Adventure playgrounds may have closed their gates, but they have not closed the door on their ‘playing customers’, London’s children.
London’s adventure playgrounds are rising to the significant challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and continuing to support some of the capital’s most vulnerable children and families through the crisis. As the Easter holidays begin, adventure playground workers have turned their considerable skills and creativity to developing new online and remote channels of playfulness to keep children playing at home. Others have become hubs for community food distribution, even as they grapple with the uncertainty that lies ahead.
Some 90 per cent of respondents to London Play’s recent adventure playground survey said they intended to maintain communications with their users; and more than half planned to deliver some services remotely. Numerous examples of their ability to adapt and respond to the needs of the communities that they serve have come to light in recent days:
* Loughborough Community Centre at Max Roach is delivering free lunch and exchangeable play resources to children’s doors, three days a week during the Easter holidays.
* Haringey’s Somerford Grove Adventure Playground is working with the Felix Project to collect surplus food donations each Thursday for distributing to the local community.
* Hackney Play Association is inviting children to share their ideas for play during lockdown; as well as drawings or paintings of the view from their window to include in an online gallery called ‘My View’. Send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the survey here.
* Lambeth’s Triangle Adventure Playground has launched an online PlayZone and YouTube channel to run a programme of activities for its children. Staff said: “Jon and Gabriel and Eldith and Jake and Laura and Darragh and Rob miss all of you so we want to see the Triangle kids having fun wherever you are.”
Financial worries are unsurprisingly a key concern for adventure playground organisations which already operate under severe budget constraints. Many are unsure about whether some funding will continue in light of their inability to deliver against agreed targets. And although the jobs of most permanent staff appear to be relatively safe at this stage, around half of adventure playgrounds responding to the survey also said that they may have to consider laying off sessional workers. Unsurprisingly they are also ready to act to mitigate the financial impact, with around 80 per cent of survey respondents hoping to use the closure time to write funding bids.
Despite these very real concerns, the resilience and creativity of the staff at London’s unique adventure playgrounds is what stands out. London Play is committed to doing what we can to help and will be looking at how best to do this, along with publishing tips and guidance, in the coming days and weeks. If you work at an adventure playground, please do get in touch with any suggestions or questions or anything you want to share.