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The Plog (play blog) captured the joy, triumphs and frustrations of the Play Times team in their play work on housing estates from 2008 - 2011. This is a long but beautiful and poignant ......

The Plog (play blog) captured the joy, triumphs and frustrations of the Play Times team in their play work on housing estates from 2008 - 2011. This is a long but beautiful and poignant slideshow. We recommend you dip in, savour a few morsels and come back for more another time.

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  • 1. ocTobEr 2008 17 th doing. Quite right, too – we taking a tortoise were in her neighborhood taking pictures like tourists. for a walk in tower h amlets “Looking for places where kids can play on this estate,” WPL AY TIMES Penny said. eve been busy getting started “Great,” she replied. “Ive got 5 kids, and making and sharing here at Play Times, starting theres nowhere for them. When they leave play memories in with a tour around the area of this gate open theyll go in there and play london’s east end the team (comprised of Penny, for hours. They build dens. but they always rainer, Zoe and Morgan). We started with a come along and pull them down again and look at flash earth (www.flashearth.com) and clear them away and then lock the gate.” although the images were old they did allow The other they, of course, were the estate us to get a feel for the area and play at giving managers, and the place she pointed to was a each other vertigo by swooping in close and fenced-in wooded area, making Penny think quick to specific spots. Then we left oxford of Narnia and how the entrances open and House and jumped on the Number 8, which close unexpectedly. The woman called across runs along roman road, which is either an to some of her friends, who joined in and urban artery or line of severance, depending talked over each other in a chorus. what youre looking for at the time. “These are looking for places for kids to play,” All of us have chosen to live in this area she said. and know it fairly well, but this time we were “There aint nowhere.” exploring, trying to see different things and “Well, theres that concrete. Used to be a to see things differently. playground.” We talked about the Situationist idea “Yes, I used to play there.”PL AY T IME S of taking a tortoise for a walk, about that “Yes, but it aint nothing now. And if youplog process of letting go of the emphasis on park there you get clamped.” arrival and letting travel be a process, not “No play stuff there anymore.” a product. Its about feeling the moment, “Theres nowhere for them to go.”The opening yourself to the sights, sounds, smells conversation followed its own course and of that exact second, in that exact spot. That became a discussion of rats in the area. We said, we knew there wasnt enough time to started to understand the layered problems see everything on the first day, so made a faced by residents of all ages, and some of the rough route through the places Penny and health and safety issues wed have to consider Morgan had previously identified as possible when thinking about play spaces. She said Natural Play sites. that shed want to help, and that she would on arriving on one estate we saw this be able to help us get local residents involved. sign posted above some supposedly public We couldnt image that shed be an easy space saying “No Loitering”. Penny took woman to say no to! a photograph of it and a woman, standing An excellent start. outside her front door, asked us what we were
  • 2. ocTobEr 2008 20 W th hen PATH did the first mapping of play provision within Tower Hamlets, play baldPL AY TIMES several bald Spaces were identified. These were areas where we had no evidence of any play activities happening. spots Since this first mapping there have been The project has to be sustainable. It has to making and sharing several momentous changes in those areas facilitate the permanent resettling of play cul- play memories in that have transformed these isolated bald ture within the heart of the community, and london’s east end spots into almost total alopecia. The stress of spread playfulness like a healthy virus. Thats the creation of the triumphal olympic site why, rather than focusing the financial ener- and the added pressures of accompanying gies of the provision on a playwork team run- massive new housing developments on tiny ning timetabled play sessions, we have taken patches of land (SLoAPs, Spaces Left over another tack. After Planning, that were the failsafe for the The thrust of this work is to avoid some of playing child) have eradicated the last vestig- the traps that we playworkers can fall into. es of naturally playable space. Namely, the creation of the perception that it This is despite the area being bounded on two is only safe or possible to go our to play when sides by the biggest parks in the borough… there are playworkers present. The myth that and their accompanying lines of severance. only professional playworkers can manage It is as ironic as the demolition of the ve- to create a play environment effectively de- lodrome, which was well used by the people skills the community and the children, who of Tower Hamlets and Hackney, to create a develop the perception that they need to have new bike track for the olympics several years their playing validated by a special group of into the future. After the Games are over it professionals.PL AY T IME S will then be demolished – and it seems ab- Instead, we are using our playwork skillsplog surd that a massive finite games fest is rapidly to gather play memories from community diminishing the groups, using these to re- spaces and oppor- a massive finite games fest member the importance and tunities for infinite free play. diminishing is rapidly the variety ofWe use the memo- enjoyed. playing that they There was an ur- spaces and opportunities for ries to look at the role of the gent need for play infinite free play outdoor environment, of the projects in these childs discovery play, for areas. themselves. Using peoples personal play ex- This need was and continues to be an pertise we remind them of ways that the play especially urgent one for children with dis- drive can be supported by them, themselves. abilities. The recent commissioning process The playwork team will then work with for services for children with disabilities has community groups to think afresh about the concentrated its spending on segregated non- spaces that are available to them and look play based respite. No thought has been given at ways that they can oversee those overseen to finding ways for disabled children to play spaces for children, without adulterating whenever they want to, near their homes, what the children have to do. with their peers. Much of this work is influenced by con- The playtimes project is designed to ad- versations that we have shared with Arthur dress these issues. battram. Much is informed by work in the
  • 3. ocTobEr 2008 20 th states, re-kindling forgotten play memories pristine green grass, are now showing all the and observing the power of them to spur signs of play deprivation. They are hiding folks into action. Much is a natural extension weapons in the flower beds to ready them- of our application of playwork theory into selves from visitations from rival gangs who everyday practice. have grown up a couple of estates away in anPL AY TIMES We are visiting estates where children are equally play deprived conditions. living in vast numbers. From these initial vis- Interestingly both warring gangs have to making and sharing its and the resultant play audits, we make a pass through a neutral territory, in which play memories in range of suggestions for the creation of com- there is green space and children can play, a london’s east end pensatory environments from the founding content and relatively happy place. We dont have trouble here, those residents say. our We dont have trouble kids are great. here, those residents say. Meanwhile the elders on the other two estates have become distant from an under- our kids are great standing of play as the beating heart of the community, not only a symptom of its health of community play gardens, to community but a catalyst to improvement. The older resi- barbeques, scrounging loose parts from local dents, just like the teenagers, sound resentful people to planting trees and installing fairy and hurting. lights in them so that children can play out This is what happens to people without play. in winter. All our work must embrace all ages. All of the spaces and initiatives we are con- We want the teenagers and the grandparents sidering, are aiming to create shared spaces, and the mums and dads to understand that so that elders, tiny kids, teenagers parents play is an offer for all of them. and children can all feel that this is for them. The blocky unyielding fast moving unma-PL AY T IME S We have been flaneurs moving through the nipulable world that children are growingplog spaces with their playability in mind. up in reminds us of the broken window syn- What we have discovered has been shocking. drome… when ones experience of windows Playgrounds left to go to seed, liminal is only to see them broken, then this becomes community spaces over built or overdevel- the norm and an unbroken window cries out oped until there is no room to mess around for a thrown brick. near your home, no room to stop and chat The architect Le corbusier and his follow- with your neighbours, no green areas to kick a ers, many of whom were commissioned by ball on without the ubiquitous no ball games local authorities and enticed by central gov- signs screaming at you that you are unclean ernment incentive grants, had a stated aim in your to desire play. Anti-climb paint stifles of creating cities without streets. Their desire o more play urges. was to expunge the liminal spaces, those that n one estate, revamped and are ill defined and ripe for play, as a factor made far prettier about fifteen in the life of the people. What a disaster it years ago the whole commu- would be to inflict that way of thinking upon nity is furious with teenagers for the tight knit communities of the east end. hanging out anywhere except the cage that The current hostility towards younger has been provided for them, with no seats and residents, encoded in the tower blocks and no lights. The teenagers, who have lived there unnecessary fences, amounts to play depriva- for the 15 years since the communal land was tion by design. built and sectioned into fenced stretches of We have a lot to do.
  • 4. ocTobEr 2008 20 th The task seems overwhelming, but surpris- ing anything of our project he started to D ingly, not so depressing. rail against the tree and threatened to cut it espite the places that we have down, then stopped himself and began to re- seen and catalogued and geo- call the memory of the rules of the conker tagged and photographed and games that he had enjoyed flouting.PL AY TIMES will be sharing with you shortly, The mother of five who begged us to find a what fills us with uncontainable excitement way to let her kids and the other local chil- making and sharing is the bubbling enthusiasm that we meet in dren to play in a green treed space, inacces- play memories in every one who we share our project aims sible, yet enticing, locked away for no reason london’s east end with. There is an instant recognition that behind a padlocked fence… this is what they have been looking for. The housing officer who wanted to show Hazy memories of play spring with astound- us the places that make her weep, so we could ing clarity to minds and memories, and the re-kindle their playfulness. light comes on in the eyes of informants as This is a good project. they are transported back to their own first Although local play providers and PATH language of play. The power of the memories have done a fantastic job in this borough, takes hold and they say. we will do whatever there is still a load of work to do… now, we we can to make this happen. This is what we are in an excellent position to do it. need. Do you remember how you used to tell the The caretaker that we walked past as a ripe time with a dandelion clock? conker dropped on his head. Not know- Do children still do that?PL AY T IME Splog
  • 5. ocTobEr 2008 th remembering when... 24PL AY TIMES The lovely people at the making and sharing Tower Hamlets Local play memories in History Library and london’s east end Archives have supplied us with these wonder- ful images of play in the east end. Are there any streets here that you recognise? Any memories of your own to tie to these scenes? Maybe someone out there even knows the children pictured! It would be tremendous to be hear from the peo- ple these playful kids grew to be.PL AY T IME Splog
  • 6. NovEMbEr 2008 more gorgeous images th 04PL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end Here are some more images from the local history archive for you to look at while we pull together more notes from recent events.PL AY T IME Splog Sheba Street, 1978 Fournier Street, 1978. Old Gun Wharf, 1930.
  • 7. NovEMbEr 2008 th 09 APL AY TIMES considerable making and sharing progress report play memories in london’s east end Hello all, consider yourselves cced into an internal email outlining our successes so far – and join in our happiness! From: Penny To: Rainer, Zoe, Morgan and PATH HQ Subject: Project Update Last week we opened up a new play space, Tic Tac Park. We were so happy and proud of ourselves because the project was well and truly launched and we had had a success that we had not expected to experience for a few months yet, that is, a child space with child keyholders endorsed by the RSLPL AY T IME S and parents.plog Wow. However, a week is a long time in playwork. On Tuesday we had our very first meeting with East End Homes and ended up being invited to design the three playspaces on the British Street Estate. We plan to increase this to four play pools and a flowing playable stream. This greening will be completed by June 09. On the previous day the possibility of using the Archibald Road site as the Pathfinder Adventure Playground was mooted. This will be decided for early action in the next financial year. On Thursday, we were told by London Play that we had been successful in our application to develop two sites, in Hewlett Road and Sheffield Square, as natural play spaces. This work will be complete by the end of march.
  • 8. NovEMbEr 2008 th 09 This morning, I just happened to gate crash a meeting with Green Dreams and a regeneration officer from Tower Hamlets Homes. Sit down my friends.PL AY TIMES making and sharing It would appear that the there is a large sum of section play memories in 106 funding that has to be spent on the Malmesbury Estate, london’s east end mostly before the end of this financial year. Some of this is required for practical considerations like mending broken rubbish bin doors and the REMOVAL OF ALL THE SHIN RAILS (caps quite deliberate.) However the remainder is for the regeneration of the squares. At this point I should tell you that Green Dreams are designing and contracting this work, so do not panic. They are very playful in the same way that we are. They want natural solutions and insist that all spaces should be playable for the whole community. In short I liked and trusted them. Trellis Square – a playable garden… the first thought wasPL AY T IME S to pull down the walls, but I pointed out that a cuddlingplog wall can feel nice and mentioned the practical boundaries as being useful as an inclusive play tool. They understood. And the guy in charge suggested a sand-pit. (This was after I insisted that there would be big trouble if the space was turned into a garden that was not playable because all the spaces identified as playspaces were damn well going to stay playspaces while I was around. I didnt actually say stay away from her you bitch in my charming Sigourney Weaveresque way, but I think thats what they might have heard and I think they liked that! I personally feel that it did set a certain tone….) Sheffield Square. Once again I think I managed to charm them with the explanation of our hippy shit (heretoin HS), working methods, I enchanted them with my assault on the hostile plant! Wowed them with edible fencing and fairy lit trees, sand-pits rolling hills and scramble slopes. I think they even liked the idea that we could use water run off to feed a pump to create water ways through a series of
  • 9. NovEMbEr 2008 trenches…. Etc etc it is possible we could be looking at a th 09 contribution to the cost of this… not sure. I have to submit plans to a T&R meeting in mid November. Then onto the cage, which I pointed out had only onePL AY TIMES entrance. They are going to create a second one. making and sharing Creswisck Square, green dream suggested it could be a play memories in community garden with playspace (at this point I became london’s east end almost obsessed by the fact that this woman was able to sight-read my mind out loud.) Green Dreams want to create an orchard in one of the squares and a rambling seaty rose garden for the elders garden. Oh and yes, an allotment patch! In Ambrose walk the THH guys wanted to put a toddler playground. For about half a second. After the green Dreams team and me telling him that this was an evil consumerist rip-off and damaging to the whole community and doomed to failure, (the three of us screeching this information altogether must have taken all of three seconds, so this was a speedy process.) he agreed to an all age play space, he started to ask one of the maintenance staff to order some play equipment. When the chorus of harpies sounded off again and he agreed, rather quickly, to let Green Dreams and PATH find alternatives that would be cheaper and offerPL AY T IME S greater play value.plog We also spoke about the need to create some spaces for older kids to play.. taking up the hostile paving and maybe creating some contours for a sort of skating experience, and removing No Ball Games signage in other spots to see if we could get some informal (Pick-up in the states) ball games going on. I have sent the folks many of the documents that we generated to this group and referred them to the Plog. So Obama Week Syndrome…? Change CAN happen. Elatedly yours, pen
  • 10. NovEMbEr 2008 th An open letter af ter cr ashing 12 an estate planningPL AY TIMES meeting making and sharing From:Penny Wilson play memories in Sent:07 November 2008 16:08 london’s east end To:(People who work for Tower Hamlets and BBCC) Cc:All blog readers Subject:Malmesbury Estate. Dear People, It was so good to share the meeting with you this morning. This gate crashing was a level of cheekiness that I usually dont attain, but I am glad that I did today. Attached is a document that outlines the PlayTimes project that we are running in LAPs 5&6. these LAPs were identified as coming up completely bald on the mapping of play spaces conducted by PATH and LBTH in the play strategy research. They have similarly been identified in similar exercises by CABE space for the Olympic Play Places Mapping. In addition to the the weight of new build in the area will drasticallyPL AY T IME S increase the high levels of play deprivation already experienced currently and historically by children who haveplog grown and are growing in this area. The implications of this are enormous. As Playworkers we are concerned that a single child deprived of a free play experience grows up to be an unintegrated, emotionally and creatively illiterate and harming and harmful person. Imagine a whole estate full of play deprived children. Elements of this phenomena are evident in the ASB that is manifesting itself on these estates where children and young people have had their play curtailed by the prevailing ethos that they are being a pain… they feel that they cannot play anywhere and belong no-where. How can they respect the space when the space has shown them no respect? As well as that we are seeing a high incidence of children growing up utterly divorced from the natural world. The instinctive default setting of a child is to be enthralled and engaged with nature, exploring it in many different ways through every sense that they possess. Where play equipment
  • 11. NovEMbEr 2008 is currently provided for these urban children they serve th 12 to decrease this innate Biophilia and create a fear and distrust of nature, biophobia. You cant dig in wetpour. You cant find seasonal change in a fixed play structure. As I said when we met, these are a con-trick from unscrupulousPL AY TIMES play equipment manufacturers. making and sharing (It should be said that there is some good stuff out there, play memories in but it needs to be used in the right way. Please see the london’s east end Play England Design Guidance for Playspaces.) It is also important to re-enforce the fact that playspace should not be divided into age groups. A brand new Toddlers Play Ground in a space like (redacted) may arouse the local young people, who grew up on that space with only the wind blown crisp bags in the Play space , to be jealous and resentful and ultimately, whether they are aware of it or not, to sabotage the teensy playspaces. These little play areas also serve to re-enforce the urban myth that playing is simple a gross motor activity enjoyed, purely for mindless fun, by tiny children, pre-schoolers. in fact we are all inclined to remember our playing experiences as happening years earlier than they were actually lived. The play curve stretches well into teenage years. I would make sure that on this estate in particular a veryPL AY T IME S clear offer is made to children who are not toddlers. Theplog natural playspaces will be accessible to all ages, and so they should be. However I like the idea of a legitimate kick about area on the periphery of the estate and the thought that a wheeled play space could be created on the crazy paving on the Caxton Hall corner. I feel a similar offer should be made at other appropriate junctions on the estate to avoid the increasing East West divide that is being reported and unfortunately is being associated with race/ colour/culture difference. These need not be a costly offer, neither should they be all sports courts and attractive only to boys. The village green space outside the Temple could include a small area for this purpose. There were two spaces around (redacted 2) that I wanted to bring to your attention. There is a raised grassy verge running along the wall lining the walkway going towards the ball cage . This could be a very desirable strip of doorstep playspace. But it needs punctum It needs some . there there (to borrow from Gertrude Stein.) This could be
  • 12. NovEMbEr 2008 something as simple as creating a buttercup lawn on it. The th 12 other space is squeezed between two blocks east of the space that Juliah sees as an orchard. Again, this could be made lovely and playable with wildflower planting. Remember what I was saying about the natural elements providing seasonalPL AY TIMES loose parts (In playwork terms these are bits and pieces of stuff that can be anything) . making and sharing play memories in Two final thoughts. london’s east end One from a play consultant called Tim Gill, he speaks of playable spaces By this he means spaces which hold a . variety of play offers. A small child can play with mates/ sibs without an adult, but on the doorstep, close enough to be seen from a kitchen window.. for slightly older children, there is a little pool of a place nearby that they can playing a little bit more adventurously, but still overlooked, held by the watching eyes. The older children can roam to a space where they can play independently, the ball court or adventure playground or nearby park-like space (very conveniently you have one at each end of this estate. It should be said that all of these playable spaces should be welcoming for play by elders and young parents etc. They should enhance the space for the whole community. The final thought is that all playspaces should be compensat- ory environments. in an urban setting this means findingPL AY T IME S quirky ingredients, no branding, natural elements,plog attractive points of reference, a flexibility of use, curves and difference in texture and design, lighting that is beautiful in fact a great aesthetic all round, planting that can be pilfered for play, touched , smelt or eaten, as in the edible fence plan. Kids should be able to find quiet space shade and shelter, an perhaps most important of all, they should feel that they are in a permissive welcoming space that is part of their home-life experience. It should be noted that the architect of the Malmesbury Estate was, in the eyes of the playworker at least, a genius. Does anyone know who he/she was? I want to award a medal. With best wishes and a huge amount of excitement.
