Oh my, where to start with our time at the newly opened Rainbow Factory in Farsley, Leeds-as soppy as it sounds I find myself welling up recalling our experience there as it was like no other we’ve had before as a family.

rainbow factory entrancewelcome to rainbow factoryrainbow factory leeds

A unique storytelling wonderland, the Rainbow Factory is the only one of its kind in Yorkshire, a place that merges storytelling and performance with arts & crafts and imaginative play, for what is an immersively spellbinding, educational and most importantly, fun day out for all the family.

The brainchild of 32-year-old Hazel Merlino of Guiseley, who has 10 years experience in marketing and events, and her 33-year-old sister Sarah Underwood, associate professor of Leeds University, this was borne from wanting to offer families something more than a soft play centre.

Hazel’s aim is, ‘to transform lives, to inspire and reawken the imagination-all through the simple joy of reading’.

Together with Richard Underwood, Sarah’s brother-in-law, the creative whizz behind the whimsical characters and sets made from paint and clay, this trio have collectively made reading cool again.

And it’s got Richard Branson’s seal of approval too.

The centre has already been hailed by the Virgin Group founder as an inspiration to budding entrepreneurs and was one of just six new businesses from around the country to be named Virgin StartUp Ambassadors. And it’s easy to see why.

On entering the refurbished mill and being cheerily welcomed by your designated performer, a thespian guide, you make your way down the yellow brick road with a chance to marvel and discuss illustrated prints of classic fairytale as you go.

Heavy curtains are opened revealing a magical world within.

yellow brick road

rainbow factory in leedsA nostalgic world bursting with captivating tableaus, 3D depictions of fables and fairytales and of course these achingly beautiful marianettes bring your favourite stories to life from Alice in Wonderland to Billy Goat’s Gruff and beyond (changing seasonally).

alice in wonderland puppetswizard


fairytalegruffalored riding hoodtreeEach child is given a cone like hat-cum-basket so as you tour the sets, you search and collect cardboard pieces (rabbit ears for example) you can then glue together to recreate characters yourself, in workshops at the end of the tour.


The children adored the arts and crafts and after feeling inspired by the enchanting sculptures,  were soon dressing up and recreating the fairtytales they’d just observed.

performing at the rainbow centre performing at the rainbow centre leedshelper at rainbow centreplay areaplayWhat stands out the most for me, was how as parents, Peter and I instantly felt transported back to our own non-digital childhoods, ones that were firmly planted in fairytales and magic, where the imagination could run free.

clockdragon fly

grumpy tree

As a blogger, I’m all for digital innovation and the benefits it has for kids but I believe there’s a time and place for it, it shouldn’t be all pervasive or in replacement of feeling books between your hands.

More than anything we desperately need to cherish and encourage literature for our children not always consumed on iPads and kindles, allowing storytelling to take shape in a tangible and liberating way.

To simply go back to basics.

Books must to be touched, read, loved and passed down, dramatic plays put on, enjoyed, discussed-just as my brother Solos and I, spent so much of our childhood doing.

This is when confidence and spirit can grow and flourish.

I saw it with my own eyes as my boys took the stage reinacting Jack and the Beanstalk at the factory before improvisational-based fun with the other children and performers, as they tried to outwit a witch and escape her spells. It was a joy to watch.

jack and the beanstalkperforming at the rainbow centre workshopkids performing at Rainbow Centre Leedswicked witchperforming at rainbow centreboychild performing at rainbow centrekidwitch But don’t just take it from me-Oliver, 5 asked us during our day there, ‘When will the party finish?’

Daddy, ‘It’s not a party, you can come and go when you like’

Oliver, ‘OK, good because I want to stay for 20 million hours’!

The Rainbow Factory is an open space where children are free to explore and interact, create or simply read in quieter areas and just observe if they’d rather; it’s ideal for day visits and even school trips of which they host many.

From story hubs, to craft kitchen filled with pots of glue, plasticine and glitter, to a stage for putting on plays, to areas for parties, and a cafe with healthy meals and snacks, this is a haven that doesn’t just entertain families, it enriches them.

story hub

welsh dresser
booksjack and the beanstalkRainbow Factory Cafecafe

We left uplifted, nourished, happy, and most of all, desperate to return (which we did less than a week after our first visit)!

Here’s a little film we made from our day. Enjoy!

Thank you to the Rainbow Factory.

The centre is open six days a week during term-time: closed Tuesdays; and open every day of the week during school holidays. Read more on their website HERE.

Prices for children on peak “+ £8, off, £6, Adults £2 for either times. This includes the whole day at the Rainbow Factory. 

Now for the exciting bit, 5 lucky Honest Mum readers can win a day pass including lunch for 4 (2 adults and 2 children) by entering below.

