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Opening held at University of Cambridge’s Kids Planet Chris Abell Nursery named after popular professor

Guests including nursery staff, University of Cambridge staff and members of the Chris Abell family attended an opening event held at the Kids Planet Chris Abell Nursery on Harrison Drive, off Hills Road.

The afternoon was filled with several toasts and speeches, followed by refreshments and a cake cutting, a performance by the pre-school children, and tours of the nursery setting.

Vice chancellor Stephen Toope and children cutting the cake at Kids Planet
Vice chancellor Stephen Toope and children cutting the cake at Kids Planet

The day nursery in Harrison Drive was named after Professor Chris Abell, who died unexpectedly in October 2020. Chris was chair of the nursery project board, which he led with tenacity and enthusiasm and was instrumental in the university building the new nursery for children of its staff and students.

Kids Planet will run the daily operations. The expansion into Cambridge marks Kids Planet’s sixth nursery in the south of the UK and it will be part of a growing group of 115 nurseries.

Clare Roberts, founder and CEO at Kids Planet, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be here today and this is such a beautiful setting. I’ve been in many nurseries as you can imagine over the years and this is a true testament to Chris - whilst I never met him, this is the most beautiful, well-thought-out nursery I’ve ever been in and the attention to detail is really clear.

Children at Kids Planet
Children at Kids Planet

“Were delighted to have been selected by the University of Cambridge to be the partner delivering childcare here and want to build on the legacy that Chris has left behind. We look forward to welcoming many families within the university as we move forward together.”

Prof Stephen Toope, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “We know there is a great need for early childhood education in Cambridge, and this is true for the families of members of the university, so it was essential that this space be opened. Chris was an incessant advocate for the building of this nursery, so it’s so appropriate that we are naming it the Chris Abell nursery.

“Post-pandemic, early childhood supports are more important than ever. It is important to recognise Chris’s determination, and that of everyone else involved. It’s been a long-term commitment to building facilities for the university community, and that commitment will continue.”

Daniel Abell, son of Chris Abell, said: “Alongside his passion for learning and research, Chris really believed in the power of bringing people together. He did this in many ways during his time at the university, at first through research collaborations and then with his work with Stephen and the childcare committee.

Clare Roberts, Kids Planet CEO
Clare Roberts, Kids Planet CEO

“In those final years serving the university, he championed courses that were especially meaningful to him, often focused on areas where the university could support its staff better. Chris was personally involved in this project, bringing his challenge and diligence to this, just as he did to so many other things in the university, determined to leave it a better place for many decades to come.

“Earlier this year, my mother and I paid a visit to the nursery just as it was starting out, establishing its presence, opening its doors, and I was really impressed by the generous, open, bright spaces, and the warmth which the building and staff seemed to wrap every child in.

“A nursery is really our first experience as humans of coming together as a community with others to share experiences, so it seems fitting that this is one of the ways in which my father will be remembered – bringing people together. I’m tremendously grateful to the University, which has worked so hard to make this possible. I want to show our appreciation, and I look forward to seeing it flourish.”

Professor Chris Abell died at the age of 62. Picture: The Royal Society
Professor Chris Abell died at the age of 62. Picture: The Royal Society

Prof Abell was pro vice chancellor for research and a professor of biological chemistry. He was a pioneer in the field of fragment-based drug discovery and one of the founders of Cambridge-based biotechnology company Astex, which has helped to create cancer drugs.

The nursery, officially opened on Monday, June 13, will be open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Applications must be made via the university childcare office website: childcare.admin.cam.ac.uk/nurseries.

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