  • 13. NovEMbEr 2008 clever criticism, 14 th because without how will we improve?PL AY TIMES below is an email from Ian at Glamis, outlining some questions and concerns about the making and sharing project. play memories in london’s east end From: Glamis Adventure Sent: 12 November 2008 15:53 To: Penny Wilson Subject: Play q / rant from Ian Hi Penny, I welcome and support the Play Memories project. It is a terrible inditment of society and the playwork profession that the last place that we can imagine the Playwork Principles working is in public. I agree that reclaiming the streets and other public areas to make playable spaces is a far more valuable task for playwork than the current focus on contained ghettos. Ghettos where the needs of adults especially employed playworkers will always prevail. But whilst play memories can be a very powerful tool forPL AY T IME S promoting play there are other realities:plog • Memory is wonderfully subjective. Ask about a play memory and like a memory of school its the exciting, naughty rather than the dull or conformist that we feel like promoting. A lot of children were not having such a good time, (what are they doing in the Osborn Street window?). A lot of children were excluded A lot of things are not remembered or wont be told. Photos, like memories are chosen. • I hope we dont spend too much time revering a mythical arcadia. Like any missionaries the key is to insure that the message fits the local reality. Tower Hamlets suffers from many things including misty eyed missionaries and a view of the good-old-days. Check the jacket cover of Family and Kinship in East London by Michael Young <http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000035796,00. html> and Co. for a lovely image of play AND their latter book The “New East End” for a blistering critic of the disruptive effect of interfering do-gooders.
  • 14. NovEMbEr 2008 • There are still children who cant play out. I like 14 th to think of GAP being like a seed bank keeping an alternative alive in hostile environment. Yes I had a smile of recognition at the tribe of free playing boys / tooled up rebel fighters roaming the estate onPL AY TIMES Bonfire Night. But I also know that some of the reasons that this tiny minority were out and other children were making and sharing indoors are linked to fear of crime, drugs and violence. play memories in These fears are legitimate. And there was more space, london’s east end less cars and a more homogenous community. Childhood has as Sue Parmer describes become a toxic mix of fear and consumerism. • What went wrong with the dream of the social engineers, philanthropists, playworkers? (see “The New East End”). Some of the reasons for this lie in a miss understanding of the realities of power. We are where we are architecturally and socially – there are very real deep roots that effect the current state of play. In our current climate this means making subtle professional judgments. Playworkers need to recognise where power lies if we are to affect change in a real word owned, segregated and controlled by powerful interest groups. • For playworkers in our little ghettos papering over the chasms in provision and trying to compensate for the sad lack of playable spaces, we can see our projectsPL AY T IME S as oasiss in a hostile environment so children canplog experiment with things like digging holes, playing with fire, having arguments and just hanging out. This might sound easy but this is not: • Playworkers are badly paid, terribly managed and often totally confused as to what their role is as they attempt to deal with the effects of a society that places so little value on children. Some playworkers are faced with really aggressive behaviour from children and adults. • Whos needs? Real play opportunities for children need to be bases on a thorough understanding of the Play Principles current fixation with the new and innovative and following funding that is not holistically play based has not helped) But we are were we are lets be carful . not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Am I jaded or naive to worry about the play that would go on with the fairy lights after Tinkerbelle has left? No the Play Memories project is managed by idealists with their
  • 15. NovEMbEr 2008 feet on the ground and a real understanding of the where we 14 th have come from, where we are now and where we want to be. Childhood memories can be an incredibly motivating force – I loved your description of the eureka moment withPL AY TIMES the planning officer. I hope that Play Memories stirs the imagination and pulls the heart and financial strings making and sharing of people in power so that playgrounds eventually play memories in become irrelevant. london’s east end Lets make the future playful for the children of Sylhet farmers, labours from Eastern Europe and cockneys. Ian Glamis Adventure Playground And here is Pennys response. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts on this, and any questions you might have. Like obama, we will listen, especially when we disagree. From: Penny Wilson Sent: 12 November 2008 18:05 To: Penny Wilson Subject: RE: Play q / rant from Ian Ian. I agree with every word you say. These thoughts were an important part of my thinking when the project was in itsPL AY T IME S very long gestation period.plog A playworker who I really value and respect made similar clear criticisms of the project when I discussed it with her. She said that play memories can be very misty coloured and encourage us to remember not the way we actually were, but the sepia tinted version of a world edited right through selective publication-the telling process. I have shared memories of play with folks from all over the world. Many times, in each group, one becomes accutely aware that there are deep, hurting, private memories which are not for publication. These unspoken thoughts also feed the memory of the sentieny child. The thinking person, whole, because of scale, is easier to treat as without emmotional intelligence-as so often happens with children with disabilities. What I never do is probe this moment. Not appropriate that.
  • 16. NovEMbEr 2008 What I do do is mention annecdotes about children working 14 th out their problems through their play.. Using it as a self analytical tool, a way to understand the harshness of their world/life experience. Play as a philosphical language of childhood. If there werePL AY TIMES eureka moments before, they appear again at this point. making and sharing Yes, playing does/did do that! Add to this the traumatic play memories in interventions of war and architecture splitting that london’s east end cohesive community…. PenPL AY T IME Splog
  • 17. DEcEMbEr 2008 th 09PL AY TIMES & making and sharing play memories in Ge nder, Play london’s east end corporate consumerism I have posted on my personal blog about a battle currently underway in Sweden between Swedens Trade Ethical council Against Sexism inPL AY T IME S Advertising (ErK) and Lego that encompasses issues of gender in toyplog manufacturing and marketing. You can read it here http://playeverything.wordpress.com/
  • 18. DEcEMbEr 2008 liminal th 16 spacesPL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end Penny has a pet theory that is close to both her heart and working practice – that of liminal spaces. Shes often asked to describe, define or just explain what she means by the term, but this is difficult when the term itself is trying to capture the elusive and articulate a sense of the indefinable, the changeable and the fluid. below is a piece shes written to elucidate the term and to suggest application of this idea to one place in particular. Feel free to use it, so long as you give her credit! A liminal space is a space that has no one places where playing is possible. Like a loose fixed purpose. part, these space can be anything/where that Like the sea shore it is sometimes watery the children need them to be for their play- T to swim, paddle or fish in, and sometimes ing. dry to walk on and discover shells and build wo areas of Mile End Park have castles. been identified for an experi- Traditionally liminal spaces are associated ment with this concept. ThesePL AY T IME S with mystery, ritual and a certain sense of are very natural, wooded spaces.plog the poetic. Translated into playwork terms one is on the corner of the park adjoining this phrase captures for me that spaces where the canal tow-path (as near as we have to a children are drawn to play. Let’s return to sea shore), and the other is land that runs the shore. Nicholson cites this as the ideal beside a raised section of railway track – a playspace because of the loose parts to be place usually passed by at great speed and discovered. could it be that the sense of completely overlooked. From conversations fluctuation and transition is also powerful we understand that most people are utterly and appealing to us? I frequently find that unaware of these two spaces. it is the “spaces between” that are most fas- The concept is simple: to use the space as cinating to children. one little corner or a a player, and lure the child into play with school playground, between the kitchen and a series of artifacts which act as play cues. the bike shed, or under the fire escape. The These artifacts will contain references to en- space behind the structures of an Adventure tering and leaving the spaces, or will mirror Playground where the kids build small fan- an overlooked or unexpected aspect of the tasy islands from scraps of moss and twigs spaces, literally in some instances, the urban and stones. child will be offered a mirrored surface to see In an over-crowded urban setting where themselves reflected in nature rather than a space is defined by concrete, by permiss- shop-front or a car wing mirror.. In mark- able and impermissable use and access, both ing these, the artifacts offer new ways for the playworker and child are on the lookout for child to be there, and to feel themselves to be
  • 19. DEcEMbEr 2008 present. All of the play cues are intended not opposite of the new ‘Adizone’ at another loca- th 16 to become play equipment, but as to re-frame tion in the park, with its bright colours and the natural surroundings and invite the chil- bold location it is highly visible and depends dren to engage with them through play. for its function on moving from one piece of Examples include: equipment to the next.PL AY TIMES • A ruined archway at one entrance to the The liminal space is contrived to create a space. trail of breadcrumbs to an unknown stretch making and sharing • Seasonal floral plantings to articulate of forest, as much suggested as imagined. As play memories in the non-existant edges of a non-existant you experience being in the forest you dis- london’s east end pathway. cover for yourself another breadcrumb that • Stepping stones leading into a thicket leads to a tree to climb or a log to balance on with a half-hidden clearing. or a den to build. • bells or small mirrors stringing through All the artifacts have a fairy tale flavour the branches of a tree. to them that is more brothers Grimm than To these, add the swivelling railings on a free- Walt Disney. standing piece of fence, apropos of nothing, or a gate leading to no-where, and we can begin to imagine the site. It is the complete PennyWilson© December 2008PL AY T IME Splog
  • 20. jANUArY2009 W th 07 eve been talking and thinking a lot about playgrounds in Amsterdam, not least because Penny is freshly returned from a trip over there and very enthusiastic. However, as is usually the case, once we started making connections to and through Amsterdams playspaces they seemed to be everywhere!PL AY TIMES Weve had this book on the projects bookshelf since the beginning: a mster da m and its a remarkably interesting making and sharing play memories in london’s east end playgrounds collection of images, interviews and writing that starts with a generous notion of play that includes playgrounds, public art and urban golf. The authors – a theorist and an architecture firm – then go on to address how places for play enable connections between people, and consider how this understanding might develop new models for design practice. Some of the playgrounds in this book are in Amsterdam and designed by Aldo van Eyck, who in his career starting at Amsterdam Public Works provided the designs for some 700 playgrounds across the city, and the inspiration for many more across the world. I grew up in Southern california, scrambling around the metal tumbling bars that hed designed some 40 years and 10,000 miles away.PL AY T IME S central to his design strategy was an understanding of howplog these often small locations tied together to create a network of play opportunities throughout the city, places where the seeds of community were sewn, where the city was not to be viewed or consumed but experienced. Archis No. 3,2002 (where this article comes from) also offers a psychogeographic cycle tour of Amsterdam playgrounds by Aldo van Eyck, encompassing the sites of about 40 playgrounds within the citys ring road. For those seeking a more armchair- based exploration, Sara Winter has a lovely set of images up on Flickr, and more on her blog.
  • 21. jANUArY2009 th 20 We went for another walkabout last week, and talked to a couple of teenagers (Asian-british males) who had been born and raised on the estate about local play opportunities. They were perched against a railing in between a torn-upPL AY TIMES playground and a parking lot. Their responses are as follow to my questions. making and sharing an play memories in What happened to over there now and its dirty as london’s east end the playground over hell, man.” there? “The council came and And for the teenagers? tore all that (equipment) up. About five, maybe ten years ago? They were interview “Theres a youth club. Its supposed to be open 6-9, but you know. The workers are all old, its with going to build flat there, so funny. Theyre all smoking all tear up those buildings the time, before they arrive, you behind as well. Didnt know? Theyre all getting sacked take those though. but now, because of that but because two there used to be loads of theyre old so none of them went kids playing there. Every to school, no degrees or nothing. summer thered be bare Some of them play mad pool kids, just running and though!” teenagers that. They had parties there and everything, Maybe it was the run-up toPL AY T IME S man.” yesterdays blue Monday, but allplog of this got me to thinking. We Where do kids play now? wandered around that torn-up playspace, “In the stairwells. The hallways in those now yet another dog toilet, and read the scars buildings there, and there. Its a bad place on the tarmac for original design in the way though, the walls are covered in piss. Even we do every time. on this project we have the police dont like coming in. His little been to place after place, once designated brother nearly died, man. He climbs stuff, playgrounds in the centre of housing estates, and so he was climbing up that scaffolding but now vacant lots. We see places where there and fell off.” equipment has been torn up, where its cracked or shredded from people training Where else might kids go? their dogs to attack the seats, and we see “Theres some playgrounds that way, but its peeling safety surface thats become a Petri across the road. besides, thats the E3/E14 dish for varieties of mould. That mould is the boundary right? So even if the kids could go only growing thing that seems at home there. over there, they wouldnt. Thats why theyre indoors all the time.” Each time we see the sign of the thing – the thing being play, a place for children outdoors Who uses that former playspace? – but we do not see the thing itself. We see “Its for dogs now. They just come in, drop the shape of its absence, conjure up the ghosts the dogs in and shut the gates. They run all of games, laughter, the testing of growing
  • 22. jANUArY2009 th 20 selves that must have happened there. on the same time, it feels culturally deliberate. that last grey wandering, the repetitive sense It feels like the erasure of children from the of loss and emptiness reminded me of trips public realm, and I think it is. Why and how to old European cities and all those signs were childrens places, childrens tangible that say “This used to be the ghetto”. This rights as citizens, eradicated from the centrePL AY TIMES sounds like an extreme comparison (perhaps of public housing? From the centre of public especially when made by a jew), but when I life? And why would the people looking out making and sharing go to all these different places and find that their window prefer a socially sterile and play memories in people in power have attempted to remove abandoned-looking dog toilet to a thriving london’s east end play from the public sphere, all at roughly play space?PL AY T IME Splog
  • 23. jANUArY2009 th Progress frustrated by 28 change?PL AY TIMES Below is pennys sheffield square, following a numBer of update on team Brainstorming sessions, of making lovely drawings and costing making and sharing play memories in elements and warming ourselves through this cold January on the toasty london’s east end possiBilities of this space . So… I turn up at Sheffield Square in a warm The site has been turned into a building site jacket, brand new sticks of chalk in the pock- office with port-a-cabins and port-a-loos and et, christmas tape measure on its maiden blokes in hard hats and lots of scaffand tea voyage. I am putting the last strokes to the and mud and no room for children at all. No designs we have whipped up to make a mag- room for twinkling fairy lights in the trees ic playspace with a tiny budget of £2K, on or wildflower seed planting, no village pump this bleak stretch of tarmac the details of the feeding the stream designed to meander project scamper around in my head as I walk around the dip in the tarmac near the surface towards the space. drain, no marine ply throne shapes to trans- We are planning to hold play sessions form the seatless benches of forty years ago… while weave willow into the fences We are This work is a constant series of setbacks meeting with residents to and re-inventions, of gather stories about their extreme hope and pro- play memories and offer found disappointment;PL AY T IME S them training to support of visionary, dynamicplog their childrens play. We and dedicated employees have useful bits and pieces of the council and reg- of reclaimed wood,stone and istered Social landlords fence squirreled away in a and voluntary sector peo- scrap yard. We have plans to ple and of complete jobs- plant a living climbing tree. worth duffers who are I am working out how to without passion or pride do some of the construction in their work, who hin- work that is needed myself der, halt and make stale and still fit in office and de- the work of others. velopment work… So, through enept plan- Anyway this is the last of my preparatory ning and efficient bungling I am forced to visits. Next time I have planned to glue tis- break the promise to turn Sheffield Square sue paper letters to the tarmac (PLAY!), dis- into a playground by the end of March. The tribute the flyers, , three on each photocopied children have less room and freedom to play sheet. and chalk arrows and information ad- than they did before I made that promise. vertising the session on the walkways all over The funding is lost. The willows missing the estate. The school will know and estates their season. The goodwill and trust betrayed. officers have been informed. “Them do-gooders, they come in here from the Then I round the corner and find this: outside, making their promises and then they
  • 24. jANUArY2009 th 28 go away and you never hear or see em again… In what other profession would equip me people here have learned to expect to be let to expect the unexpected, prepare me for the down. Its going to do folks no favours if I constant devaluation of the work that I do mope about this. So I put on my High reso- and the experience that I have and still let me lution (Hi res) playwork warm jacket, pick love my work so much that I am enthusiasticPL AY TIMES myself up, dust myself off and plan all over and optimistic again by the end of a day like again. this one. making and sharing back to the team with an optimistic plan. I think it helped that this was the day that play memories in back to the funder with a justification for President obama was inaugurated. If he can london’s east end non-delivery of sessions that does not look become president of the United States of like a fumbling excuse. America (I hear Hendrix spitting out the star I am so glad that I am a Playworker... No strangled, (sic) banner), then we can make seriously. Tower Hamlets playful, (I hear Aretha.)PL AY T IME Splog
  • 25. FEbrUArY2009 A th 04 couple of weeks ago we went empty room at the other end, I grew more and walking through our patch, more angry. The question of whether or not coming across a little playground, playspaces should be fenced is an old one. We marked out with fixed equipment tend to fall on the side of gates and fences for a and brightly coloured safety surface. It was number of reasons – to increase inclusivity byPL AY TIMES fenced in, central to the estate and reached making provision for children with disabilities by sets of staggered who can be considered look, but making and sharing pathways. ‘flight risks’, to separate play memories in It wasn’t terrible. the space for those london’s east end Lots of fixed exercizing their pets equipment which and to state clearly that dont play we’re not particularly this place is different disposed towards, from others, that this and someone had place is for children’s been training their play. dog on the rubber seats and wooden benches, Implied in this argument, however, are two but there are lush plantings around the edge points: and some thought had been given to the • That specified provision such as playgrounds demarcation of spaces. The housing estate are not to be viewed as the ‘only’ places where made for a pleasing courtyard effect and most play is appropriate, but instead located in a importantly it was clearly a part of the public considered and playable public realm. realm set aside for play. The opening hours • That these gates are opened so that children were clearly signposted and we were there can come in! when it was supposed to be unlocked. only on a far happier note, however, the amazing one problem. weather we’ve been having has suppliedPL AY T IME S It wasn’t. the whole city with high value natural playplog The anti-climb paint and padlocked gate material – snow! With traffic at a standstill turned the playspace into a fortress – and in and schools and offices closed, people emptied prime midweek afterschool hours too. The out into the streets and the parks to build, sign also had a number to ring in case of fight, scuffle and explore. Adults and children emergency, so I rang it. The call was not free, played out together, as the ‘adverse weather and once I’d waited through interminable conditions’ for daily routines proved to be the automated messages, it wasn’t answered either. perfect weather conditions for play. As the phone rang and rang in the presumably
  • 26. FEbrUArY2009 th 13 s at u r d ay bbQPL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end on Saturday we set up camp from 12 – 3 in the post-playground tarmac space that forms a courtyard for an estate in our area.PL AY T IME Splog We wanted to play through information There will be another post that looks more on some of the changes that we’ve proposed specifically at the ‘consultation’ aspect of this for this space, talk with them about their day, but I wanted one just to celebrate the needs and desires for their doorstep play fun that was had – because play is the point, opportunities and share some of our ideas. after all. but this was a play session, not consultation, It was the brightest of winter bar-be-ques, and like every good play session it developed and a pleasure and privilege to meet the into something richer, more vibrant and wonderful children who live there. There are fantastic than we could have imagined. many more pictures hosted on our Flickr page
  • 27. FEbrUArY2009 th 15 Tenants & residents Association response to saturdayPL AY TIMES The local Tenants and residents Association sent us a lovely email following Saturday’s bbQ, and some quotes follow here: making and sharing play memories in I am glad to hear the event went well. I had no doubt london’s east end you would be able to attract children as most of the play spaces on the estate are similar to that play space. The play spaces are in a square shape enclosed around the residents’ buildings (some having their front gardens opposite the play space while others with their back garden opposite the play space) I expect . most of these children are those that live in the buildings surrounded by the play space. The play spaces are underutilised, because there isn’t any play equipment in any of the play areas on the estate. This is why it is essential that LBTH rebuilds these spaces with proper play equipment for the children. In terms of understanding the needs of the estate and engaging the estate, we (the Residents Assocation) have also carried out questionnaires in the past to ask whatPL AY T IME S people want on the estate. In relation to this project,plog we have had a large number of requests for play spaces to be properly equipped with play equipment from people (mainly parents with youngchildren) all over the Estate. I t’s wonderful to see that the Tenants and their parents chatting to one another all residents Association understand the the while. Public space would accomodate need for vibrant play spaces in the estate, everyone, and in so doing help create a sense and understandable that the residents of cultural cohesion, of social belonging, and are vocal about the need for them considering of possibility. how many children are currently living there. That’s why we’re hoping not just to run a Play equipment helps to advertise that a space few exciting play sessions for the children, is set aside for children, that their needs have but to demonstrate how much can be done been provided for by those in power. with how little, to engage the local residents The thing is, play is about more than in a dialogue about play and the public equipment and children’s needs ought to be realm, and to change people’s perceptions considered in all the decisions of design in of the open spaces between their houses into the public realm. In an ideal world children something more colourful, more fluid, more would be playing out all over the place, playful for everyone.
