Gloucestershire’s largest children’s holiday club provider, Atlas Camps are celebrating a decade in business.
The brainchild of two home-grown school friends, James Harber and Dan Tanner, whose love for sport transformed into an award-winning business that shows no signs of slowing down.
Launched in 2012 with its first ever Easter holiday club in Cheltenham and just four children in attendance, Atlas Camps’ excellent reputation quickly spread amongst parents across the county, attracting crowds of children aged between 4-14. Now boasting 22 camps in locations all across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, Atlas attracts over 750 children per day during the school holidays, making them the largest school holiday camp providers in the area.
Dedicated to offering an engaging, safe and fun environment for primary and early secondary school children during the school holidays, Atlas Camps was created to offer an alternative to the usual sport-based camps on offer, instead specialising in multi-activity camps which empower children to choose how they’d best like to spend their days.
“James (Co-Founder/Director of Atlas Camps) and I both loved sport at school, becoming friends over our shared passion for rugby, so it made sense that we both pursued early careers in PE teaching,” explained Dan Tanner, Co-Founder and Director of Atlas Camps. “Working in schools and coaching settings, we were all too aware that whilst so many children love sport, there are many who thrive in other areas; be it creatively, in the arts or with more hands-on, kinaesthetic type activities.
“We quickly cottoned on to the fact that, whilst sport-specific preferences are well catered for when it comes to entertaining children during the holidays, there were very few childcare options on offer that gave children a choice, offering a plethora of activities to empower them to choose how they’d best like to spend their days. That’s exactly how Atlas was born – we set about redressing this balance to give all types of children all types of choice when it came to their school holiday fun, and that’s exactly what we’ve achieved.”
Old school friends, James and Dan attended Hartpury College together where they both studied sport and physical exercise science, before individually pursuing careers in education; James as a PE Teacher at Beaufort Academy in Gloucester, Dan as a Community Rugby Coach for England Rugby. Originally investing just over £1500 of their own savings to buy the equipment to launch their first Atlas Camp in Cheltenham in 2012, the investment soon paid off, with both taking the plunge and leaving full-time employment by 2015 to work on growing Atlas Camps full-time.
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, James and Dan took the decision to pivot their offering to offer daily ‘virtual’ camps for parents and children to tune in to, helping ease the strain of home-schooling by offering multiple activities to keep children entertained in their own homes; from virtual ‘garden nature spotting bingo’, to cook-along recipes and crafty how-tos. This innovation continued as the pandemic went on, with Atlas Camps opening doors to the children of keyworkers throughout the restricted 2020-21 period to offer much-needed childcare support when school doors were shut.
Despite the difficulties faced during the pandemic, Atlas Camps has grown from strength to strength, with 22 camps running every school holiday across Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, the Cotswolds and Brize Norton, welcoming up to 750 children per day. Rated ‘outstanding’ by recent Ofsted inspections and employing over 100 childcare specialists across the county, the company is set for an even brighter future throughout 2022, with the addition of three further camp venues already planned in time for the Summer break.
“Celebrating our 10th anniversary means an incredible amount, not only to Dan and myself, but to all of our hardworking team members that have worked so tirelessly to grow Atlas Camps into the incredible organisation that it stands as today,” continued James Harber. “Most importantly, we have to thank children up and down the county for making Atlas the most incredible place to be every school holiday. They are, and always will be, at the very heart of what we do – our MVPS, in every sense!”
For more information, please visit the Atlas Camps website at www.atlascamps.co.uk.