Category Archives: London Play

One Little, Two Little, Three Canadians, We Love Thee – Who is Singing Canada’s Play People Chorus?

I pinched this ‘Four asks’ infographic from a Rethinking Childhood blog post published today by Tim Gill – it’s well worth a read. It’s brilliant that the Children’s Play Policy Forum has created a big tent for play where policy makers, researchers and practitioners from across the UK can get together to advocate and take action.

Four asks for playFour asks – for play, for health, for children, for everyone. Click to enlarge.

In the UK, non-governmental organizations – Play Scotland, Fields in Trust and London Play et al – that focus their work almost exclusively on children’s play have over the years become strong voices influencing national and local government policies. This is an important strategic difference when looking at the Canadian experience. Where is our Play Canada, Joue Québec, or Toronto Play?

It’s not that there is a lack of dedicated and fun loving Canadians who recognize and promote play. They range from educators, health care professionals, designers and landscape architects to journalists, municipal recreation leaders, parents, physical activity enthusiasts, public servants developing policy and programs and all the others who are part of the play continuum. But where are the unifying Canadian voices that focus exclusively on play and its benefits? It’s very possible that I’ve missed them and if so, I would like to get acquainted with any such groups.

Spirit of CanadaSpirit of Canada by Kyle Jackson

We Canadians wouldn’t be remiss in getting better acquainted with the best practices of other jurisdictions including the UK to see what could fly here. Never mind that, we could start sharing our own best practices related to play more broadly. In addition, a clearing house of information on children’s play research and initiatives from our various orders of government and non-governmental agencies would be a step in the right direction.

In 2017, the play world is coming to Canada’s doorstep as the City of Calgary, the International Play Association (IPA) Canada and the Alberta Parks and Recreation Association are hosting the International Play Association Conference. It will be a great opportunity for Canada to share its playbook and for Canadians to take stock of strategies that are advancing play in other parts of the world.

ConferenceInternational Play Association (IPA) Conference, City of Calgary – 2017

I just signed up with the IPA last April after meeting with the association’s President Theresa Casey. She was kind enough to take time out of her day and have a coffee with me looking out over Edinburgh’s Princes St. Gardens where on that day daffodils bobbed riotously in the wind and kids rolled down the grassy incline. What great work this IPA crowd is doing – more on them in a future installment of PlayGroundology……

DSC06497Princes St. Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland

Do read Tim Gill’s post – Politicians told: invest in play, and children, families and communities will all see the benefits – then ask yourself, what can we do in Canada? What can be done in other countries?

Remembrance of Things Past – Playing in London

The first wave of commuters have already done their thing at Canary Wharf’s temporary ‘live young evian playground’. Their gamboling about on a spontaneous break as they make their way to work or school has set off snow machines and for many triggered crisp memories of past play escapades.

Tufnell Park Primary SchoolTufnell Park Primary School, London – 1955. Source – City of London.

From the outside looking in, London is a great city of play. Distinguishing characteristics include its adventure playgrounds scattered throughout the city, a top notch organization, London Play, that advocates on behalf of children and families and likely the highest concentration of playworkers anywhere in the world (a great interview with Penny Wilson on play philosophy of playworkers).

Vauxhall Primary SchoolVauxhall Primary School, London – 1965. Source – City of London.

But there is still a need for action in support of play in the UK’s largest city.

Nearly half of children in London surveyed say they do not play out as much as they like. London Play aims for every child in the city to have high quality, accessible and inclusive play opportunities. London Play campaigns for more and improved play spaces and services, and support playwork in the capital.

Ainsworth Nursery School PlaygroundAinsworth Nursery School, London – 1972. Source – City of London.

This morning in Battersea, Wandsworth Against Cuts is occupying the Battersea Park Adventure Playground in a last ditch effort to save it from demolition. Click through here for a story that ran last night on ITV’s London Tonight reporting on the occupation.

Battersea Adventure Playground - ITV

A call to action to London commuters enjoying a spot of play over the next few days at the Canary Wharf and Finsbury Park ‘live young evian playgrounds’ – play needs your active support and participation. Get out and play with your kids, empower them to play outdoors on their own, support organizations like London Play, Play England and your local adventure playground. Ask your elected representative what they’ve done for play lately.

Laycock Primary SchoolLaycock Primary School, London – 1974. Source – City of London.

Commuters, remember your days of childhood play – adventure, imagination, discovery, friendship and fun and think about what you can do for play.

Danone, great play branding on the ‘live young’ campaign. The evian playground promotion presents an excellent opportunity for Danone to determine how it can contribute to improving the play possibilities of children throughout the world. What a leading edge, corporately social responsible engagement that could be – a great addition to other good works the firm supports such as the Danone Ecosystem Fund.

For more images of play in London check this 2012 pictorial in The Mail Online – wonderful images.