  • 28. FEbrUArY2009 th 17 We’ve started running twice-weekly sessions on an- other local site, a high flat windy spot surrounded by es- tate houses. There’s a massivePL AY TIMES grassy slope and a flat tarmac section with the scars left Tuesday making and sharing from long-gone play equip- play memories in ment. one boy we spoke london’s east end to told it was called “The Dump” by local children, but some others said that they’d had a difficult time finding it, after seeing the Session over the tree and construct- play session advertisement ing it. He gave himself diffi- distributed by the housing culties and challenges which association. was really interesting to see. Here are some of rainer’s He finally made a flying fox notes from the session: through getting the hoop We had 6 children, not bad down from the tree with the for beginning. It was cold, a rope and then hanging the o bit of an icy wind. hoop as a swing. Sliding the ne mum came hoop along the rope didn’t with her girl quite work of course but and baby. She he hung on the rope upsidePL AY T IME S was enthusias- down and he looked like anplog tic about the idea of offering acrobat. I think he had lots of play sessions. She said there fun and his friend was more is nothing around and she the hair designer type con- is very frustrated. Another stantly talking on his phone mum brought her 2 sons and with his other mates and daughter. The older daughter bossing a bit around. Sorry was waiting for us for weeks no offence, he was hilarious. and was so happy that we fi- The rope is such a good nally made it. thing for older children but Two older boys came along as well the younger once be- and of course they weren’t up came interested and played for making things out of tis- with it. sue paper. but the rope was I loved the snow fight with interesting and they basically the rest of the snow! played for an hour with that. Especially one of them was Location - Ollerton Green Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 0 immersed in how to get it Total = 2
  • 29. FEbrUArY2009 th 20PL AY TIMES Thursday Session making and sharing play memories in london’s east end on Thursdays we’ve been After creative experimen- returning to the high windy tation with the rope that had spot from Tuesday, and be- happened within our first low are some of Zoe’s notes session there, the two boys from a session: now knew how exactly they Thursday was a rainy (and could create their swing. As almost snowy) day. We were they repeated this model, at the site on time. We pre- the swing was ready in a few pared the site by ‘decorat- minutes. After this, it was ing’ it as we aimed to leave just pure fun. our marks on the landscape The boys, and then us (the (such as paper flowers on the playworkers), we all experi- bushes-trees) for people to enced the swing-event. We find. We emptied our bags in were loudly laughing and which we had tissue papers, this attracted other children’s scissors, rope and a variety of curiosity. both children and A other material. their parents were comingPL AY T IME S fter 20 minutes out in their balconies ob-plog we saw the two serving what we were doing. teenager boys As a result, three younger (they are cous- children came out to play ins) that had played in our with the swing. children first session at this spot. They were clearly very excited and were then very excited experi- wanted to make sure when menting with making a rope- we are going back. swing. They passed us and re-assured us that they are Location - Ollerton Green Children - Girl: 5, Boys: 5 going to bring a tire for the Total = 10 rope-swing. After a while, we saw them wheeling the tire, anticipating attaching it to the rope.
  • 30. MArcH2009 02 nd M a k i n gPL AY TIMES connec- making and sharing play memories in london’s east end tions I took some notes during Thursday’s session, with the intention of creating a sort of snapshot of play. Here it is: Some children, of course, are bolder in this They are arriving now, eager and out of than others, more boisterous. A couple of breath, in twos and threes and fours. They weeks ago a girl of about 8 stood next to me are climbing up brick walls to reach the and watched the others play a mad racing green and sighing, throwing their shoulders game of pretending to drown in the tarmac in frustration if they can’t make the climb square, and of being eaten by sharks. She and are forced to walk around. once there seemed a little old for this game, a little too the older boys rig up a rope swing, stuffing the self-conscious to go ahead and play it anyway. wet tire with bright wads of tissue paper, while Furthermore, the others all had siblings there two girls spread out the tarpaulin and begin and she had come alone. She’d told me before making paper flowers. one small boy, seen that on the days we weren’t there she tendedPL AY T IME S for once without his older sister, flits between to read novels on the sofa. She seemed moreplog them and the swing. Smaller boys arrive, aged comfortable at times with playworkers than 5 or 6, and congregate from different corners with peers, and was almost always the last around a small red ball. child to leave. once rainer and I had run The amazing thing for me is how few of with her, carrying the tarp between us as an them knew one another before we started enormous billowing flag, and she turned to coming. me then and mentioned this, saying “maybe We bring very little with us but by being the other children would want to play that there we change the dynamic of the place. with us?” on more than one occasion we have arrived Apart from the ideas we bring, the small to see little faces pressed up against kitchen pieces of equipment and the encouragement windows, the children waiting for us to arrive we offer, we are a handy excuse. For children before they are allowed out. The children we whose parents don’t normally let them have met (and their friends whom we haven’t) play out, and for children seeking to make are kept indoors for a variety of reasons – extra introductions. We picked up the tarp and studies, fear of strangers, dogs or traffic, even ran with it, the loud cracks of it snapping in I something as common as the rain. the wind drawing the other children over to ’ve watched the children make subtle investigate. S. had made her introductions, negotiations towards friendship, seen shown them that she had ideas for play and them unite in the common purpose of engaged with them on her own terms. by the making a rope swing or playing football. time we left they were all playing hide and
  • 31. MArcH2009 nd 02 seek together, big children looking after small their lives more out of doors than they do across family lines. today, chatting over fences and all keeping It was a strong indication to us of how an eye on children collectively, rather than much children’s social links have dissolved individually. just as a person with a number over the years. If children don’t play out they of friends is more likely to go out, more likelyPL AY TIMES don’t know one another – even if they were to make new social connections through old all born on a small estate, lived there all their ones, so the reverse is true. Isolation breeds making and sharing lives and attend local schools. If a child has isolation, in children and adults. Parents play memories in few friends nearby, they are even less likely who tell children not to talk to strangers london’s east end to be allowed out to play, and less likely to find themselves stuck, now that everyone is a want to. The thing is, their parents are in the stranger. That is the cycle we mean to change, same position. one boy said that his mother, through working with children and adults to who has lived on the estate for years, “doesn’t reinvigorate doorstep play, and to help adults know anyone really.” recollect their experiences and perhaps form Part of the reason why children used to new connections. be allowed out to play is because adults livedPL AY T IME Splog
  • 32. MArcH2009 th 26 We’ve been thinking lately about small are glass universes that joins others in games. worlds in play. In our estates-based work, In so doing they powerfully transform the small worlds play offer different ways to think public realm. Marbles turn pavement cracks about play and space than our usual concerns into obstacles, holes into goals, other children of public and private places, of the permeabil- into play partners,and the outside world intoPL AY TIMES ity of the site and play frame, of observation a place for children’s play. and alteration. on a recent visit to one site, small making and sharing we brought bags of miniature play memories in trains, figurines, cars and ani- london’s east end mals and while the drawing ma- Worlds terials, balloons and so on that we also brought proved popular enough, it was these little items that the children engaged with particularly. by the end they had nearly all disappeared into hot S hands and pockets. mall objects are potent. There is something compelling in the abrupt changes of scale that make a train fit in the palm of your hand, that render the player both enormous as a deity and small enough to peer into the windows of tiny houses. There is something intimate about them, something absorbing in theirPL AY T IME S detail. The possibilities of small worlds areplog enormous within estates-based work, because they offer portable universes of play that can be hidden in a pocket. In playing with that scale, that intimacy, small worlds are located within the individual mind and can thus be everywhere, anywhere, at any time. They are places that are owned and managed by the child but can be shared, their rules expressed, discussed and evolved through argument. They are treasures, and treasured. The classic example is the humble and nostalgic marble. Exquisitely beautiful, these
  • 33. APrIL2009 07 th rememberingPL AY TIMES making and sharing Your play memories in london’s east end East End A big part of this project is the collection and sharing of play memories. Some residents of the East End have lived here all their lives, while others have come from places all over the world. For each of the adults we spoke to, however, the world of their childhood has beenPL AY T IME S radically different to the oneplog surrounding them today. one website speaks to that difference. This site is part of Age Exchange, the UK’s leading reminiscence arts charity, and is rich with the oral histories of long-time area residents. We’ve listed the memoirs of individual authors on our bibliogra- phy page, but there’s something particularly compelling about the chorus of voices speaking here and the lost microcosm that they call up. We live in the same streets they’re speaking of, but they’re nearly unrecognizable from the photographs. Not only has the landscape changed dramatically in that time, but so have the ways in which people experience it. Even the picture below, one of many we’ve seen of this game, demonstrates a freedom to transform public space into playspace that was once taken for granted. We hope that by encouraging adults of all ages to remember their own play memories we’ll slowly make advocates of the whole community, so that once again these streets can be used by children for play. Location - Ollerton Green Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 10 Total = 15
  • 34. APrIL2009 st 21PL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end rain play? stops Not in Tower Hamlets! any Americans out there) and some washing We ran a session the other day, arriving in up liquid we dammed the drain at the centre cold and wet conditions. We built a fort out of a large tarmac surface. of scrap fabric to provide shelter for the other, We whisked up some bubbles and staredPL AY T IME S more perishable, materials and set about play. for ages at the landscapes made by the clearplog With only a roll of cling film (Sarah Wrap for plastic, but the air pockets and rainbow froth. We set up lengths of film running between the railings that were, at different times: drums for the rain to beat upon, the web of a giant spider, lane markers for races and tracks along which bright green alien foam could be charged. Then, when our visit was over, we took down the lengths of plastic and let the soap bubbles wash away down the drain. I walked home covered in green soap, my hair practi- cally lathered, amazed as ever at how much can be done with so little. And, it was the cleanest messy play I’ve ever seen.
  • 35. APrIL2009 th 28 Aliens, Gold Treasure brush. children have asked for these things or at least & wondered what they could do with it.PL AY TIMES Very Scary Hands Lots of questions and excitement what we have brought for them they all making and sharing started gathering in one cor- play memories in r ner carefully checking and london’s east end ecently we decided to set up a finding out what’s there for them. play session that worked with two First I felt stressed out by all the missing sites, rather than just one. These bits and the mess in the bags (except the are two squares surrounded by beautiful material), but then I felt it is actu- houses, but although they are closely linked ally quite ideal to bring imperfect bags for by paved paths you cannot see from one to this site and project. The kids have a chance another. From previous sessions we found to learn how to improvise and we as adults that children tended to come from the houses and playworkers have a chance to be imper- on the edge of the site, and we wondered how fect as well. It felt right not to bring them these two neighboring groups might be more ‘ready made food’ but just parts so they can integrated through play. find solutions and develop there skills and This is an on-going effort with weekly ses- imagination with those parts. sions. below are some excerpts from rainer’s And they did improvise: diary from the day. I have blanked out the Sharing the corn flour, they really liked stir- names of the spaces to preserve the anonym- ring and filling and touching the mass which ity and that of the children. they seem to experience between disgust andPL AY T IME S We have set up A— Walk with corn flour fascination.plog and water, lots of fabric, decoration, jewelers Painting with yellow paint the plates and and musical instruments. on fabric. Then later they started painting With crayon we have marked with arrows their hands which then developed into scary and writing ‘play’ on the ground along the hands and chasing after each other. That mo- pathway between the sites to signpost the ses- ment spread the play into the whole of the sions.. square and developed more of an authority M We drew a circle in the middle of c— of their space. Square in which we put a bowl with corn usical instruments sounded flour and water. Suggesting play more dis- constantly somewhere and tantly and quietly. Penny put some bangles in reflection felt like a sound on one of the trees besides the fence. It looked carpet the kids constantly rec- like a secret tree/jewelers mini garden. reated. The bell and the shakers were most During the session Penny wandered between popular. The drum was sometimes used as an the two sites to be ready for intervention or aggression tool by some of the older boys and not if some kids would show up on c. needed reminding that it could break. The session on A— was very quickly filled The first phase of the session had a desper- with children. I have realized that we have ate feel to it. The kids made it very depend- had mainly rests of stuff in our bag. No ant on what we have brought for them. one string to use with the beads, just a bit of corn music shaker went missing and one girl was flour, one yellow paint but no paper and no just about to steal the second one when I saw
  • 36. APrIL2009 T th 28 her and asked her not to take it and she has he very last phase the autistic boy put it back. from one of the families joined the After a while the session established more site. His imaginative play fit easily free play and felt more grounded. The kids into the site and the atmosphere. were finding their very own space and being He was hiding and rolling in the fabric, play-PL AY TIMES creative with what is given and accepting. ing with the bell and then asked me: what’s The fabric was then used for dressing up and that all about here? I told him we are all hav- making and sharing role play, the red string became hair on top ing fun. Well, he seemed to understand im- play memories in of the head, Inga was doing shelter building mediately. london’s east end with one of the girls. He came up with a story of good and bad rough and tumble with the yellow hands aliens, all visible in the sky and behind the developed especially with one of the older bushes. Suddenly he discovered the golden boys who was in in-between a child and a beads and was persuaded that he found gold. teenager. The Somalia family brought some In seconds the whole site were looking for lovely food for all of us to share in the shelter. gold and collecting all the beads excitingly What a wonderful moment that was eating from the ground, always running towards all together. me when one has found one bead, shouting I It suddenly felt like a community on the have found one and I put them together with square sharing, playing and hanging out to- one of the girls. gether with a sense of children had author- As Penny put it, this was a wonderful ex- ity of their own space. It felt the play (mess) ample of inclusive play. The imagination of space created a powerful and positive message the autistic boy filled the space and brought to all the adults around in the estate although every child into a shared imaginary game. unusual and new for the estate. This game was the start of tidying up the site An older boy played football within the and all the kids helped with the rest of it in aPL AY T IME S square, first with his brothers just for a few playful manner.plog minutes, but then kept playing and gave me Walking over to c. the corn flour + bowl cues to continue with him. It was wonderful was gone. Someone seemed to be interested how all those play types were possible within for some or another reason. Hope he or she the same space and time. Gentleness besides had fun! more rough or sporty games, but everyone Location - Ollerton Green Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 9 seemed flexible and happy to change crea- Total = 14 tively through new impulses from each other.
  • 37. MAY2009 04 th c lara Grant was a primary school teacher and settlement worker in London’s East End, who moved from the West country to bow at the turn of the last century. She became Head Teacher at the Infant’s School in Devon’s road in 1900, quicklyPL AY TIMES instituting a number of thoughtful changes that directly improved the lives of the children in her care. making and sharing She revised class room techniques of structure and play memories in punishment, provided a hot breakfast for the children london’s east end in her care, supplied them with some clothes and shoes and – most famously – created and distributed Farthing bundles. Intended to provide children with toys to call their own, they were available for a token cost and the proceeds were directed back into the Settlement funds. These packages eventually earned her the affectionate nickname of the bundle Woman of bow. “Farthing bundles are full of very human things such as chdren love,” clara explained. “Tiny toys of wood, or tin, whole or broken, little balls, doll-less heads or head- clara Grant & the less dolls, whistles, shells, beads, reels, marbles, fancy boxes, Farthing bundles decorated pill boxes, scraps of patchwork, odds and ends of silkPL AY T IME S or wool, coloured paper for dressing up, cigarette cards and scraps.”plog These proved so popular that children were queuing up from quarter to seven in the morning, even though they only went on sale from eight. They tried various methods of limiting the Queuing for Farthing bundles in Fern Street, 1930s numbers but they were still selling far more than was practical and in 1913 the famous wooden arch was introduced. Emblazoned with the legend “Enter Now Ye children Small, None can come Who Are Too Tall”, this limited the bundles to the youngest residents. She died in 1949, shortly after receiving an obE from, but farthing bundles were sold until 1984, the school was renamed the clara Grant Primary School in 1993 and the Fern Street Settlement continues as a centre for the local communities to this day. Her grave is in Tower Hamlets cemetery Park, with a head stone in the shape of an open book. I recently went past it, and saw someone had added a wooden arch, in memory of one of the remarkable people who dedicated their lives to improving those of their neighbors in London’s East End.
