Islington dragon’s lair is London’s best place to play


Islington’s Barnard Adventure Playground has been named London’s Adventure Playground of the Year today as the hotly anticipated annual event returned to the West End with a squeal and a roar (and a few rude squelchy sounds too)! Playgrounds in Merton, Lambeth and Hackney also came away with awards.

Knights, dragons and princesses at Barnard AP

Around 200 excited children from across the capital converged on the Prince Charles Cinema today to watch the films they had made about the places they love to play up on the big screen; and take part in some very welcome live pandemonium after covid forced proceedings online last year.

The film from the winning playground used Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ as the soundtrack, and left viewers in no doubt that 2021 had been a summer to remember for the young residents of Islington who play there. Children were shown growing pumpkins, dressing up, making go karts, slinging mud, having cardboard slide races and swinging from way, way up high. But it was clear that it is the people – the friends and playworkers at the playground – that are its ‘secret ingredient’. Selena, aged 10 said:

“Barnard is the best because I love Sarah [playworker].”

Stanley, also 10, added: “Barnard has a lot of space to have fun and you are able to meet new people soon because so many people go there.” Or, as Bruce put it: “I want to know if love is wild… Oh, will you walk with me out on the wire?”

Children at Redbridge’s ELHAP, London Adventure Playground of the Year in 2019, decided on the winner. Barnard was up against three other finalists: Lambeth’s Tulse Hill, Islington’s Waterside and Tower Hamlets’ Roman Road adventure playgrounds. Of Barnard the ELHAP judges commented approvingly: “I liked the children shouting,” and, “They had a huge variety of things.” The winning prize is a pizza and ice cream party at their playground.

Acacia coolest award
Acacia AP Coolest Place to Play Award

The Coolest Place to Play award was won by Merton’s Acacia Adventure Playground, whose film featured a very cool snail named Felicia and some dizzying nest swing action.  A tutorial on making ‘ugly potion’ as a kind of therapeutic and safe revenge was a highlight of the ‘Best Flick’ film from Lambeth’s Triangle Adventure Playground. Meanwhile summer at London’s ‘Most Inclusive’ playground – Hackney’s Homerton Grove – looked like one big, long and of course, very welcoming party!

The event also featured the West End premiere of a short film from London Play about a specially adapted play street project that was run during the last national covid lockdown. The Play Street Carousel film featured older and younger residents on locked down streets across the capital on camera, sharing their favourite street games and looking forward to playing them in person when restrictions lifted.

London Play’s chair, Melian Mansfield said:

“Congratulations to Barnard, Acacia, and Triangle on their awards – and all the groups that made these wonderful films showing us how very important adventure playgrounds are in the lives of young Londoners. As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, we must ensure that these vital places are celebrated, promoted and protected for children, now and in the future.

“Play is seen by some as frivolous but it is hugely important and never more so than today. The Play Street Carousel film demonstrates how play on the doorstep has the power to bring people together across cultures and generations. London Play will not give up fighting for more and better play opportunities for London’s children.”

See the shortlisted films below – or the gallery under for images from the awards event. For media enquiries and more high-resolution pictures of the event and/or winning playgrounds please contact Fiona Sutherland via


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