education – a lot of adults come back into education because they want to strengthen their skills. 

We work with 18+ as well. We do a lot of work with employers and try to get them involved with the college and to see that their future workforce is very much here. We have a lot of students of different abilities. We’re trying to educate employers, see if they can come in and speak to students and have a look at our curriculum, see if we’re what are we teaching them is what they need for their future workforce. 

So we do a lot around making sure that the curriculum is really interesting and students are learning the skills they need to go into employment. We also help employers with training – a lot of people are managers and have never had management training – we can help with that.

We’re trying to really embed employers in everything we do. We get them to come in, look at the curriculum, and if they need to, pull it apart and move it around, if that’s what they want from their next future pipeline of talent to come out of college, why wouldn’t we listen to them? We’ve seen huge benefits from that and from working with employers to embed their soft skills that have dropped off in the past couple of years.

Weston College
Weston College
Weston College

Anything else that you want to kind of add about Weston College that we might not know about?

The biggest thing I’ve learnt about the college is just how much they care for the students. I’ve noticed that the welfare and the pastoral care that is going on is brilliant. 

The work we do with employers and the reputation we have – the team won Best Apprenticeship Training Provider of the Year, at the South West Apprenticeship Awards last week. They work with prisons around the South West trying to get those in remand into the world of work, give them purpose and making sure that they have a career plan. It’s not just going to college and studying.

I’ve worked in a lot of places and done a lot of crazy things and I think this is the first time I’ve really been able to flourish. And I’ve made some really good friends as well. 

Becky: As a current student of the college – I’ll be finishing at the end of this month – I’ve noticed what you’re talking about, I’ve noticed the signs, the welfare signs on the toilets, I’ve noticed how my own students and people who’ve been struggling have been supported by the faculty.

We’ve done so much work with employees over the past year, and there’s more to come about supporting employees who are neurodivergent, and tackling unconscious bias and trauma-informed responses. Everybody has the right to work, we just need to make reasonable adjustments, whether that’s having overlays to read texts or making sure inclusive language is used. 

I think Weston is becoming a really inclusive town. I really feel like we’re really bucking the trend and thinking about being inclusive for everybody. We’re seeing this huge change and to be a very small part of that, professionally and personally, it’s been really rewarding over the past year.

Weston College Students
Weston College Students