  • 38. MAY2009 18 th one littlePL AY TIMES Pathfinder I making and sharing play memories in am lucky enough to live in a rocks and rubble were deposited by the truck london’s east end relatively quiet part of town. There are load, and at this point there were children large council estates all around and cer- there whenever I passed, before school, after tainly many barriers to children’s play- school and all weekend, throwing dirt at one ing outdoors, but at the end of my road is a another and kicking the stones into piles and little dead-end street faced by kitchen win- out again. It was an unintended but glorious dows, where children kick balls, whisper in demonstration of loose parts theory. doorways and blow bubbles. This is rare, This I did not see, but my housemate told particularly in London, and gives me the me she had passed a police officer shouting at vague impression at times of walking past the some children there, “You, throwing rocks! 1950’s. opposite them is a small rectangular Stop that now! I can see you!” green where children play football with their Dirt came again, massive piles of it that friends or fathers, where mothers push ba- were shifted into a small mountain over the bies and toddlers stumble through the grass. rubble and scattered into sweeping drifts that This little green has been identified as a Path- had small leafy plants plugged into them at finder play space and is currently receiving a regular intervals. A slide was set up, one end makeover. firmly embedded in the mound of earth.PL AY T IME S It’s on my way to the local tube station, bank Holiday Weekend – the last dayplog so I pass it most mornings and evenings. I of the financial year and the busiest at our see it in occasional afternoons too, walking green. The dirt mound was covered in turf, through a sea of children headed home from flowers stuffed into the earth, signs erected school, and I have watched the changes of ‘Play Here’ and the twisted metal fences re- this Pathfinder site in slices, like stop-motion moved. It was open! The children came and b photography. scrambled all over it. First came the Herras fencing, in big and ut new turf needs to be watered detachable sheets that dog walkers and chil- daily, and no workers came for a dren squeezed around, muttering. There was week. The rectangles of turf dried a general air of Something About to Happen, and shrank almost immediately, even though nothing as yet had. leaving gaps like brown grouting between They tore a curving line through the turf, one them. They let go of the earth then, and slid that didn’t seem to connect with the entranc- one down against the other like the scales of es and exits and did not follow the desire a fish, slipping under children’s feet as they lines people had made over time. It did seem returned to climb. The kids just laughed a generous shape, however, and was sugges- and dared one another to charge up the hill, tive of further alterations. fell-running. bits of inexplicable play equipment began The children took the sheets of turf and to arrive, twisted pipes that lay in clattery held them in front of their feet, sliding down stacks against a tree, sheets of metal. the hill and shouting “magic carpet!” until
  • 39. MAY2009 th 18 the loose parts were all exhausted. The turf crossways pattern, and set up a watering sys- crumpled at the base, leaving the dirt ex- tem at the top. The dying plants had been posed. The flowers were dry and their petals removed and new ones set out, still in their falling to pot pourri. pots, to replace them. The workers were sit- once the moveable elements were exhausted, ting on a new bench they had installed, eat-PL AY TIMES the children stopped coming. ing sandwiches before dusting the crumbs off This morning I came past again and saw themselves and setting about the play space. making and sharing that workers had relaid the turf in a new, play memories in london’s east endPL AY T IME Splog
  • 40. MAY2009 th 27PL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end loose and rolling parts A load of tyres had been found in a garage ad- been. “We piled up loads and made walls, joining the play site. The door had been bro- there were jails to put people in and you couldPL AY T IME S ken open a long time before, and these tyres climb really high to look out. It was a wheelplog appeared inside. The children had brought house. We went to the little shop to buy some them up, rolling them out of the garage and food but we didn’t have enough money, but stacking against the wall between, climbing this nice lady bought us a big chocolate bar, up and throwing them over. Smaller children and we all came back to eat it". puffed, pushing black rubber hoops as big as Later the children piled them up to clam- they were in the gaps between school and tea, ber over, in a giant wobbling heap that caught and on the weekends. at ankles and stained the palms with rubber. There were fifty or more of these tyres sent They sat at the top, chatting and giggling, be- rolling across the tarmac and falling one on fore dismantling the whole thing and rolling top of the other. When we arrived they were them out of the centre, towards the wall or scattered, some stacked into tall tubes, some back down the hill. in little conversational heaps. by the next week they were gone, and the “We made the best clubhouse out of these,” new enthusiasm was sliding down a paved one girl told me, pointing at where it had slope on cardboard sleds.
  • 41. jUNE2009 Don’t be th 25 rudePL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end one site we’ve been playworking for some months has recent- ly enjoyed a rush of new visitors. Some of these new children played in different ways to the long-standing attendants, some of whom felt rules were in order. We did not encourage or dis- courage this process, just supplied pens and paper when asked and watched as they worked out the social perameters them- selves and glued them onto the wall. The rules are as follows: • Don’t be rude • Don’t eat all the food • Don’t chuck things at the grown-up • Don’t kill the ants • Don’t cut the grown-ups hair • Don’t poke the tonguePL AY T IME Splog We found it interesting that these rules were exclusively writ- ten as ‘don’ts’, while adults would perhaps framed things in a friendlier-sounding manner. However, a list such as this pro- vides far more subtle freedoms, as anything that is not prohib- ited is implicitly allowed. chelsea Adventure Playground, which Penny ran for a num- ber of years, developed its own Infinite rule which has been adopted for roll-out training by groups such as KabooM in America. It is simple, elegant and inclusive. It is simply: ‘Have the best time you can while you are here and try not to hurt yourself or anyone else’. What rules, or other social strategies for maintaining play’s balance on the edge of the wave, have you witnessed or developed? Location - Ambrose Sq / Creswick Sq Children - Girls: 18, Boys: 16 Total = 34
  • 42. jUNE2009 th 30 Age Exchange ExhibitionPL AY TIMES making and sharing For any readers of this who find play memories in themselves in London between london’s east end 31st july and 1st August, there is a remarkable-looking exhibition on hosted by Age Exchange. Age Exchange have been working for more than 20 years to improve the lives of older people through collection of their reminiscences in a variety of media, then sharing this with the public. They do some extremely interesting work, and this promising to be excellent. It’s called To Care For and is at the Greenwich Theatre. Location - Ollerton Green Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 8 Total = 14PL AY T IME Splog
  • 43. jULY2009 th Play pod @ 14 A family of sisters and their little brother who usually arrive just before the end ofPL AY TIMES Mile End Park the session have started to try bargaining for more Pod time with us! The sisters have below is an account written by Tess about the amazing found a way to engage in making and sharing play pod they’ve been running sessions from at Mile rough and tumble play whilst play memories in End Park. Enjoy! simultaneously swinging on london’s east end ropes from trees, while their Play Pod Update (July 2009) brother becomes immersed in bubbles and S beads. Together they have mastered the sport ince the end of April, the Play Pod of running in over-sized high heels, and gone has been popping open and spilling diving in imaginary infinite oceans with out play offers into Mile End Park flippers on their feet. Another very little boy every Tuesday afternoon. The first who watched the bubbles quietly and care- day we opened the pod, Eleanor got a call fully, sobbed when it was finally time for him T from the park rangers who had spotted us to be carried away. on ccTv: “Some people are squatting that here has been a lot of curiosity shipping container in the park… they’re even and engagement in the Pod from hanging out their washing!” they said, hav- all kinds of people passing by. For ing spotted our dressing-ups pegged to a line adults, the experience of stum- between trees. Months later the most com- bling across the Pod in its surreality often mon question we still get asked by adults is: provokes interesting chats and reminiscences “Do you actually live here?” as their puzzled about their childhood play, and in some casesPL AY T IME S or suspicious eyes scan the tent, and then our re-connects them with that play. We’ve hadplog clothesline decked out with princess dresses, a pair of female police officers stopping to wigs, bat wings, gold sequins, soldier’s ar- play on rope swings, skateboarders asking to mour, diver’s flippers and various monster film our “art installation”, an ex-Navy officer facial parts. “Yes of course” we often say. borrowing our tent-pitching expertise and our most enthusiastic play promotors so offering up advice on swing-building, and a far have been two sisters who arrived one day grandmother who re-discovered her enthusi- with their dad, having passed by the locked- asm for the joys of dressing-up with her chil- up anonymous looking green pod everyday, dren and grandchildren. playing a guessing game about what might As summer moves on we have been offer- be inside. “Probably gardening tools” dad ing more water, ice and sand opportunities. had said “or maybe food to feed the ani- A simple sandbox with cups and bottles of mals in the park.” They were overwhelmed water, a few rose pine cones and figurines has with excitement to have finally discovered been transformed into a swamp, a pond, and the mystery of the Pod: it is whatever they cooked into a pie with much delight. want to make it! In-between inventing new rope swings and becoming new characters, they took on the role of spreading the word on our behalf, rushing off with PATH flyers to tell families about the Play Pod they had discovered.
  • 44. AUGUST2009 rd Images from a non-session 03 recently we suffered some staff shortagesPL AY TIMES and, rather than cancel a session outright, we making and sharing decided to make a different offer. play memories in I went out and chalked the wall with messages, london’s east end and left a shoebox full of presents at the centre of where the session would normally be held Inside the box was: • 1 pack rainbow pom-poms • 1 pack rainbow biros • 6 mini reporter’s notebooks • 1 ball bright red yarn • 2 boxes chalks All wrapped in a piece of blue cloth, so you unfolded it like a gift from an expensive store. Now we wait and see what happens….PL AY T IME Splog
  • 45. jANUArY2010 21 st September Tug ofPL AY TIMES part 1. War making and sharing play memories in r ecently at a session we have been bringing a thick heavy rope every week, usually used for making a swing between two trees feeling that they had earned it was felt, even by the playworkers, who really would have liked to have won the rope themselves. london’s east end by throwing, climbing, and tying. bewildered, we were left with the non- Towards the end of the session, just before victorious group, who were pleading that it’s time to leave, the playworkers prepared we come back next week. We told them we to take down the rope, would come back, but untying the knots to we wouldn’t bring any let it fall from the tree. stuff. This time it was met “We will bring things with a “No! It’s oUr from our houses!” one rope! You can’t take it.” girl said. “Great idea” After explaining that we we said, and off we went couldn’t leave the rope wondering about the up after we left, and that fate of the rope. PATH didn’t have an endless supply of ropes, part 2. and we wanted to be able to bring it again next time, the group split into W e returned the following week to find the rope up, butPL AY T IME Splog two sides: those who no one playing on it at supported us taking the first. A few children rope, and pleaded that emerged. “You’re not we come back, and those going to take the rope who wanted possession away, we will stop you.” of the rope for themselves. The mood of The playworkers explained calmly (and with the session had suddenly changed: this was completely false confidence) that they would serious. one side seized one end of the rope indeed have to take the rope away, so that and held it to the tree, stopping us from taking the rope could be brought back next time, it down. The other group huddled around the and wouldn’t be cut down and destroyed by playworkers, and everyone was drawn into the caretakers when a resident complained about energy of a tug of war, with gusto. it. “You won’t bring it back, you’ll take it Eventually the rope was brought down down and never come back”. The playworkers from the tree. The non-playworker side was promised that they would bring it back. At stronger, and the rope was taken into their the end of the session there was an attempt to possession and carried off ceremoniously reenact the tug of war of the previous week, above the heads of the taller folk, and paraded but with fewer children, and without the around the blocks of estate with shouts of brute strength of the taller ones or the smell pride and taunts of victory. Possession of the of war in the air, the playworkers managed to rope had well and truly happened, and a pack the rope away quite easily.
  • 46. jANUArY2010 st 21 part 3. T he third week we brought back the rope as promised, and were met with “You can keep your rope today – we don’t want it! The caretaker said he’s going to make us a swing”.PL AY TIMES Miraculously, all the tension about possession of the rope had dissolved, and since then we making and sharing have been allowed to bring the rope and take play memories in it away each session without any objections. london’s east endPL AY T IME Splog
  • 47. FEbrUrAY2010 nd Sunshine is delicious, 02 rain is refreshing,PL AY TIMES wind braces us up, making and sharing snow is exhilarating; play memories in london’s east end there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. ruskin john oPL AY T IME S ne thing about playing outside, is sources of light, including the mesmerizingplog that you are inevitably faced not primal element of fire. only with the elements, but with on the other hand, while being wary of the weather and the seasons. sounding like a wet blanket, we have been These shape hugely what ingredients go into faced with the practical difficulties that such the play environment; what’s on offer to a change in season brings. often children children. This can be a humbling experience simply are not being let outside to play when for playworkers, as on these outdoor projects it’s really cold or wet or dark (or sometimes we feel more sharply how little we can control they just don’t want to go out themselves!). the play environment, and how vulnerable we While we do our best to show the small are to the weather and seasons. faces watching from windows that playing is on the one hand, winter brings with it a something that happens in all seasons, there whole spectrum of potential play experiences are times when there is only so much of our which just aren’t available during the summer: own playing, reflecting and planning that cold temperatures, frosts, ice, endless can be done before we admit that, despite our possibilities of water play in the rain; puddles, warm socks and gloves (and sometimes hot streams and mud; the bright moldable tactile water bottles too) we are simply too cold to go aerodynamic quality that snow brings, and, on, especially in the absence of any children when it’s twilight or dark, the very different to keep our spirits high. and exciting world of playing with various Without bumping up against the world of
  • 48. FEbrUrAY2010 hard rain, wind, snow and bitter cold, how it slowly with small shreds of paper. nd 02 would humans have ever built shelters and lit At another site, sparklers proved a great fires? While the drive towards recapitulative success, and gave children the opportunity Play might exist latently inside all children, to learn how to light matches safely and with how many get the chance to engage in this care. It is perhaps unsurprising that in ourPL AY TIMES kind of play because they are driven to it by society where it is unusual to have direct the urgency of actually finding themselves experience of lighting fires for everyday making and sharing in a cold rainy windy dark place? The ‘play heating or cooking needs, and at the same play memories in zoned’ spaces we work in, small and often time there are many horror stories about london’s east end physically barren pockets in amongst children and burns, that many children have large housing blocks, may not be the best little understanding of how fire works, and environment for this kind of play, with few need to strike and hold a match many times traces of nature and limited possibilities for before figuring out that the flame burns loose parts. but how many of these young upwards, and which angle to hold it at so it people have the opportunity to wander in a neither goes out nor burns their finger and I forest? thumb. We saw the numbers of children coming nto the heart of winter, as afternoons out to play drop off since autumn moved got darker and darker, we moved into winter, with most sites still having a some sessions to Saturday daytimes small handful of die-hard fans who’d come instead of after school, as we found out rain or shine, albeit it twilight or under children were less likely to come out when a night sky. it was already starting to get dark at the At one site smaller more delicate play beginning of a session. We have found we started happening when it got really dark. Tea need to be mindful of not offering children candles were lit and formed circles in little a misleading sense of protection after dark. holes cut from the earth, with golden fabric We need to respect that they are the expertsPL AY T IME S spread around the outside, transforming about their own estates, and work gently toplog the space into feeling almost ceremonial; encourage playing out whilst also trusting reflecting the reverence with which the fire families judgement about when it is not safe was treated, while the children huddled to come out. We have to remember that we around, immersed in the flame while feeding work within a complicated ecological system, where play is one of many needs, and that our work is a process of listening, reflecting, and providing a mentality and space in which children can confidently push forward to make their own change. This is a slow and ongoing process.