Today’s last words, and squeals of excitement, on play in London go back to 1963 and the first filmings of the Seven Up! series by acclaimed British director, Michael Apted.

London Calling…. And The Winner Is

How cool, how awesome, how brilliantly, boundingly beautiful is an awards show for playgrounds? Not just any old playgrounds mind you, though there’d be nothing wrong with that, but adventure playgrounds in a world metropolis. Pinch me London is this a dream? No not a dream, all very real and fun.

The judging for this annual event took place last week. Winning playgrounds were recognized at Finchley’s Phoeneix Cinema where kid-produced videos were screened to the great delight of adventure playgrounders from around the city. The coveted title of London Adventure Playground of the year went to Glamis, Tower Hamlets. Full results are available here.

Funding cuts have resulted in the recent closures of some of London’s adventure playgrounds. The awards, first held in 2002, highlight the value and contributions the playgrounds make to kids’ daily lives. In a news release, London Play chair Melian Mansfield encouraged ongoing support for these community assets.

These are safe havens, often located in relatively deprived parts of London, where children can challenge themselves, be active, make friends and have new experiences. Any borough which is facing difficult financial decisions and is considering making cuts to play should watch these films and think again.

I first encountered adventure playgrounds shortly after I started the PlayGroundology blog. I’m still amazed at the care, creativity and seeming chaos that are are the hallmarks of their vitality. I am disappointed that they have not caught on in any real way in North America. I want to get our kids over to London in the next few years to be adventure playgrounders and experience even just for a few days some of the magic and magnificence of these endangered play spaces.

Bravo to London Play and the 95.8 Capital FM’s Help a Capital Child teams for making this a not to miss play event.

Here’s an archival gem from 1964 excerpted from the initial installment of the acclaimed British documentary Seven Up!. Does anyone know the name of this adventure playground?

For more on adventure playgrounds: London Play; Play England; UK Playground Adventure (great photos).

Let the Games Begin

For the next 16 days the world will be watching the action unfold at London’s XXX Olympiad. This is a time of focused, high performance play when athletes try to exceed their personal best for the ultimate glory of a podium prize. There will be no shortage of superhuman accomplishments over the course of these two weeks, incredible stories of endurance, strength and skill.

I can’t help but wonder how many of the gifted athletes from all corners of the globe were risk takers at their local play places as they were growing up. Was outdoor play an important component of their early childhoods?

When all the medals are counted, when the athletes and fans have returned home and the brouhaha is a distant echo, the Olympic site will be reclaimed for the people of London and transformed into Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. One of the features will be a spanking new playground.

Click to enlarge

The designers were selected through a competitive process. You can read about it in Tim Gill’s blog Rethinking Childhood. Tim is a former Director of the Children’s Play Council now Play England and was a member of one of the juries that reviewed designers’ submissions.

erect architecture and Land Use Consultants (LUC) are the winners of the North Park competition. The London Legacy Development Corporation’s news release describes erect architecture as “an emerging practice with a strong focus on culture, education and play. Their buildings and playspaces have won several high profile awards for projects such as the Kilburn Grange Playpark in north-west London.”

Based on the design and the firm’s previous work, we can look forward to an exciting playscape taking shape post Olympics.

Kilburn Grange Adventure Playground, London. Source: UK Playground Adventure

If you’re in London with kids and aren’t taking in any Olympic action, or just need a break, check out London Play and click on their ‘Play in London’ menu button to find Adventure Playgrounds and more.

We can’t all be Olympians but we can all play, play, play…

Screenshot Mondays – London Play

A couple of Mondays per month, PlayGroundology screenshots a cyberspot that focuses on playgrounds, or play. I hope readers dive in and explore. Even if you’ve seen the selection before, take a moment and check to see what content has been added recently.

Think of this as a very slow stumble upon, an invitation to relish something new or to revisit an old friend. Some of the people and places may be household names in the world of play and playgrounds, others not so much. I hope all will pique your interest in what they have to offer and further your own possibilities for playfulness.

London Play

Click image to enlarge

London Play has been serving the kids of the UK capital for 13 years. That’s a constituency of over 1.7 million children under the age of 18.

Here’s some of what they do:

– campaign for the child’s right to play and help reduce barriers to play which are typical of a modern city
– champion playworkers as a valuable section of the children’s services workforce
– represent a genuine pan-London service, making an efficient and valuable contribution to children and young people, and their families
– are pleased that our website has become the authoritative voice of London’s play sector
– were rated “excellent” in the London Councils review of all its funded bodies, for the service we provide to the capital
– link with other organisations regionally to promote play as a natural antidote to childhood obesity and to increase their physical activity levels
– work together with Play England to complement each other’s work regionally
– support and seek to improve local delivery of services to children and young people, via our borough partners

Check out London Play for news, resources, ideas and playground listings. This is a site you don’t want to miss if you’re planning a visit to London.