Category Archives: Playworkers

Pop-Ups On The Road 2014

Itinerant playmakers and PlayGroundology friends Pop-Up Adventure Play are on the road in a big way this year. PlayGroundology asked Suzanna Law if she could contribute a guest post to share some of her thoughts and experiences about the group’s recently concluded US tour. We’re happy she took us up on the offer. Stay tuned for future tour dates, perhaps you can organize to have them come to a community near you. I know we’ll be looking for an opportunity to bring them to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Exactly two months and eleven days ago, I was a ball of anxiety. I was in a snow storm with my colleague Anna and her two children battling our way to Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA to meet Morgan, our other colleague. As the car fought its way through the thick blanket of snow, I started to wonder if a two-month tour of the USA was a good idea.

This then triggered a whole wave of other thoughts: Will the hosts be ready for us? Would the little yellow car we chose be able to complete the journey? Are we really ready for this? But really, my biggest question was this: Was I going to make it to the first stop of the tour? Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Two months and six days on, after “sleeping for a thousand hours” (as Morgan put it) the tour is complete and I am ready to reflect on my adventure. And wow, was it incredible.

PopUp1Here is our little yellow car! It traveled through 28 States and did around 11,000 miles!

Let’s talk about some details first. Ever since Pop-Up Adventure Play was formed about 3 years ago, we have been invited to communities across the world but primarily in the USA. People have been wanting to find out more about playwork and to find out how they can bring more playful opportunities into their own homes. Above all, they wanted some people who have worked in the field before to come into their community to tell everyone that play is a good idea.

The biggest barrier to our visits has been the cost of travel which isn’t always an enormous amount, but is a stumbling block for many. Having mulled over this for a while, we decided to organise a tour! This would reduce travel costs as we’d already be on the road, and we would also be able to go where we would be invited. And that’s how we began the Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests Tour 2014!

PopUp2Cardboard Sledding at Bernheim Arboretum in Kentucky

As the Tour Organizer, I had a personal aim of getting 7 locations on the tour. In my mind, it would be a success if I had one event every weekend. Morgan and I would form the core tour team and we would bring in our friends to be part of the tour. Using a combination of social media and reaching out to some of our existing contacts, we started the tour with 14 confirmed locations. Two weeks into the tour, we had somehow booked another 2 stops on the tour and had reached our limit: Pop-Ups Tour 2014 would be a 16 stop tour. I still can’t believe it.

PopUp3Chasing the robot at Manhattan Beach, CA

Oh goodness, and how could I not talk about our Special Guests? Grant Lambie, Andy Hinchcliffe and Erin Davis joined us for parts of the tour, bringing their expertise to communities who asked for a little extra; who wanted knowledge and experience that we didn’t have. They truly brought an extra spark to the tour, supporting us with their know-how, encouragement and car care.

Some really stand out moments of the trip have been with hosts at their locations. They have been absolutely amazing and inspirational, standing on the frontline of what feels like an American Adventure Play movement. They are brave and bold, and determined to create a playful, adventure-filled future for their children and for the communities in which their children live, all the while working within a society that isn’t all too familiar with play for it’s own sake. I have been blown away by their passion for play.

PopUp4Adventure Playground at the Parish School in Houston, TX

PopUp5An incredible place to play in Cary, NC

It may have been hard work driving a tiny yellow car across the US and stopping mostly to deliver workshops, run Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds and to sleep, but it was totally worth the journey. Anxiety and tiredness aside, the Pop-Up Adventure Play and Special Guests Tour 2014 was a complete success. I’m so chuffed (British for “really pleased”) about this whole thing which you can read more about on our blog and am proud to announce that we’ll be doing this all again in 2015! If you want to be part of our next adventure, please email me on suzanna@popupadventureplay.org.

PopUp6Bouncing off the inflatable loose parts in Portland, OR

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.