  • 49. FEbrUrAY2010 th S k i p p i n g into a new space… 14 S tarting sessions at a new site can be one session a group of bengali boys, 14- a difficult process, especially when 17 year olds, took the chalk over into the it’s still wintertime and curiosity is parking lot and made a series of drawings,PL AY TIMES clipped by the cold air, and stopping including a massive collaborative portrait the to linger outside is far less appealing than size of about three or four cars, of a man/ making and sharing getting home to a warm supper. boy complete with genitals and a bird on his play memories in our new site is next to a community cen- shoulder, labelled “dick head”. The enthusi- london’s east end tre and close to a school. It is a thoroughfare asm and humour they brought to the session, used by children through on their way home and the collective pride they shared over their from school, or parents with toddlers com- images was obvious. ing from nursery in the community centre, “We are your best customers!” they told us. or later on the children on their way to arabic “No one stopped before we came here!” they lessons at the mosque. said, enjoying the effect of their example, as It is a transient place, people are always on groups of younger boys stopped to engage, their way elsewhere, and so far the most en- clearly encouraged by the presence of this ticing play offer has been the chalk, which older group. has been an important tool for children Here are some of the chalk creations that claiming this space as their own by making have happened so far…. their own marks: images and words, names, comical parodies and tags. children of all ages, youths and sometimes parents too, have all had a turn drawing on the big blank canvas of tarmac path and con-PL AY T IME S crete pavers.plog
  • 50. FEbrUrAY2010 th Diary Entry… 18 anticipate that these sessions will get busy in the warmer months. 11/02/10 As for the other two sites we visit on Saturdays (which we started as a way of combining what used to be the oldPL AY TIMES Due to the bitter cold today, we finished Tuesday and Thursday afternoons sessions) the burdett session at 5pm these are very quiet making and sharing instead of 6pm, and are at the moment. The play memories in going to use the missing one in the morning london’s east end hour to make a longer in particular, where session next week during the session is from half term. 11am-1pm, is often There’s been lots of people completely empty of out and about at this site, children, while the and quite a few children afternoon (2pm-4pm) and young people stopping one often sees a few to play for short bursts of brave players come time, but because it’s been out of the woodwork. so cold people rarely stay It is hard to know for long, and between 5pm whether these low and 6pm children are rarely numbers are because passing by, so the session of the cold, because feels very quiet. We feel it’s a Saturday, or in this really is just about the the case of the AM seasons and the weather, because when it’s session because it’s too early in the day. It’sPL AY T IME S cold it really is hard to be outside for long not the case that people are out and aboutplog stretches of time, and the one day when the doing other things (shopping etc) and simply temperature was higher we did have a lot not interested in playing, more the case that more children stopping for longer. It is great people just aren’t going out on the streets at to have the community centre there, who all from what we can see! are being supportive and friendly, and having Sometimes when we wait for children to a full team on board means we can take turns show up, we play hopscotch amongst ourselves going inside to warm – up for short bursts, to keep warm. This can be a captivating game, which helps. suprisingly difficult, and it is interesting to A mother and her three young children witness the different characteristics (the ego, who stopped very briefly today said that they competitiveness, pride and schadenfreude see us from their window across the road and for example) that come out in us as players, think we’re brave to be out in the cold. I said rather than playworkers. they should come out and play when it gets For now we soldier on and wait to see a little warmer and she said they definitely when the winter hibernation will crack open would. I think this is the case for a lot of into spring. families, because there are so many who Location - Burdett Open Space Children - Girls: 12, Boys: 13 smile or say hello but don’t stop yet, so we Total = 25
  • 51. jUNE2010 H th 09 ello I’m Hannah, I’ve been a 20th April april 2010 playworker for PATH for two This was a quiet session, with years now and I’ve recently many children passing by and joined the playworkers team stopping just for 5/ 10 minutes of working on the Play Times project. I’ve taken play with chalk and glitter and aPL AY TIMES on writing the PLoG from April 2010… few ball games and skipping. Location - Burdett Open Space making and sharing 17th April Children - Girls: 11, Boys: 3 play memories in A warm, sunny day… Total = 14 london’s east end A majority of girls were playing out at the first square on the estate today, aged between 22nd April 5 and 14ish. They asked us for chalk to draw This was a great session hearts and faces on the ground and got with lots of kids out in the into making flowers and kites when we got good weather. We played with cornflour, the tissue paper out. We played a skipping experimenting with how much water was game with a large piece of elastic and the needed and delving hands into it. The kids girls taught us a chant – “England, Ireland, poured it out on the concrete and swirled it Scotland, Wales….” about with sticks. This led to water play – At the next square, lots of kids were already children of all ages got involved in a game out in the sunshine, a group of boys wanted of getting water from a nearby tap, filling to write their names out in chalk, competing plastic bags of water and soaking the mud. to write biggest. We decided to make a paper one boy decided to try and get the girls ‘chatterbox’ with different games written wet, it became his ‘secret mission’. He would behind the numbers – this led us into innocently sidle up to the girls, “isn’t it nice playing hide and seek, building a quick den weather”, before soaking them, angering hisPL AY T IME S and making tissue paper flags. A 9 year old big sister. He tried to involve the playworkersplog girl and 2 boys, one of whom was mid-game in wetting the girls too, telling them to do attacking us as a killer bumblebee, followed it when he signalled with a clicking sound! us to the 3rd square we play on. We played Dressing up games happened to, turning ‘crocodile’ – a chase game in which you were into a wedding. one little girl wanted to protected from being ‘it’ when wearing the reverse the genders, making rainer into crocodiles favourite colour. A 6 year old boy, the bride and Habiba into the groom. She desperate not to have to chase was always safe tried to make them kiss but only got to see as apparently he had all the colours on his a hug. However, the session ended badly underpants. Some games of football followed with 2 brothers getting angry about the rope as quite a few children came out towards the being packed away. It became a tug of war end of the session. While leaving we followed with the playworkers wanting to keep the by some teenagers with water-bombs testing rope, the boys began swearing and spitting our reaction, they finally decided just to give and the younger brother had bleeding hands us a near-by warning shot and we left the from pulling on the rope. The tug of war was situation dry! resolved when the boys’ sister came along to Location - Sheffield Sq stop them but the boys remained angry. Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 1 Location - Ollerton Green Total = 7 Children - Girls, : 7, Boys: 9 Total = 16
  • 52. jUNE2010 th 09 24th April of boisterous younger boys came to play Today was a warm, sunny day, drawing fighting games with us, sticks became swords lots of children outside to play. but it became necessary to pause the game to The session began quietly with 2 girls playing explain these swords needed to be used with out on the swings, within 20 mins of us care!PL AY TIMES arriving about 10 more children came out, Location - Sheffield Sq mostly boys. We hung fabric between the Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 8 making and sharing swing structure and a sturdy tree to create a Total = 15 play memories in hammock, it was in high demand but could london’s east end only take 2 people’s weight at a time. Some 27th April wanted to relax in it, others to be swung, We had the usual kids passing by on gently or not so gently, and the smaller boys their way home from school today, stopping wrestled in it or slid from the higher end for a quick play with arts and crafts materials, down. spreading glue everywhere! Some girls got into The next square was the busiest square today, making tissue paper flowers. Three brothers a den was created through coloured fabric came by who stayed to play for a long time. strewn across a climbing structure in an We’d hung fabric out across a pathway and attempt to create some shade from the early they jumped to touch it which turned into a afternoon sun. A group of 5 girls pounced game of jumping to different heights or doing on the ribbons and thread we had bought, limbo underneath, eventually becoming a decorating my sun hat, their shoes, creating tug of war for the fabric. bracelets and hair decorations. A green ribbon Location - Burdett Open Space tied in a bow on top of the head became the Children - Girls: 13, Boys: 9 fashion they all wanted to follow and they Total = 22 took lots of photos on their mobile phones.PL AY T IME S Wool was tied between the young trees for 29th Aprilplog a high jump contest between chase games. Today’s session began quietly, getting Then the hammock was put up again with a much busier towards the end. Its been a family of young boys and their mum taking warm, sunny/ cloudy day. A group of girls it in turns to push. A local resident came out got into sewing and making dresses to dress to express concern that the chalk drawings up in, helping re-do the play workers’ images. made in our sessions had inspired an incident Hopscotch and origami were popular too. she had interrupted of youths about to Some children came by asking for rainer spray paint the climbing structure earlier and Morgan and talking about previous play in the week. However, she was in favour of sessions in lots of small detail. The boys from encouraging play and offered to buy us rolls the rope fight of last week came back but of paper… fortunately they seemed to have forgotten it. The girls followed us on to the next square Location - Ollerton Green to continue playing, this time using the Children - Girls: 7, Boys: 14 fabric to create dresses for the play workers Total = 21 and decorate the square’s felled tree. A group
  • 53. AUGUST2010 th 26 june 2010 1st June playworkers, there were other Today was a rainy day and the session adults, including youth workers, was quiet, with about 8 children. 2 new boys there doing organised games and came along who got really over-excited to circus skills with the kids. PATH discover the materials the playworkers had playworkers did lots of arts andPL AY TIMES brought, they wanted to use the paint, fabric, crafts. As a promotion, we brought glue, bracelet kits, etc straight away and all cotton bags for children to decorate making and sharing at once! themselves and then we put leaflets play memories in Some older boys got involved in a water fight, and badges in them for them to take london’s east end playfully aiming for the playworkers and were home. one girl created a fantastic happy when Habiba’s umbrella broke and she story for the drawing she did on had no protection from them! her bag. She drew a mushroom The session ended when the rain got heavy with white spots and pinned a ‘PLAY’ badge and all the children headed home. on it too. She told that the mushroom was Location - Burdett Open Space an injured army soldier who had lost his Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 6 memories of play and that the badge was there Total = 8 to replace these memories. 3rd June 5th June Today was hot and fairly busy. The We did our first play session on a new session began with 2 boys and ‘bee’ – the girl area of the estate today – it was excellent, the who is always there first! She seized rainer kids were so happy to be able to come out and as usual and made him into a superstar play and one said it was the best day of his – Michael jackson! With tape, she made life! 12 kids came to play out, it was a mixed an ‘M’ on his back and became his stylist, age range from a 1 year old with his mumPL AY T IME S hairdresser, photographer, manager… She to some 14 year olds, the majority were agedplog began some more serious, darker, dramatic between 7-9. play by acting out Michael jackson’s death, We did chalking on the floor in bright colours, getting Habiba, Inga and the other children the kids made a game of chalking around around to discover the body and pretend to each other’s bodies lying on the floor. We cry. She covered the dead body (rainer!) in also made tissue paper flowers and did some fabric and pretended to take photos to sell to dressing up which turned into just wrapping the press for lots of money. It was good to see each other up in fabric and masking tape. The her include other children in her play. kids made a list of things they would like for The session ended with race games, the kids their square, including a sandpit, swings, a paired up and taped themselves together hammock, a see-saw, planting boxes and 2 around their torsos and upper legs so they dens – 1 for girls and 1 for boys! 2 of the could only run making little footsteps, then children from this square followed us onto playfully pushing each other onto the grass. the next, 2 boys stayed with us the whole day Location - Ollerton Green round all the areas of the estate and were so Children - Girls: 9, Boys: 14 proud of themselves at the end of the day! Total = 23 At our regular square we had lots of swing games. The children created a language for 4th June the movements where the swing jolts roughly Today was the launch of the new at the top before swinging back down – “bam playground, it went well. As well as bam” and when it gets shaken from side to
  • 54. AUGUST2010 th 26 side – “brang brang”. The kids requested how of our regular boys, aged 4, brought a bag of they wanted the swing to be moved by each books out with him to ask the playworkers to other with these words – “I want bam bam”! read with him. Another boy made himself a When we moved onto play in the next area, cape from the fabric and followed us to the this continued on the next set of swings. next square to play too because he wanted toPL AY TIMES We also played today at the newly opened play keep it for as long as possible! area created by the side of the community hall Location - Sheffield Sq making and sharing on the estate. This area felt quite self-sufficient Children - Girls: 8, Boys: 5 play memories in today, groups of children were already there, Total = 13 london’s east end some with parents. They played football, Location - Electric House games on the swings and had a water fight Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 4 too. Total = 10 Location - Four Seasons Green Garden Location - Creswick Sq Children - Girls: 10, Boys: 12 Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 6 Total = 22 Total = 12 10th June 15th June Today’s session was made up mostly of We ran a busy session with about 50 running games, Inga played ‘It’ with 1 girl kids coming to play out. The wind created for the entire session! We brought along a a wild atmosphere, the kids ran with a large plastic sheet which was used to make a tent. plastic sheet (4x4m), chasing each other with Some boys had a play fight. one of them had it and watching it fly behind them. 1 boy with dressed up as a woman for the fight – it was special needs who comes to these sessions was the freest we have ever seen him behave in fascinated by the sheet and got immersed in front of his older brother who’s presence often playing with it for a long time where normallyPL AY T IME S seemed to restrict his play. he flits quickly between activities.plog Location - Ollerton Green The chalks were popular again today – Children - Girls: 7, Boys: 9 children, older teenagers and parents used Total = 16 them together. 1 girl sat learning to knit with Inga for a long time and picked it up quickly. 12th June There was some difficulty again this week In addition to playing in the usual with a boy of 9 who often winds up getting squares on the estate, we had our 2nd play violent in his play, he hit Habiba hard in the session in the courtyard of an enclosed housing face. He has done this other weeks too, he area today. It was busy – the same kids from seems to have anger issues and not know when last week came back and brought new kids to stop. However, he gets upset when other along too to play skipping games and draw children he has provoked retaliate. When we with the chalk. Inga began some origami with try to talk to him about his behaviour he puts a boy who wanted to make a boat. A dad came his chin down and won’t communicate, nor over to show us how to make origami football apologise when asked. We’ve decided to try to t-shirts too, then the children decorated them talk to him as soon as he arrives in next week’s as England flags for the football – the estate session and let him know it isn’t on before was plastered in England flags today with it happens, and to set up a game where he world cup fever taking hold! has a non-human target to aim his aggression In another square we built a shelter over the towards! climbing frame for the kids to chat in. one Location - Burdett Open Space
  • 55. AUGUST2010 th 26 Children - Girls: 33, Boys: 19 versus playworkers aka humans versus aliens. Total = 52 We chased them to wrap them in fabric, the slide became our spaceship, the bench their 17th June base. We were captured and eaten and head- Today’s session began well, the plastic butted into the jail they created for us. As theyPL AY TIMES sheet was used again. 1 boy used it to make a left, we heard them excitedly tell their mother home for a cricket by placing mud and grass “we played with adults today”! Meanwhile making and sharing on it. Later, some kids played in the wind with some quiet games continued round the edges play memories in the plastic sheet in a similar way the children with girls drawing chalk flowers and grinning london’s east end from the other estate had done on Tuesday over at us as the small boys commanded us running and chasing each other. However, about. the feeling of the play changed when a ben- The enclosed square was also full of chaos gali boy, with whom a group of white children with chasing games, children and playworkers playing with the sheet have an on-going rival- dressed up in fabric saris ran across the space. ry (which appears racially motivated), joined We also made hammocks and taped each in the game. 1 of the white girls accused the other up with coloured duck tape. We covered bengali boy of trying to suffocate her friend one end of the area in the tape, trailing it from with the sheet. The playworkers on the session fences to drainpipes, and hanging tissue paper did not see this happen, if it did, but the situa- shapes from it. Eventually the tape was run tion escalated into a big verbal argument. The through and got trampled into messy balls white children left and then returned with to throw at each other, ‘the naughty tape’. I their angry grandmother who shouted at the had a long game of football with a shy 5 year playworkers for 10 minutes, mainly express- old boy, we didn’t have a ball so we kicked a ing that the plastic sheet wasn’t appropriate cardboard tub to each other until we lost in for play. She made xenophobic comments to on a roof. one girl told Inga she was so gladPL AY T IME S rainer and Inga (from Germany and Poland) we came now as she never went out except toplog – “Maybe in your country you play with plas- go to school because “there are lots of people tic, in England we have toys”! She asked about out there who want to kill Muslims”. She said the playworkers’ crb checks and threatened they had to keep the square tidy, pointing at to call the police but backed down when they the cameras and saying “we’re being watched”. said it was fine for her to call them. The chil- We tidied the tape from the square into a dren stayed through this scene and supported plastic bag which was used for another long the playworkers, 1 boy gestured crazy signs game of football at the next square. The rain about the lady. The session continued after she came down heavily at the end of the session left, for a while with a poisoned atmosphere and some boys used our fabric to cover a picnic and without the plastic sheet but by the end bench to shelter under for the final half hour. the session the atmosphere felt lighter and the Location - Sheffield Sq kids initiated playing with the sheet again. Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 3 Location - Ollerton Green Total =5 Children - Girls: 11, Boys: 7 Location - Electric House Total =18 Children - Girls: 9, Boys: 6 Total =15 19th June Location - Creswick Sq The first square we played at today Children - Girls: 9, Boys: 4 was especially lively with 3 boys of about 6 Total =13 wanting to play a dramatic chase game, kids
  • 56. AUGUST2010 th 26 22nd June Location - Ollerton Green This session was busy yet somehow quiet, Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 8 there seemed to be a strange atmosphere with Total = 14 hot, airless weather. Some girls made hats and dresses from the fabric. There was a minor 26th JunePL AY TIMES incident – a group of children were on the When we arrived at the 1st square, just roundabout – a 6 year old boy, his older 1 boy was playing out on his bike, waiting making and sharing brother and some others. They were calling for us. Due to difficulties getting our play play memories in to be pushed faster by the playworkers but materials from their storage today, we just had london’s east end as this happened the younger boy slipped off a box of 20 latex gloves and 3 rolls of coloured and bit on his lip which started bleeding. His tape with us. The boy joined us to blow up mum was there and the playworkers gave her the gloves, we drew faces on them making some sterilised water and an anti-bacterial them into monsters. A group of 4 girls joined wipe from the 1st Aid kit and it wasn’t too in and used the tape to mark faces on the serious but the mother was upset and left with gloves, which turned into our putting tape her children. on our own faces like Native-American style Location - Burdett Open Space war paint. Gradually more kids crept over Children - Girls: 29, Boys: 17 till we had the most children playing out at Total = 46 this square I’ve seen yet – nearing 20. one girl disappeared to fill her glove with water 24th June making a water balloon she aimed successfully Today was great with lots of creative at me and suddenly everyone wanted to untie games. one boy used the red coloured tape the gloves that were faces and turn them into to decorate rainer with many red crosses, water balloons. Some boys remembered they inspired by the England flag, calling it his had water balloons at home too and suddenlyPL AY T IME S ‘design’. There was a jumping off the swing all the kids had them to chuck at us, fillingplog game with kids doing this solo or in pairs. It them at a handy outside tap just off from the became a competition among the boys to see square. who could jump off furthest and they got very Having been unarmed for the last water fight, excited celebrating their victories like sports we decided to turn up at the next square with stars, running round cheering and blowing our own water balloons purchased from the kisses to an imaginary crowd! The 3 brothers local shop! We shared them out with the kids who regularly come were climbing the trees. there and this session turned into one massive The older boys could do it very safely but then water fight. The water balloons didn’t last too the younger ones wanted to join in and asked long and we were only wet in patches until a the playworkers for helping getting up but group of about 8 boys from 9-13ish came out we were unsure if to do this incase they got their houses with big bottles! They filled these hurt after we had got them there. Habiba had at an outside tap, we managed to get some a black eye today having slipped and fallen bottles too and everyone ended up totally against some railings a couple of days ago. drenched to the skin. It was great that the Hearing this story made the day of 2 boys water fight brought out more of the older boys who spent the rest of the session re-enacting who hadn’t joined our sessions yet. Younger her fall and laughing their heads off. The same children came to watch, hovering at the edges boys later disappeared ‘for a fight’ but we a bit intimidated by the roughness of the play think it was playful as they came back round yet mesmerised by it, along with those trying the corner afterwards grinning. not to get wet. The square was also the busiest
  • 57. AUGUST2010 th 26 it’s been yet with about 30 children coming chalk graffiti on the walls. He believed we out. were responsible for having inspired it by The final squares were quieter with just a giving the kids coloured chalks to draw on the few of our regular kids. Passing through the ground with and angrily demanded who we square at points was a water fight between 2 thought would clean it up. (The graffiti wasPL AY TIMES gangs. This felt uncomfortable – a gang of football related – ‘Portugal rules’!) Whilst he white kids versus a group of Asian lads. one left saying he knew he had done worse as a making and sharing girl threw water bombs at 2 play workers, kid himself the situation didn’t feel resolved play memories in trying to provoke an angry reaction which she and it was difficult for us to find the balance london’s east end didn’t get and some younger girls whispered between trying to get him onside and yet not to me she bullies them on the swing if they’re accept we were responsible to scrub the walls. on it when she comes by. Location - Erick Street During today’s session, an upset, elderly Children - Girls: 26, Boys: 25 resident of the estate came to complain about Total = 51PL AY T IME Splog
  • 58. AUGUST2010 th 30 1st July Total = 7 july 2010 We had a busy session in today’s hot Location - Creswick Sq weather with swinging games in the hammock Children - Girls: 7, Boys: 8 and chasing games. There was a long game of Total = 15 tag between a group of kids who played atPL AY TIMES being a zombie or a gorilla to chase the others 6th July when they were ‘it’. one chase game between Today was warm and lots of making and sharing the older boys and a younger male playworker, older kids were hanging out on the play memories in felt a little aggressive, turning from fun into estate. There was an atmosphere of london’s east end them getting rude with personal comments. tension between the older group of They began to cuss his mum but jake turned boys and the playworkers and lots it into a game telling them he only got angry of parents were out, some shouting if they said good things about his mum! The in what felt like quite aggressive fun came back with him pretending to get tones at their children. We had a game of mad when they told him his mum was nice hide and seek and games on the swings. At and a “responsible citizen”! one point a boy winded himself falling off the Location - Ollerton Green swing but also enjoyed milking the attention Children - Girls: 7, Boys: 12 of his friends as they gathered round him! Total = 19 Location - Ollerton Green Children - Girls: 26, Boys: 17 3rd July Total = 43 Today’s sessions were fairly busy at all 3 squares with the sunny weather bringing 8th July lots of kids outside. We played lots of football This session was lots of fun with lots today, making goals for each other by standing of kids playing out in the sun. They had aPL AY T IME S with our feet apart which allowed for lots of long game of slap-ball with a tennis ball andplog cheating! one girl at the 2nd square organised some boys climbed in the trees. one took it a game of ‘Duck, duck, goose’ with everyone very seriously, wanting to find chalk to rub but it didn’t work for very long. At the last on his hands before he climbed and asking square a very shy, little girl came out to play the playworkers for help finding little bits of with her mum and got drawn into our session. chalk on the ground. A male playworker had At first she just wanted to push the basket a long chasing game with some children which swing and was too scared to get on but when was lots of fun but got difficult when one boy we promised to push her very gently she agreed got angry as the other children wound him to have a go and by the end of the session she up saying the playworker had said bad things was shouting to go higher, giggling and even about his mum. getting cheeky. Her mum stood close by the A girl of about 3 was sat on her balcony whole time, watching us and seemed a bit wanting to play too but wasn’t allowed to suspicious of us. She looked pleased that her come down. She talked through a small gap daughter was having a good time but called in the balcony to the playworkers and tried to her several times to be careful. to drop Wotsit crisps and her skipping rope Location - Sheffield Sq down to them! Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 7 A couple of girls tried to take the playworkers’ Total = 9 bags, it was a game for them but we explained Location - Electric House to them why it was going too far. Also, a boy Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 4 found a used condom in a bush during the