UK only

Ends 1st August 2015.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Promoted on Prizefinder, BritMums, Super Lucky and Loquax and Tots100

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52 Responses

  1. Kathryn Gorsuch

    I’d love to win this as I have two very imaginative little children!

  2. stephanie campbell

    looks really enchanting place for children, i would love to visit as awe are big story book lovers here

  3. Lesley Cohen Wright

    my grandson would love this, I live in Leeds but had not heard about this sounds brilliant

  4. Donna Gilligan

    Would love to visit this magical place, my 2 girls would love it, and it’s really close!

  5. Lisa Wilkinson

    I can’t believe I’ve not heard of this place since we don’t live too far. My little girl would love it here.

  6. Gill Mitchell

    We all adore books so this is right up our street. I think it would be fantastic for my little boys confidence also, and give both children a wonderful experience.

  7. DeeOfTheNorth

    Found the Rainbow Factory by chance while looking for something to do with my girls in the holidays. Sooo glad i did. Totally agree with this article….the place is magical. i’d like to win so I can take the whole family back – my 3 year old cried when we had to leave today!

  8. Sheila Sloan

    It looks great and just the sort of place that Emily would love to visit.

  9. Joanne Radley

    Looks like a wonderful place. Being a mum of 3 kids from West Yorkshire, I’m amazed I haven’t heard of this place or even already been there. Looks like my youngest 2 kids dream land!

  10. Alexandra McGahey

    I’d love to visit The Rainbow Factory with my husband & our two children as it looks brilliant! I’m always looking for new places to visit as a family and this ticks all the right boxes. I can’t believe I haven’t discovered this place before actually as we’re in Manchester, so not far from Leeds. My children are 4 and almost 7 and both love reading dearly – as do I! This place looks like something we’d all definitely enjoy!

  11. Claire Walmsley

    Hi, My daughter is on the Autistic Spectrum and is 8 she loves to read its her passion i would love to take her here. Good luck everyone.

  12. aj

    I have never heard about this place and it looks fantastic, I live near Leeds as well

  13. Ursula Hunt

    Thank you for telling me about this place. I moved to Skipton, about an hour form Leeds, and when my granddaughter visits I am looking for things to do with her. This is perfect and if I win it will be an amazing day out that she can remember with her grandma

  14. Kate Eccles

    We live in Leeds and I hadn’t heard of this little gem until I saw your tweet today – thank you! It looks absolutely fantastic and so different from the typical kid venue. I would love to visit with my two little ones especially if we have many more of these miserable rainy days!! We all need a rainbow 🙂

  15. rebecca

    This place looks perfect for my little girl- she is obsessed by books and spend most of her day acting them out wherever she is

  16. leigh

    This place looks perfect for a rainy family day out. Perfect for my bookworm daughter. I have my fingers and toes crossed – thanks for the great review really helpful

  17. Elizabeth Hinds

    Wow this looks fabulous! I’ve never heard of this place and I’m not far from Leeds at all. My daughters and I are all huge bookworms so this sounds right up our street – would love to take them! 🙂

  18. catherine Harper

    I can’t believe I didn’t know about this place before now. It looks fab and I think my four year old would love it. We will definitely be paying it a visit in the near future.

  19. Charlotte

    Having already visited The Rainbow Factory we’d absolutely love the chance to go back! My daughter has not stopped talking about it since and she insists on carrying around the little booklet we got and pretending we are reading in ‘the bookworm club’. It’s brilliant and I am so pleased it’s getting good publicity x

  20. Ruth Thomas

    This looks AMAZING!!!! My sister lives just outside Leeds so will take a look. Thank you for sharing x

  21. Fiona Paley

    My niece loves books and also making up her own stories, this would be an amazing place to visit during the holidays.

  22. zoe matthewman

    WOW this looks amazing, my son has been diagnosed with dyslexia and so finds it really hard reading books but am trying so hard to get him to see books has an enjoyment rather than seeing them as a struggle.

  23. Franki ~ Little Luca & Me

    Oh my gosh this place looks absolutely bloody amazing and I wanna go right now. Why wouldn’t anyone want to win this family pass? I’m going to take Luca really soon but I would love to take my niece with us one day so a family pass would be excellent for that.

  24. Lorraine Brennan

    This place looks amazing! My kids are 6 & 8 so I have a limited time left to do things like this with them. X

  25. Gillian

    We have always read books with our 2 boys right from being babies, they both love stories, listening to & telling them, this place looks completely magical, I want to go too!! xx

  26. Mrs Rachel Heap

    We are in Lancashire so Leeds is not too far for us, would love to win as enjoy taking my kids for days out


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