The Idol at Abbey Leisure Centre

Sport and fitness, Leisure centres Barking
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 (© Emily Charlaff)
© Emily Charlaff

Unpredictable Turner Prize-nominated artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd's latest work is a very hands-on sort of creation. 'The Idol' is a 21,000 square metre soft play centre – a permanent installation in Abbey Leisure Centre which is due to entertain hundreds of thousands of children in its first decade. The two-storey robotic figure features chambers, ramps and two giant's eyes for children to peer out of. Its monochrome walls and floors will be printed with collage works featuring everything from Egyptian statues to sci-fi cyborgs. Each session lasts a maximum of two hours.


Venue name: The Idol at Abbey Leisure Centre
Address: Axe Street
IG11 7LX
Transport: Tube: Barking
Price: £1.50 under-ones, £4.50 under-threes, £5.50 over-threes. One accompanying adult per child, £1.60 additional adults
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Average User Rating

2.6 / 5

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1 of 1 found helpful

The Idol has been a disappointment. Having driven 45min from north London with my 2 year old daughter just to spend another 25 min for a legal parking space nearby - the sports centre's own tiny parking lot is nowhere near enough for weekend visitors, was a bad omen. Once inside, you hoping for much more but getting far less. The area is dominated by screaming 5 and 7 year olds - it has a small 3 by 4 meters section for 1 and 2 year old. And that's it. At best it can accommodate no more than 20 families in one go - there are no more tables - so be prepare to remain standing (or if you are lucky, to share a table). The misleading description on Timeout about the size and the attractive interiors left me angry and disallusioned. It is tiny, no more than 100 Sq m, and well past its best by date. Avoid or come at less busy times but don't bother phoning in as rarely anyone picks up.

1 of 1 found helpful
Staff Writer

Good place for the kids, however I think it would be more beneficial for kids 3 years and above.

1 of 2 found helpful

This place is not good for young children in my opinion. My one year old son and I left after 5 mins and asked for a refund (which was given). Reasons being:

1. Small dead cockroach on the floor

2. It's tiny

3. Virtually nothing for little ones

4. What there was for little ones had very loud and boisterous big ones using it

5. The slide was wet.

6. It was £4.50 entrance for a one year old, which is comparatively expensive.

7. The kids that were in there were running around at full pelt screaming to the point that they frightened my son, who is not easily frightened.

We regularly go to soft play centres all around the local area and this is the poorest I've seen.

The place has pontential but the staff let it down, attended a kid party, found staff rude and unfriendly, never again!

It's nowhere near 21,000 square metres. Very clean and well maintained but small. The highest slide is also closed

My kids love it! (5 and 7 years old) they're having the best time, playing with the balls in the ball pit and running up and down, exercising and plating with other children. 

I take my 1 year old to The Idol regularly and we really enjoy it. Like most soft play areas, the bigger kids tend to get into the baby area, but if you ask the staff for help they will ask the older children to stick to the older area and leave the babies alone! Its the same elsewhere in my experience. My son responded to the black and white theme and he loves the ball pool and the slide, which he climbs up and slides down time and time again. The cafe area is also nicer than many others if you fancy a hot drink. It is smaller than other soft play centres but I personally like that, I find other places to be too big and too loud much of the time.

0 of 2 found helpful

Black and white for kids??? Who thought it's a good idea??? Where the childhood and rainbow has gone??? Very depressive. Psychologists should contact these people