  • 59. AUGUST2010 th 30 session and was asking what it was but it serious, they were angry from the game. seemed he already knew. We tried telling him Location - Burdett Open Space it was an old water bomb! Children - Girls: 30, Boys: 8 3 boys did some great dancing, one was Total = 38 showing the moves he was learning for hisPL AY TIMES school play, ‘Grease’ and the others joined in, 15th July one excitedly tried to do a front flip but landed It’s been a sunny, windy, mad session with making and sharing on his back. He said he was fine but it had lots of children with lots of energy! two girls play memories in obviously hurt! competed to commandeer rainer’s attention, london’s east end Location - Ollerton Green one wanting to play swings, another to play Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 13 a hairdressing game. When one girl got a Total = 18 small cut and got some first aid treatment to clean the cut, the other deliberately grazed her 10th July arm against a tree so she could also get the Today’s session at the first square was treatment and attention. quiet with just a handful of girls wanting to There were lots of running backwards races make chalk drawings on the floor. At the next (the winner would become king) and a square we had a water fight with a large group football game that a large group of boys and of mostly girls, some boys came out towards girls played together – which was nice as they the end of the session but didn’t want to get normally play in separate groups. wet, they started their own game of football. one boy spent ages playing with a hole he dug Location - Sheffield Sq in the mud and filled with water, calling it his Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 1 ‘bibbily bubbly’. Total = 4 Location - Ollerton Green Location - Electric House Children - Girls: 10, Boys: 6PL AY T IME S Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 3 Total = 16plog Total = 6 Location - Creswick Sq 17th July Lots of fantasy play and running games Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 5 Total = 10 took place in the first part of the session, rainer became the king in the ‘castle’ (a ring of stones on the bank) with his own fashion 13th July designer and servants bringing exotic pretend This session began quietly and became foods. This turned more chaotic as servants very busy. Two girls made a hammock totally began to rebel and needed capturing, creating by themselves, figuring out to tie the knots. a chasing game and lots of arresting people It could only swing a little bit before hitting in prisons of material. Themes from games the climbing frame but they were very proud played in previous weeks crept their way back of it and themselves. into this one and the fun we were having one game got very boisterous – a game of attracted several new kids into the game as chasing a new playworker with branches. they came over to see what was happening and It was a game he had started, but it began found themselves wrapped up in material too. to get a little out of hand. At the end of the At the 2nd square we had no children at all, session the young teenagers involved followed which was unusual here. The weather was dry the playworkers to the bus stop and it felt so it seemed strange. We put some coloured somewhere between play and something more tape and fabric out to make ourselves more
  • 60. AUGUST2010 th 30 visible and waited half an hour but when still has to guard their behaviour here, including no children came we decided to go earlier to the adults. Dressing up and fantasy play rarely the last square. Here was busy again, with happen here for example, games tend to be football and swing games. one boy tried to more physical. start a competition to jump off the swing but This was one of the new play spaces createdPL AY TIMES no one wanted to compete with him, he was under the Pathfinder scheme. before it was too good at it! Lots of children dressed up built we were told that the land was going to making and sharing and one girl remained in character as queen be used to create more housing in an already play memories in throughout the entire session, ordering the over populated patch of territory. This had london’s east end play workers to capture a smaller boy who was been the last remaining open space in the rude to her for being “the smelliest boy”. As estate. Interestingly at that time the rSL we began to pack up the session, a group of was concerned because the children who boys took our ball and began throwing it to were about 15 at the time had started acting each other and we had a game of chasing the out with some very anti-social behaviours. ball then, when we got it, throwing it between As we talked to the landlords they came to ourselves (the playworkers and one girl on our understand that these children –born as the side) while they tried to get it again. It was estate was re-generated and all the common good natured and the session ended on a high. ground used for building or fenced off for Location - Sheffield Sq private use – had never had space to play out as Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 9 a group. They had become super territorial and Total = 15 were chased away from stairwells. I was told Location - Electric House that the rSL was pulling out the planting, Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 3 not because it was ugly and municipal, but Total = 6 because the kids were hiding knives and axes Location - Creswick Sq in the bushes. Pathfinder came along at justPL AY T IME S Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 6 the right time for this estate. The opportunityplog Total = 11 to create a village green was very well received by the residents and the land was saved by the 20th July creation of this play area. originally there were At today’s session we had an incident complaints from rSL staff about the amount where a father came down and accused a of littler that appeared on the site each night. playworker of having hurt his daughter’s but we were able to point out that this was finger the week before. They had been play- an indicator of great success. Especially as the fighting. Another girl overhearing said she had littler appeared later on in the evening and been hurt too which aggravated the situation was obviously being dropped by young people. with the father but the play workers responded This was the only sign that the youngsters were calmly to the man’s anger and his threat to using the site. There had been no complaints phone the police. He didn’t call the police about anti-social behaviour at all. I made sure and the situation diffused. After he left, the that as many people in the organisation saw play returned with lots of crafts and some this as a cause for celebration and suggested new children joining in. The weekly session it merited them arranging another litter pick on this estate often feels dense with lots of on their maintenance schedule and perhaps issues from life on the estate impinging on installing a rubbish bin. the relationships between the groups of kids For years this site had been evenly spread who play here. Somehow these sessions are with dog shit. No-one had ever picked it often less playful. We have a sense everyone up. The only patch of green available to all
  • 61. AUGUST2010 th 30 these thousands of people used to regulate the material and then timed how long it took the bowels of town dogs. In the light of this each of them to escape! The play-fight resumed background information it will be hardly afterwards but was friendlier. Again, we had surprising that an estate –so long deprived of to explain to the younger boys about keeping the civilized resources that every community it playful and not really punching or kickingPL AY TIMES has the right to expect– a space for the whole people hard! one boy quietly took himself community to play and share the outside, not away from the play-fights to build himself a making and sharing just use it as an inconvenience that happens hammock to sit in and a quieter group of girls play memories in between buildings, (or a convenience for dogs) drew around Habiba, making a book so they london’s east end has developed a long term play deprivation. could play a game about a school teacher with The community are going to be cautious. It her class. will take a while to unpick this damage. but At the next square Habiba and I made a pretty hey! For at least 15 years, no child has played hanging decoration of gold buttons on ribbon on this space, no adult sat to watch them, no while we waited to see if the kids would turn complaints have been made that a finger got up. They did and our artwork was destroyed cut. That complaining father, like the litter, is within 2 minutes as they pillaged for the a cause for celebration! (Penny.) gold buttons which became money and the Location - Burdett Open Space currency of the session! The oldest boy made Children - Girls: 22, Boys: 16 himself king and got his servants to collect Total = 38 gold coins for him or he would pay them for tasks. The game became themed around power 22 July nd and punishment. rainer and I were their Today was relaxed and busy. There was a prisoners and they taped our hands and feet, long game of collecting tiny beads left behind but one boy made himself a spy, disguising from the jewellery making in last week’s himself in fabric and helped us escape! ThePL AY T IME S session and throwing them at each other. king’s mother shouted out the window at himplog Some of the boys had a long chat with rainer when he sat on the floor because it was dirty, about injustice and how unfair adults were then called him home but from home he lent to them. out his window to shout down to us that he Some boys climbed high in the trees, taking was now in his castle! lots of risks, and also a big game of dodge At our third and final square all the children ball took place which brought lots of the kids played together in one massive game of together. They told us they don’t normally play dressing up and organised a royal wedding together when we’re not there. between themselves, the older children taking Location - Ollerton Green the important roles and getting the younger Children - Girls: 9, Boys: 9 ones to be their maids, cooks, etc. We build Total = 18 a den for their palace of fabric between trees in an area of the square that isn’t normally 24 July th played in and the honeymoon took place on Today we had a big play-fight throwing the swing! At the end of session the princess fabric at each other with all the play workers decided to divorce her prince, she said she’d and lots of kids involved. At one point it got found someone better. a bit aggressive between two brothers and Location - Sheffield Sq two other boys and a conflict was beginning. Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 5 We managed to distract them into another Total = 10 game where we tied them all to the tree with Location - Electric House
  • 62. AUGUST2010 th 30 Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 6 31st July Total = 9 The session began quietly today, we did Location - Creswick Sq some crafts with a couple of children who were Children - Girls: 8, Boys: 3 already playing out, making clothes pegs into Total = 11 people, monsters, snakes, etc. and pretendingPL AY TIMES to be upset when the kids destroyed our own creations. It was quite a grey morning and making and sharing we saw about 10 kids during the session. We play memories in london’s east end 27th July had bizarre game where the playworkers put Today, at the start of the school summer clothes pegs as high in the tree as we could holidays, was busy. A group of kids were doing reach/ jump to and the kids tried to get them a dance project in the community hall and all out again! came out to play with us during their break. As usual, no children were playing out in We brought ‘Play’ flags with us which the kids the 2nd square when we arrived. We began coloured with highlighter pens and put around building a den, attaching 2 ropes from high the play space. Some children made paper tree branches to the fence and draping fabric guns and some quite complicated origami across them. one girl arrived to play with us ninja stars. one boy was determined to learn and initiated a detective game. She announced how to make the stars and ran about for ages she was ‘Detective Inspector Whateva’ and between the other kids asking for help until wanted to know who had committed a he got enough help to do it. Lots of the play murder, asking us what we’d done the evening centred around the roundabout and swings. before and taking our finger prints – before Location - Burdett Open Space flipping to being the murderer herself. other Children - Girls: 18, Boys: 28 children came out and joined in and we ended Total = 46 playing with about 15 children, mostly girls.PL AY T IME S The session ended with lots of laughter andplog 29th July running about in 2 teams, one being the Today we played with the flags and thieves who had stolen the fancy dress clothes highlighter pens again, and played with small and the others trying to get them back. figures. A girl with special needs from our The last square was fairly busy, some older Mile End park session came along today and teenagers were hanging about and young boys the other children were curious to come and were gathered round the swing. our regulars, meet her, some were awkward, not knowing a brother and sister were watching out their how to react to her, but one boy who normally window for us and came out when they saw us plays wildly in sessions was especially caring arrive, they’re only allowed to play out when towards her. Lots of the children brought supervised and their family are supportive of cousins along who were visiting them over the our sessions. The younger boy always brings school holidays so the session was busy. There out a bag with something to show us, some was a bit of trouble at the end of the session books or toys and his sister likes to push us with some older boys making racist and on the swing and chatter about her week homophobic comments to the playworkers while testing how high and how long we can and even hitting one of the younger, male swing for that day! A group of 4 boys played playworkers but they stopped when asked to. at making themselves hammocks hanging Location - Ollerton Green from the climbing frame but one of them was Children - Girls: 11, Boys: 12 being a bit bullied by the others, they undid Total = 23 one corner of his hammock so he fell out. We
  • 63. AUGUST2010 th 30 talked to them about it and helped the boy to build a new hammock when the others left. Location - Sheffield Sq Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 5 Total = 8PL AY TIMES Location - Electric House Children - Girls: 4, Boys: 3 making and sharing Total = 7 play memories in Location - Creswick Sq london’s east end Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 5 Total = 7PL AY T IME Splog
  • 64. NovEMbEr 2010 nd 02 9th September We’re going to get some more we september 2010 There was some tension on the session can leave with them. today between 2 girls and another girl and Location - Sheffield Sq her brother, the 2 girls seemed to be bullying Children - Girls: 18, Boys: 10 the other one but it wasn’t quite clear what Total = 28PL AY TIMES was going on. The playworkers tried to Location - Electric House distract the upset girl getting her involved Children - Girls: 7, Boys: 8 making and sharing in a game using wool and acting out martial Total = 15 play memories in arts moves with voicing sounds. Another girl Location - Creswick Sq london’s east end constantly asked to be pushed on the swing, Children - Girls: 14, Boys: 8 asking again and again as if each time was Total = 22 the first time and she hadn’t had a turn in ages although in fact she’d only just finished 14th September the last one! It rained a lot today and the Location - Ollerton Green session was quiet. There were a few Children - Girls: 8, Boys: 16 kids there at the beginning, then Total = 24 none for a while but the sessions picked up towards the end. We 11th September played races with one girl for a The first square was especially lively long time, she was very definite today, most of the kids played together in a about having things done in her own way. long game of kings and queens and servants! She wanted to do a lot of unrealistic things, This theme of royalty has appeared in many e.g., building a tree house in a tree that it of our games this summer, I’d wondered if wasn’t possible to climb but it seemed like the we as playworkers were influencing it but process of realising that it wasn’t possible forPL AY T IME S today it was definitely initiated by the kids. this to be done was important for her. Someplog It seems to come from one of our play props boys came by who called her names but she – a red velvet blanket with Dalmatian-style stood up for herself and gave it back to them. black and white trimming round it that looks Location - Burdett Open Space like a royal cloak! Children - Girls: 11, Boys: 14 Some girls made a mask for rainer – adapting Total = 25 a tiger mask we already had by drawing on top, they spent a long time on making it look 16th September very scary! At the end of the session we heard Today’s session was very busy, 10 kids lots of music and ran round the corner with were already waiting for us to arrive with the the children to see a Sikh wedding party hammock, they wanted us to put it up for coming out of the temple behind the square them but we got them to work out how to with people dancing out onto the streets. do it for themselves. They decorated it with The next square was busy too, with a big mix some gold fabric to make it look different of children of different ages. Some children from in other weeks. one boy wanted to came who we hadn’t seen in a couple of show us a new dance routine he had learnt, months. We had a big game wrapping people then his friends joined in and they decided in fabric and taping it! Last week we had left to dance up on the garage roof. The sun was some green net behind for hammock-making coming down behind them as they danced and a boy told us they had played with it for and it looked fantastic. three days afterwards until it went missing. Two brothers had a long game with a Diablo,
  • 65. NovEMbEr 2010 nd 02 we didn’t have the proper string for it but they where it could kind of work – it sagged low balanced it on a piece of string of their own to the ground and couldn’t swing far without and carried it around together, balancing it crashing into the wall but the boys were very carefully between them. one of the regular happy with it! There was a reasonable amount girls who normally clings to rainer was of rubbish in the square today that had over-PL AY TIMES much better with interacting with the other flowed from the bins, the bins don’t seem playworkers and playing with other children quite adequate for the amount of waste the making and sharing today. homes there generate and parents sometimes play memories in call down to their kids not to sit on the london’s east end ground because its dirty, it affects the play. 18th September The last square was happy and chaotic, with Today was busy and fun, the sunny, lots of children joining us to play chase crisp early Autumn weather drawing lots games, build hammocks and see how high of kids out to play. our regular kids were they could push us on the basket swing before waiting for us to arrive and lots more came we started shouting to stop! Mostly girls were out through the session. As usual, one boy playing out here, a group of younger girls had wanted to build the hammock and declare fun chasing rainer and burying him in the it his own but he needed our help today – fabric and the hammock and chalks were having broken his arm, he had it put in popular again. plaster. Later on he got annoyed with other Location - Sheffield Sq people wanting to share the hammock and Children - Girls: 4, Boys: 9 used his plaster cast for hitting people. It Total = 13 hurt. It’s difficult to define boundaries with Location - Electric House him, he’s cheeky and we have a lot of fun Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 7 playing with him but sometimes he tips across Total = 10PL AY T IME S a line into going too far, kicking too hard Location - Creswick Sqplog or trying to get into our bags. He squashed Children - Girls: 8, Boys: 2 Habiba’s tuna sandwich today beyond the Total =10 point where it could be eaten, we’ve found he only really listens to being asked to stop 26th September by male playworkers. Generally it was a great Today felt really Autumnal – bright sun session though, with lots of chaotic running but suddenly much colder. The first square about, war games, throwing the material and was quieter than in recent weeks, three of our rolling down the bank. Some quieter games regular kids were there waiting for us and a also talk place around the edge, some girls few more joined us later in the session. They singing songs from the latest Disney film and were excited by our new hammock material chalking their names or just mixing colours – a large piece of royal blue builders net. We on the ground. collected conkers, berries and fallen leaves The second square was fairly quiet but 2 boys with one of the girls who arranged them into ran out as soon as we got there asking for patterns on the bench and tied bunches of hammock materials. It was tricky to make leaves together with ribbons. I had a long a hammock here, the square doesn’t lend game of cats cradle with another girl, we’d itself easily to it with no two suitable things taught it to her a couple of weeks ago and to tie fabric securely to that are close enough she’d been playing at home and invented together. With the boys, we joined a lot of some of her own intricate new moves. fabric together and found a place in the corner We took the hammock on to the next play
  • 66. NovEMbEr 2010 nd 02 space and hung it between a huge tree and and robbers was going on between a group of a fence. Two brothers played in it for ages, about 8 children. our regular kids wanted wanting to be covered in fabric so they could to swing with us and chat and the younger be warm and hide in it. Another boy and his children played a game of chalking out sister wanted to play a zombie game, jumping tunnels across the square and running alongPL AY TIMES up out of the hammock to scare us then them as trains or in war games, shooting chase us and the other kids until everyone at each other with toy guns or imagined making and sharing was made a zombie! As more kids came out weapons. play memories in to play, they squabbled over who could be in Location - Sheffield Sq london’s east end the hammock when and for how long. We’d Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 3 decided to leave the hammock with them for Total = 9 the week as the square has so little to play Location - Electric House with, next week we’ll see if we can discover Children - Girls: 1, Boys: 3 what has happened with it. one boy said he Total = 4 would be in charge of it and take it to his Location - Creswick Sq house at night so it didn’t get nicked, he Children - Girls: 20, Boys: 10 promised he’d bring it out for any other kids Total = 30 that wanted to play with it. The final square was very busy, lots of kids were out playing already and a game of copsPL AY T IME Splog
  • 67. NovEMbEr 2010 nd 02 2nd October their prisoner and it felt like there october 2010 The first part of today’s session was was quite a lot of deep content to very relaxed, a girl brought out her Hannah the play. one girl took the game too Montana fashion book and then started to far and was really hitting rainer, design her own outfit on paper. A group of he asked her to stop and she toldPL AY TIMES girls gathered round her and joined in, they him to shut up then left the game. all sat on the wooden turntable together other children carried it on, some making and sharing drawing. younger children got involved to play memories in The boy who usually hogs the hammock fairly help rainer, caring for their prisoner london’s east end aggressively was much better about sharing it with imaginary mushroom soup. today, we suspect his sister may have told their However, the girl who had hit him parents what he’d been up to and that he’d came back and accused him of been in trouble! He had a long conversation having got a grass stain on the back with rainer about different professions and of her new t-shirt during the course how much people in different jobs earned. of the game and demanded he pay He correctly guessed how much playworkers for a new one. He knew he hadn’t earned (though he didn’t confirm it!) and actually done it but the two other girls joined suggested training to be a lawyer instead! in to side with her and the situation was Location - Sheffield Sq unpleasant. Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 10 Location - Ollerton Green Total = 16 Children - Girls: 14, Boys: 9 Location - Electric House Total = 23 Children - Girls: 4, Boys: 5 Total = 9 9th October Location - Creswick Sq The kids got really into designing post-PL AY T IME S Children - Girls: 12, Boys: 11ers for next week’s party today and madeplog Total = 23 some great ones. It was quite a quiet session to begin as the weather was cold, grey and 5 October th drizzly and we ran about and played football Today was pretty grey but we had a with the kids who came in between draw- fairly busy session anyhow with about 20 ing the posters to stay warm. Inga had a long children playing out. Drawing and running history conversation with one boy who had games were the most popular today. Lots been learning about the history of Europe at of children got involved in a zombie game, school. chasing each other to turn each other into The last square was busy with around 30 zombies. one girl professed herself ‘creator kids. There are more and more playing out of the zombies’ and ordered everyone to here each week. Groups of children who do as she wanted, leading the other s very used to pass through the square while we successfully in a fun way. were there now stop and hang around and Location - Burdett Open Space have begun using the chalks and a few bit of Children - Girls: 17, Boys: 28 our play equipment, they don’t quite inter- Total = 45 act with us yet but they’re edging closer! Lots of our regulars were there too, excited about 7 October th next week’s party. They made some really Today rainer played a long game with great posters and we taped these to the walls a group of 3 girls, they played that he was around the square to advertise for next week.
