Category Archives: Seen and Heard

Play England and Demos go Policy Wonking in the Real World

Play is to children as breathing is to life.

However, the management of public space is not always conducive to muscle twitching outdoor play. There’s competition too – all screen and no play make little Jimmy and Jenn dullards. What’s a responsible and compassionate society to do?

Gathering the facts for evidence-based decision making is always a good place to start to help inform public policy deliberations. Back in 2007, Play England did just that with the release of Seen and Heard: Reclaiming the public realm with children and young people.

The pamphlet was researched by Demos, a British think tank “driven by the goal of a society populated by free, capable and secure powerful citizens”. Researchers undertook a literature review and carried out case studies in six communities with children between the ages of 6 and 18.

Although the findings are specific to England, the study’s recommendations are worth a close look by parents, advocates and play professionals in other countries. The final work was not limited to the printed page. The video distills and compresses while encouraging those with an interest in the subject matter to go deeper. And what’s more, there was a public performance in the streets immediately outside the venue where the study launch took place – play within play. Artists Tuur Van Balen and Revital Cohen put on the ritz for the lords and ladies in the name of play.

If you’re already familiar with this pamphlet, please excuse this johnny come lately. But if like me, you’re seeing it for the first time, then get ready for an informative and thought provoking read. Hit the share buttons and give it good word of mouth.

Thank you to Play England, Demos, Joost Beunderman, Celia Hannon and Peter Bradwell for producing the study and publishing it under a generous open access licence.


Playgrounds of the Future – BBC News Magazine, November 14, 2007.

Children’s charity warns that Government cuts to play will harm children – National Children’s Bureau, March 10, 2011.