Our history

HISTORY OF LONDON PLAY
1997

Beginnings
A report by George Torkildsen for London Borough Grants recommends that a new London-wide body is established to support the play sector and provide effective platform for lobbying and campaigning for policy change.

Labour wins the general election by a landslide.

1998

London Play is born!
With funding from London Borough Grants (later London Councils), London Play is established to be a catalyst for the “cohesive, strategic and rational development of play provision” across London. Or, in the words of founding director Adrian Voce, “one person with a box.” Steve MacArthur becomes the first chair of London Play.

1999

Takes on Quality in Play
Hackney Play Association publishes the first version of Quality in Play, the quality assurance scheme for out of school and childcare provision. London Play agrees to take over the project and gets funding to pilot the scheme in nine London boroughs.

2000

Inaugural London Adventure Playground of the Year awards

Southwark’s Dog Kennel Hill Adventure Playground wins.

Ken Livingston becomes London’s first directly elected Mayor and the Greater London Authority is established.

Mick Conway becomes the chair of London Play.

2001

Launch of the Play Association Network London

Melian Mansfield becomes chair of London Play.

2003

Publication of the Mayor’s Children and Young People’s Strategy

London Play is named as a lead agency in developing a play strategy for London.

London Play embarks on the Home Zones for London project, which over the next five years, supports communities in seven London boroughs to explore ways of transforming their streets into safe places for children to play. This marks the beginnings of the play street revival which London Play will lead over the years to come.

2004

London Play takes over Trafalgar Square for Playday.

Mayor Ken Livingstone addresses the throngs. London Play is commissioned to write a play strategy for London.

2005

Publication of London Play's Guide to Preparing Play Strategies

The culmination of months of work; followed up with the Partners for Play project which sees London Play helping London boroughs to develop effective play policies.

Former London Play director Adrian Voce takes up the helm at the newly-established Play England.

2006

Inaugural Lifetime in Play Awards

Janet Dalglish, a play activist involved in the early London adventure playground movement, wins London Play’s inaugural Lifetime in Play in London Award. Obituary is
here

2007

The government publishes the Children’s Plan: Building brighter futures, marking a new level of commitment to play nationally. It announces the government’s intention to invest £225m over three years and to publish a national play strategy.

By the end of 2007 every borough in London has developed a play strategy.

2008

A great year for Play in London! London Play celebrates its tenth birthday. The Mayor of London publishes Supplementary Planning Guidance: Providing for Children and Young People's Play and Recreation, to support the London Plan.

Secretary of State for Children School and Families Ed Balls notes: "play is absolutely central to my aspiration to make this the best place in the world for our children and young people to grow up." And the government puts its money where its mouth is, funnelling more than £200m into 30 'Play Pathfinders' and 122 'Playbuilder' schemes to develop adventure playgrounds and free play areas across London and England.

London Play embarks on the three year Street Play project, kickstarting the play street revival that will soon spread outside London to Bristol, and beyond.

2010

The new Coalition government freezes the Playbuilder scheme as part of its swingeing programme of cuts. Austerity begins.

2011

The updated London Plan is published.

2012

Olympic year!
The Mayor publishes new supplementary planning guidance for play in London. The draft Shaping Neighbourhoods: Children and Young People’s Play and Informal Recreation SPG reviews the 2008 guidance and builds on it.

London Play supports Hackney to become the first borough in London to launch a year-long trial of play streets.

2013

A change of fortunes
London Councils radically slashes its grants programme and after 16 years, London Play loses its main source of funding. The crisis demands quick, creative solutions and the search for funders to support new ideas is launched.

London Play is part of a coalition awarded £1m by the Department of Health to promote the development of play streets over the next three years.

2018

Just as the future begins to look bleak for London Play, four major projects win funding within the space of a few months. Camp Build, Royal Parks, Playful Communities and Play Works II all kick off and reset the charity's fortunes.

2014

Play streets take off
The London Play Streets project kicks off thanks to funding from the Big Lottery. Over the next three years the number of boroughs offering residents the chance to open their streets for play more than doubles from six, to 14.

2020

The coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe and children's lives are upended as schools are closed and strict social distancing requirements all but stop play. London Play responds with emergency projects to deliver play to children's doors and support adventure playgrounds to reopen safely.