  • 68. NovEMbEr 2010 nd 02 Location - Sheffield Sq Location - Ollerton Green Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 9 Children - Girls: 9, Boys: 14 Total = 11 Total = 23 Location - Electric House Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 2 16th OctoberPL AY TIMES Total = 5 Today was party day! We did shorter Location - Creswick Sq sessions at the first 2 squares then went to making and sharing Children - Girls: 12, Boys: 11 prepare the food. The first sessions were quiet play memories in Total = 23 but nice, I had a long game with 2 children of london’s east end hiding small orange boxes for them to find, 12th October then they hid them for me. We hid them Today was a kite day! We spent a large behind drain pipes, pressed in against a knot part of the session making kites with the on the tree, beneath door mats, on window children, folding up the sides of A4 sheets of sills, etc; it was great how the game spread the coloured paper and attaching a tissue paper play across the whole space available. tail and a string to fly it. They flew really well The party was a big success! We spread food and a group of small boys ran about excitedly on a cloth across the square’s central wooden with their kites for a long time. Some girls structure and this made a gathering point for came along and wanted to make kites too, children and their families, mostly mothers they spent a long time decorating their kites and grandmothers. The food went down well, and one girl made a beautiful tail for her one. a lot of it was healthy – crackers and chopped Another girl spent most of the session doing carrots and cucumber and this went almost crochet with Inga, getting really into it and as fast as the sweet stuff. A group of girls sticking at it even when she seemed to be chalked party decorations onto the ground, getting cold from sitting so long. We decided drawing balloons and swirls. It was a bigPL AY T IME S to lend her the crochet hook and some wool turn out as children from the others squaresplog to take home for the week till next session. came across to the party too and brought Location - Burdett Open Space friends. Towards the beginning it felt slightly Children - Girls: 27, Boys: 18 awkward as though people were waiting Total = 45 for something to happen but then everyone began playing and it felt like a normal play 14th October session just with higher energy and bigger We had a really good session today, crowds. We put up a hammock and made quite busy and many of the kids wanted to kites with the children, we played chase with make the paper kites. However there was the fabric and played with how many people some tension continued from last week could stand on the turning wheel and hold between rainer and the girls who had hands before they lost balance. accused him of ruining one of their t-shirts. Location - Sheffield Sq They returned asking him to play the same Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 3 game as last week and he explained he didn’t Total = 8 want to because last week they had turned Location - Electric House it into something nasty. They responded by Children - Girls: 1, Boys: 1 later taking some of our stuff – scissors and Total = 2 fabric, lying that they had put it back. We Location - Creswick Sq later found it hidden round the corner from Children - Girls: 26, Boys: 20 the play area. Total = 46
  • 69. DEcEMbEr 2010 th 05 november 2010 october 23rd October Location - Electric House Today just Inga and I were working Children - Girls: 0, Boys: 0 on the session. We had a lovely session with Total = 0 our regulars at the first square, we chat more Location - Creswick Sq these days it seems, it feels like now the kids Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 1PL AY TIMES have checked out us out through playing Total = 3 together they’ve got confident talking with making and sharing us. one boy, who is particularly bright, 26th October play memories in always likes to chat about jobs and money. Today was raining so london’s east end He seems perpetually confused by that we hard that no kids came. play for work, “how is it working? All you After holding out a while do is turn up here and play”! Each week it’s to see if any regulars like he’s been working on new ways to insult would join us we decided us, turning up and accusing Inga of being to leave and use the time an illegal immigrant/ descendent of Hitler, for reflective practise and myself of being a hippy/ grandma/ descendent planning. of churchill but it’s all good natured and he Location - Burdett Open Space loves our retaliations! He generally ends up Children - Girls: 0, Boys: 0 tied up in the hammock – which each week Total = 0 he intends to report us to our boss for but the next week he’ll come with an excuse for why 28th October he hasn’t done it yet! Today was sunny and cold and the Today no children came out at the second session was really busy, mostly with our square. It had just been raining hard but was regular kids. We made and flew paper kites dry when we were there. Inga and I made and played hide and seek. We also had a longPL AY T IME S a treasure map, marking with Xs the spots game of tag, Habiba got stuck being ‘it’ for aplog where we’d hidden a few lollies in plastic long time as the kids would run up onto the bags, wedged into the tree trunk and behind roof where she couldn’t follow! a drainpipe. We posted it through the door of Location - Ollerton Green the children we knew best who had come to Children - Girls: 12, Boys: 17 the party with us last week. Total = 29 We transformed the last square by running bright yellow tape around the tree posts to 30th October create a maze; it’s amazing how different one Today’s Saturday session began well, roll of tape made the space. Lots of children our regular kids were interested to meet looked out the windows, only about 5 came Scott, who joined Habiba and I to work on out to join us but we saw kids looking out today’s session. We made giant Halloween who we’ve never seen on our sessions before drawings in chalk across the square. one girl and hope they might join us in future if they wanted to make a kite, and to make it better get interested. We played at assault courses than the one she had made the week before. through the maze, timing ourselves on our She spent ages gluing tissue paper onto the mobile phone stop watch – a good way to paper in a pretty pattern but she layered it so keep warm for the rest of the session! much it became too heavy to fly. We had lots Location - Sheffield Sq of the usual hammock play too and a mock Children - Girls: 7, Boys: 4 war for hammock ownership! The kids span Total = 11 Scott on the wooden turn table to make him
  • 70. DEcEMbEr 2010 th 05 dizzy, a sort of welcome/ initiation to the play 4th November sessions it seemed! Today just Habiba and Inga were The next square was really busy, a welcome working. It was cold and windy but a lovely follow to last week’s lull of no kids here. The session with about 13 children coming. brother and sister we’d left the treasure map They played with the rope and hammockPL AY TIMES for thanked us – they’d found it and the in between games of chase. A group of girls treasure of lollies. We did another treasure had a long chat with Habiba about the boys, making and sharing hunt with lollies (the sweets were a Halloween telling her they didn’t like them because play memories in special!) then had a big game of 123 in they’re so rude, yet constantly watching them london’s east end together, a kind of hide and seek into chasing and waiting for them to come over! Fireworks game. Kids of all ages played together from were being let off at intervals through the 13 year old boys to 4 year old little girl and session and the kids kept running round the it worked really well. rain ended the game, corner to watch them then running back to the girls wanted to shelter under the tree, I play. Inga had a chat with the children about gave them glue and they stuck fallen Autumn the leaving party coming up at christmas. leaves onto a hollowed section of the trunk. They asked for sweets and hot chocolate. The boys began their own game of football Inga suggested cucumber but they told her after the heaviest showers had passed. not to bother! The last square was quieter following the rain, we played with 4 of our regular kids. 6th November 2 teenage boys sat nearby looking like they We’ve had another great Saturday wanted to join in when we did assault courses playing on this estate. our regular kids with the younger kids but seemed too worried soon came out when we arrived, coming to it wasn’t cool and just watched for a while. chat, make the hammock, and use our craft Location - Sheffield Sq materials. one girl made herself a carpet ofPL AY T IME S Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 2 papers – taped together and decorated to sitplog Total = 5 on while she drew with the chalks. We’re Location - Electric House finding there are no longer kids already Children - Girls: 12, Boys: 5 playing out when we get to this square, Total = 17 probably due to the colder weather. one boy Location - Creswick Sq wanted to put me on a lead of string and Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 3 walk me round the playground as his pet but Total = 5 his sister soon helped me to escape! He was keen to play fight and this built into a game 2nd November of taking prisoners – we ended up taping his We had a big game of hide and seek arms and legs with gaffer tape and putting catch today, it was cold and windy and a him in the hammock which he found very good day to be running! About 25 kids came funny, he wouldn’t let the girls help him at the beginning but most didn’t stay when it escape but wanted to break free by himself – began raining. Later 7 of our regulars joined which took about 10 minutes. Next week he’s us and stayed till the end of the session. promised to get his revenge… Location - Berdett We had a fair few kids come out to join us Children - Girls: 14, Boys: 11 at the next square and played lots of hide Total = 25 and seek and 1,2,3 in – the running helped everyone stay warm as today’s been cold, about 8 degrees. The end of the session was
  • 71. DEcEMbEr 2010 th 05 chaotic with a game of blind man’s buff, we 13th November used a scarf as a blindfold and a rolled up The session today was cold and grey bag as a hitting stick and had a great game. and reasonably quiet. At the first square the It started to get quite rough with a couple of kids were mostly wanting to chase a passing the boys at the end and it seemed a good idea cat! The second square was quiet for the firstPL AY TIMES to end the session here! 30minutes but then got busy for the rest of The last square was the busiest today, a few the session, we played a game of drawing making and sharing kids were already playing out here and it was chalk circles around each other. AT the final play memories in nice to have some new kids join in playing square we played a long game of catch with london’s east end with us as well as our regulars and also some a teddy bear one of our regulars had brought girls we hadn’t seen for several months. out then sat together in the swing and had a Location - Sheffield Sq long chat. Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 1 Location - Sheffield Sq Total = 4 Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 2 Location - Electric House Total = 7 Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 3 Location - Electric House Total = 9 Children - Girls: 4, Boys: 2 Location - Creswick Sq Total = 6 Children - Girls: 13, Boys: 5 Location - Creswick Sq Total = 18 Children - Girls: 4, Boys: 3 Total = 7 9 November th We were sad to arrive at today’s session 16th November and find the site was in a mess – the wooden Today was Eid day and loads of kids roundabout had been badly burnt and the came as they’d had the day off school. Lots ofPL AY T IME S surrounding area was covered in broken glass Muslim girls came by dressed up in beautifulplog following some bonfire night activities on the clothes, some stayed to play but many passed estate. Apparently the roundabout had been by after a short chat, not wanting to get the built on the place where each year bonfires clothes dirty. We did lots of painting with had always been made in the middle of the some new paints and played hide and seek. square, so this year they made it on top of The session ended with a fantastic game of the roundabout. broken glass from blown up cops and robbers that everyone got involved bottles surrounded it too, we picked up all we in and it travelled through the whole estate. could get to but the ground here is covered We used to play just in one part of the estate in a kind of plastic mesh that grass grows and now the games often spread throughout through and where the glass fell into the little it which feels great. holes between, we couldn’t get it out, we just Location - Burdett Open Space got the big pieces. Children - Girls: 7, Boys: 22 We had a good time with the kids that came, Total = 29 playing chase and races in partners (away from the glass). The races got creative and the 18th November kids raced running sideways, backwards, or It felt a bit like ‘one of those days’ hopping too! today! We couldn’t get access to any play Location - Burdett Open Space props as they are stored in the new adventure Children - Girls: 8, Boys: 3 playground which we hadn’t known would be Total = 11 closed today. It rained throughout the entire
  • 72. DEcEMbEr 2010 th 05 session so very few kids came out, we saw one she’d make a bigger house, then Habiba got of our regulars staring out the window but competitive too with a bigger house yet. A he called out he wasn’t allowed to play out couple of kids came out and joined in, then today as his mum had caught him bunking a family of 2 brothers and 2 sisters came school. 2 of our older regulars came by which down looking so excited, “it looks so coolPL AY TIMES was great. We went with them to the pound from up there”!, pointing to their flat on the shop round the corner to look for glow sticks fifth floor They joined in too making even making and sharing to brighten the session and although we bigger houses. one brother made a hotel that play memories in couldn’t find any it was a good trip. looked like canary Wharf, someone else london’s east end Location - Ollerton Green drew a school, then a playground and a pond Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 1 until the whole square became a chalk village Total = 3 joined up with chalk roads! Houses got more elaborate to compete with the neighbours 20th November too, I covered mine in flowers and fairy lights Today was cold and just our regulars then the kids wanted to do this too but more were there for the majority of the session and better! often when we leave this square though a couple of new girls joined us the the kids look a little flat and go home like it last 10 minutes. We played swing games, has to be the end when we leave but today cats cradle and chalk drawing – the usual they were so into it we were able to slip away favourites. They kids here want to do their and they were too into their play to care. usual stuff week by week now and its very Exactly what we want to happen relaxed and comfortable – we discussed how it Location - Sheffield Sq might be a good time to feed in some different Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 1 types of play ideas, bring different things and Total = 4 see what happens. We’re considering making Location - Electric HousePL AY T IME S a small fire and see how the locals accept it, Children - Girls: 6, Boys: 1plog it would be great to make warm drinks with Total = 7 the children as we get more into winter. Location - Creswick Sq The next square was fantastic today. No kids Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 3 were there at first but I decided to chalk Total = 5 draw a house for myself, then Inga thought
  • 73. DEcEMbEr 2010 th 07 december 2010 november 23rd November within minutes of us It’s been the coldest day so far this arriving for months now. winter, 1 degree with an icy north wind We put some coloured on top, so it was really positive to have ten tape round a section of children coming to today’s session. A new the square to create aPL AY TIMES family came by, a young brother and sister bright play space and with their mum who was curious about played hopscotch among making and sharing who the playworkers were and why they ourselves to stay warm play memories in were there. Habiba chatted to her about the but though we saw a few london’s east end project and she was happy for us to play with faces watching out the her kids. They played on the swings and did windows no one joined some painting and didn’t want to leave when us. their dad came to call them inside, the boy We had a lovely session threw a tantrum about going. with 3 girls at the next play The regular group of girls came by too, space. We began with the playing ‘it’ and painting. A group of teenage tape again, sticking long boys who are nearly always hanging out lines of different colour around the play sessions but normally don’t tape across the whole communicate with us stopped for a brief chat width of the square, then today. began to chase and tape the girls as they Location - Burdett Open Space joined us. Next they got their revenge, taping Children - Girls: 8, Boys: 2 Habiba and I to the tree. We broke free of the Total = 10 tree eventually – the tape gets surprisingly strong with enough layers, and had a happy, 25th November chaotic chase game for most the session. ThePL AY T IME S Another really cold day, 0 degrees, tape is great to ball up and throw during theplog and this reflected in the numbers. only 1 girl packing up process too! (We avoided using came by today but we had a great play session any chalk at this estate this week, following with her. We played hopscotch for a long time some complaints from last week where chalk with lots of cheating and fun. She played a use was high! Last week’s chalk was still game of drawing around her feet with chalk visible as it hadn’t rained). then jumping to a new spot and chalking At the final square no children were playing the new spot and so on, a game she used to out and it was just us for 20 minutes until play with Tess when she had worked on these 2 of our regular children and a new friend sessions several months ago. We played with arrived back home from an outing. We played glow sticks too, hoping these would entice chase with them, using the tape again and more kids down too by making the session got the glow sticks out for the last 30 mins as glow in the dark! twilight deepened, using them as swords in Location - Bede (indoor play) a war game. The kids tried to ‘vaporise’ the Children - Girls: 8, Boys: 6 playworkers and trap us in the basket swing. Total = 14 The glow sticks moving through the dark added extra atmosphere to the play. 27th November Location - Sheffield Sq Today the cold spell continued and at Children - Girls: 0, Boys: 2 the first square we had no children today, Total = 2 unusual here as our regulars have been out Location - Electric House
  • 74. DEcEMbEr 2010 th 07 Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 1 Location - Ollerton Green Total = 4 Children - Girls: 3, Boys: 6 Location - Creswick Sq Total = 9 Children - Girls: 1, Boys: 2 Total = 3 4th DecemberPL AY TIMES It was slightly warmer today, back 30 November th above freezing anyhow, with some light rain making and sharing Today was the first snowy day of this helping the ice to thaw. At the first square play memories in winter, snow had lain over-night and it there were no children for nearly 45 minutes london’s east end continued to snow all through the session. We and then suddenly 3 children, whose family had lots of snowball fights with teenagers and were at a ceremony at the Sikh temple round younger kids passing by, who stopped for a the corner, came by to play on the swings. little while to enjoy the snow before hurrying They stayed away from us at first but I went back into the warm! A little girl came with to say hi and explain we were running a play her mum too but just for a short time as her project and that they could use our stuff mum was worried about her getting too cold. (they’d been eying the foam swords we had Location - Burdett Open Space with us today). The girl asked if I had any ID Children - Girls: 1, Boys: 7 as they weren’t allowed to talk to strangers Total = 8 but was happy enough when I turned round to show her it said ‘Playworker’ on the 2nd December back of my vest! They took the swords and Today’s was a really nice session and played with them amongst themselves then with everyone enjoying the snow again with gradually it merged into a game with us and more snowball fights. The regular kids came lots of chasing. The 2 girls were also keen to plus a family; it often feels very family- use the hammock. The fun we were havingPL AY T IME S orientated here. We experimented with drew a few more kids out of their houses,plog the kids to see how big we could make the including a couple of our regulars who said snowballs but it was too powdery to hold their mums had been reluctant to let them well! The kids got more and more creative out in the ice at first. with how they played with the snow, 2 of At the 2nd square it was the same story, we our regulars decided to make a store tank of had to wait a while and play ourselves before snowballs on top of the garage roof and then the kids out. We’d found some wrapping throw them down from there. paper thrown out on the street on our way There was a bit of tension between 1 boy there and decided to tape this around the tree. and another with his sister during the The kids got excited about this ‘christmas snowball fights, 1 boy got quite aggressive tree’ and decorated it with lots more tape, and provoked them by throwing an icy-hard string and ribbons from the wrapping paper snowball into the girl’s face so she and her set we’d found, then poured glitter into the brother retaliated, chasing him to fight him bark and around the tree. rainer sang ‘old – they couldn’t catch him and it blew over. Tannenbaum’ at the top of the voice and A couple of teenage boys came and threw despite that all the kids were from Muslim snowballs hard at the play workers but it families, everyone got into a festive spirit! softened into something more playful. After We played more sword fights and had stick the snow fight these boys stayed and played on moustaches which the kids loved, “I’m a ‘Gladiator’, rolling and sliding down a slope scary villain now” one boy told me! We also covered in snow and ice. continued with crafts, I showed the kids how
  • 75. DEcEMbEr 2010 th 07 to cut chains of gingerbread men out of paper. her head torch and he contorted himself to We were late getting to the last square as it explore how he could move his head to get was hard to leave the last one and our two the light to travel in different directions. regulars told us off! It was just them and us Then it became his laser to kill the ghosts! here and was dark soon into this part of the At the end of sessions his sister always checksPL AY TIMES session. Morgan and I played with the older to ask who will be coming the next week, a girl, she wanted to continue a game we’d little anxiously, wanting to be sure we’ll be making and sharing had going several weeks now where we’re her coming back. play memories in prisoners. She was a very reasonable prison Location - Sheffield Sq london’s east end keeper. We could earn shillings for jobs, Children - Girls: 4, Boys: 1 such as looking after the princess or helping Total = 5 the chef, and could spend these on luxury Location - Electric House foods – beyond the “sloppy, ploppy porridge” Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 2 which is all we were allowed for free! She Total = 7 was very clear and vivid in expressing what Location - Creswick Sq she imagined without being bossy at all. Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 1 Meanwhile rainer had another imaginative Total = 3 game with her younger brother who wanted to play power rangers. Morgan lent himPL AY T IME Splog
  • 76. jANUArY2011 th 06 bedePL AY TIMES Estate “The uglier it is, the stronger the message: ‘you myths of a romanticized golden era of the making and sharing don’t deserve beauty: what you do is not worth cockney. but here, on this estate, I found it. play memories in very much.’” The genuine article. I have found the heart london’s east end of the East End and it is big and warm and Starting to play on a new space. pulsing. ‘I am allowed to go over there to my mate The Playtimes team has recently found a because her mum is like a sister to my mum couple of little pockets of money which coz they grew up together so she’s my cousin’. we have decided to use to supplement our Every time we go onto this estate we find existing sessions. The original agreement new excitement and adventures. The children was for the team to establish play sessions in do roam, not over the whole estate, and three locations over the course of three years. certainly not outside of the estate. but they Working with the community alongside the are confident comfortable and really really children delivering face to face work and bright. The adults understand the need for gathering play memories from the adults. them to play in fact many of them grew up Well,’ more interesting than what we were playing on the same spaces. seeking is what we stumbled upon – ’ to quote Each new site the play times team have the introduction to Family and Kinship in gone to they have found different feeling to East London. (Young & Willmott.) it. Some have felt hostile to us at first, othersPL AY T IME S We found that in this new bit of the cynical and scathing, but here feels alive andplog project we are thrown slap bang into the vibrant we have half a dozen older children middle of a regeneration of a huge area of volunteering to help us out with the play estates. collecting play memories is always sessions. Here are some accounts of our; powerful but here those memories melded into stories of place. because here there had Play Times on bede been art least a couple of generations growing I up on the same estates ‘a highly articulated 25th October 2010 network of kinship relations.’ (to finish the t was such a wonderful experience, previous quote.) the children were thrilled to have this In all the years I have been living and opportunity. on the square where me working in East London I have been told and Morgan were at it was mostly boys about the tight knit communities of the and 1 girl, about halfway through another past. I have had described to me the shared girl joined, she had so much energy and open spaces where people stopped to talk enthusiasm and ideas to make the playhouse, and the children played and how everybody she was full of ideas and making adjustments looked out for each others children and how one after the other, it also the first girl didn’t they looked after the elders who had looked feel so left out, as all the boys were writing after them as kids and how when some-one on the house and saying ‘boys house only’ was sick the community rallied round… all and things like that. These two girls built the the things that I had begun to think were house and later the boys were going inside the
  • 77. jANUArY2011 th 06 house and letting the girls go in other house building a house with the cardboard and also. Having had this taster play session chalk drawing and the materials. The house here has made more aware of how much the constantly fell apart and had to be repaired. children and deprived of play in built up Mum had a look sometimes through her places like these. The children thoroughly door if everything is fine. She also wanted toPL AY TIMES enjoyed themselves and used all the loose see some ID and I gave her Penny’s ‘String of parts that we took with us. When rainer and beads’ and remember’ cards, she was happy making and sharing Habiba were going on to the other square, with. play memories in one child came to me with a slightly upset At the end their older brother came home london’s east end look and asked “are you going now?”, “No” and was surprised and asked his brother what I replied, “but if you want us to go we will we are doing here. The little brother said there pack up and go”, to which he said “please was a ‘fun fair’ going on. The older brother dont go, this is the most fun I have had.” was a bit confused as he did not see any big Having a regular play session here will give carousels, bouncy castles, loud music etc.. the children around the square something …well, that little brother was so right, we meaningful and give them some true play had so much fun together… and I guess his values. playing must have felt like a fun fair… taking KS risks and going through so many different emotions in his playing. one guy on the second square, after we’ve Looking very much forward to playing more took out our loose parts, cardboard, materials at that place. and small word parts, an approximately 18 rK I year old young man came with his vespa, parking it near from one of our play flags and felt this would be a wonderful place to us. He was looking but didn’t say anything work, and a place where work is muchPL AY T IME S at first. obviously it must have been quite needed. We had a few children over theplog a surprise for the whole square seeing day and I felt it was a diverse bunch in two strangers spreading child stuff on the age, interest and play background. square… and waiting! Well he took his time The children who were there longest were so parking his horse and was about to go in his bright and engaged, so ready to play, patient flat but turned around, not wanting to leave and creative. with that a question unanswered for him. There was a group of boys who were at times I explained our project and mentioned the quite aggressive in their play but really good consultation at that east end home shop, and about doing that with one another. They were he seemed shifting into a different world… interested in tagging, claiming materials and mentioning that he played on that square space. Some of this, particularly some quite as a child, some childhood memories must graphic graffitti, upset some of the younger have flooded his mind and his face looked children, but the boys had huge passion in very different. What a wonderful welcoming their play and a great hunger for it. of our work! There was also a family who came where After waiting for a while one mum opened all of the children just stared up at us with her door asking what’s going on here. We said this longing that they didn’t know what to we’re waiting for the children… She said: do with. one asked me how to start, whether Give me 5 minutes! they could build something. We put some Her daughter and son played with us things together but it was clear they don’t throughout the whole session. We were get a lot of practice at this. They would ask
  • 78. jANUArY2011 th 06 one of us to “make this so it stays up here” back towards the den, which was now empty. but there was nothing beneath it – they were “Yes! jail! You’re going to jAIL,” she said, trying to play but I don’t think they yet had “for being rAcIST.” over her shoulder I saw the blocks of experience to build on (literally, Penny appearing and saw her put her hand metaphorically). I set up an L-shaped piece of up to hide a laugh.PL AY TIMES cardboard as a ramp and set a small car down “I didn’t do it,” I said to my captor, trying to it beside them, then left it as if moving onto reach through instinct for the part I wanted making and sharing something else. I was interested to see if/how she might want me to play. My protests were play memories in they’d pick it up and they did, sending things ignored and she tugged harder on the ropes. london’s east end down the ramp. one then tried to run up it “Yes, “ she said, satisfaction in her voice as on his bike, and when it was squashed they we rounded the corner towards the door cut came up to ask me to “help! help!” into the cardboard. “You’re going into the Their Mum got cold and they left, protesting dungeon, with the dragons and the pirates and crying. and the brown princesses.” She threw me in, The children and the parents were asking ropes dangling from my wrists. about when we’d be there again. one of I broke out a few moments later and was the boys was complaining that the building promptly reincarcerated, but the third time works had taken away nearly all the places I was asked to hold a length of duct tape in to play. He was the one who kept asking us place for a tricky roofing operation. When when we’d be there, if we’d bring cardboard, that was finished we drew moustaches on how it would be. strips on paper, “hum hum humming” at each other in deep, pompous, nonsense 4th November 2010 voices. She grinned. “I’m not racist,” the girl said. The boys inside “That’s how people with moustaches talk,” the den she’d built laughed. we agreed. behind us Kunhi smiled behindPL AY T IME S “Yeah, you are,” one said loudly. “We all his facial hair.plog heard you say it. You hate white people!” The MLS girl looked up at me and bit her lip. Location - Bede 1 Children - Girls: 2, Boys: 4 “I didn’t,” she said quietly. “I never.” on her Total = 6 other side was Kunhi, and he touched her on Location - Bede 2 the shoulder and spoke loud enough to be Children - Girls: 5, Boys: 1 Total = 6 heard inside the den. I “I didn’t hear that,” he said. There were more whispers from the boys inside, more laughter. don’t know about you guys but I was She crossed her arms over her chest and delighted by the day today. I found the walked off in the direction of home, kicking children charming bright and alert, at the tarmac. Kunhi coaxed her back and sometimes hard to break through their when she returned I tied a piece of gold fabric shell but worth working at. around her wrist to draw her back in. The adults were furious*, but not unreasonable A little while later I was in a game with as we have found on other Estates. another child, chasing and lassoing one I was impressed by the rallying calls that another across the square. The girl joined in, went around, the bush telegraph was effective taking up the rope and looping it around me, here, and the children were the runners. It her eyes bright. felt like going back in time or traveling for “You’re going to PrISoN,” she said. thousands of miles to a time and place when “oh no!” I cried, letting myself be pulled people still lived with each other. They may
  • 79. jANUArY2011 th 06 not always agree or like each other but they to the theatre for the youth club and a trip to live with their differences. the cinema for the younger kids. *this session was a consultation for East End As a last minute thought at the end of the Homes on the development of the outdoor week cathy Page and Penny decided to do spaces. It moved very rapidly to quite emotive a few halloween activities. We did not wantPL AY TIMES issues. to do a party for the kids, but show them a I was moved by a conversation with one few how to make your own Halloween stuff making and sharing woman who told me she had hated the estate tips. Penny did the usual and bought in loads play memories in for many years when she first lived here. She of Satsuma’s on which pumpkin faces were london’s east end said she realized that she could not go on living drawn in permanent pen. She also bought with such hatred inside her and so she started several metres of black shiny organza. With to look for the treasure in the place which theses and a stapler the children could create was the people around her. She now would their own spooky cloaks. There was a great not move from Her small and overcrowded turn out of children and they had a good flat because she loves her neighbours and the time. There was a bit of bemusement. When life they have created for each other. they were asked to respect the new shop/ It was moving to hear her talk about community space one of the kids asked having grown up, seeing such an ugly place if it was going to be like school here. (was the whole day, day in day out. The peach it a place where there would be rules and coloured bricks and windows and the grey regulations to be negotiated.) we assured pavements. She said that most people never him that this was not the case and he was leave the estate or go anywhere else or see any relaxed again. However the children and beauty. young people clearly didn’t know how to She described to me a holiday she had this behave in this space and at one point several year. As they drove down the mountains to of them started throwing Satsuma’s aroundPL AY T IME S the seaside village she wept because it looked outside. one hit a passerby who got veryplog like heaven on earth, it was so beautiful. cross. he was an estate resident and one of This reinforces the design ethos that I the mums that was helping out went to get was working on. She did not want to see a the child that did it and took him to the playground on her square, just something gentleman and made him apologise. This lovely and flexible so that they could continue kind of old fashioned community looking to use the space as a gathering point. A place after the children is another example of how where they can continue to have their big this estate still functions like a traditional block parties and where the children can east end community. meet up safe under all of the watchful eyes This helped considerably to set the tone around them, somewhere where neighbours of the use of the shop and give the children can linger and be with each other. the clarity they needed. The boy was treated PW with respect and understanding and was encouraged to see the consequences of what Halloween on bede. Friday he had done. He was given comfort and support when he crumpled after the event T 29th October 2010 and said he was fed up of always being he team at EEH had been doing in trouble. Several of the children at this a week filled with activities for event have ADHD. We need to make sure half term. There had been flower that we are treating them in constructive planting on the square and a trip ways. It is hard to live with ADHD. one
  • 80. jANUArY2011 th 06 has poor impulse control and finds it hard of the younger kids made a den out of the to learn from ones mistakes. There is a drive temporary stairwell. they worked hard at it to constant activity and a desire to be doing and did a great job. they thought that maybe ‘the next thing’ before the last one is through. they wanted to keep every one out, but found I can see that these kids are very often that they were actually happy to invite theirPL AY TIMES perceived as a nuisance by folks who have not friends in at the end of the build process. lived in close contact with ADHD. After all There was a little bit of a fuss about the use making and sharing they do do all the things that we associate of some sari fabric. one of the kids suggested play memories in with naughty rude children. However if we that ‘we don’t use that P— stuff around here’. london’s east end treat them right we see a very different side of but the other kids told him to pack it in and them. Telling them off and punishing them played the whole thing down. I didn’t get the is not going to work. More than anyone else, impression that this was done for my benefit, they wish that they could just pull themselves just that they knew he was sounding off and together and behave normally. (the best way testing me and they didn’t want their time to respond to them is working with them spoiled by his nonsense. I made a note to to understand clear boundaries, explain myself to bring as many bits of glorious sari why those boundaries are in place. To have fabric in as I possibly could. Meanwhile on sanctions that are agreed with the child but the square the children played quite happily not to view these as punishments , but as a together eleanor was using glow sticks as it way of taking a step back to decide to work grew darker and there was an interesting hard at coming back… all of this needs to be incident. The children had all been choosing re-enforced over and over gain. Disabilities their glow stick colours there were only a are inconvenient for all concerned . ADHD few left so there was a ration, one for each is a disability recognised in employment law child. one little girl insisted on being given a and by health services and benefits agencies.) stick for each of her brothers and sisters andPL AY T IME S Perhaps we need to make sure that we are cousins who lived on the estate but were notplog training estates staff up to understand how at the session. Eleanor said no they had agreed these kids need to be understood. how to share, if the other children joined the Teenager c was invaluable at this event. session then they could collect a glow stick. She organised and face painted and tidied up, Eventually one of her brother came into the getting all the kids to share the task. She kept square with Dad on the way to Arabic school. the whole thing calm and smooth. I leant The boy saw the glow stick in the girls hand her some facepaints for the real Halloween and said he wanted one. Eleanor gave him evening. EEH cP made sure that she was one, but it was not the colour that he wanted given a little something to thank her. which was the colour his sister had. Without a thought Dad made the girl give hers to the Session on bede boy and they left the square. Putting these two incidents together later we realized that 4th November 2010 we are in a very difficult spot. I would like rK EI nd PW worked this session. we started to use this as a reflective practice exercise. off on the north square off Wager street and Where would the playwork principles take gradually rainer moved to the southern one, me on this question? PW moved between the two. the children If we add to this the fact that the squares used some of the cardboard that was left from are predominantly white traditional local the previous week. a go-Kart that Eleanor residents. They discuss race as an issue, but had in the boot of her car, and fabric. two deny racism. ‘we welcome anybody, that’s
  • 81. jANUArY2011 th 06 how the east end has always been. but we resource in a way that we had only dreamed don’t like it when people don’t respect us and of. our ways and culture. We don’t like it when It is worth mentioning that the walls of we think people are taking advantage of us or Wager Street are painted with whiteboard when they will not mix.’ paint. There is a constant mural of ideasPL AY TIMES Many of these families are overcrowded and pictures and insults and jokes appearing and have been for many years. but they and disappearing on these walls. This is a making and sharing love their community and would rather great tool for doing any sort of engagement, play memories in be overcrowded with each other than have particularly the ‘over the garden fence’ london’s east end space and be isolated for their ‘family’. of type work. Ideas get written up and you course this is exactly how old style London take a picture of them. Simples! A highly communities are described, and African recommended device. villages and villages in bangladesh. It seems to be what we crave in our lives. I must confess volunteer recruitment day to feeling envious of these families who live 5 Wager Street. so tightly together. However in front of one M of the blocks and to the corner of others 6th November 2010 and dotted all over the overcrowded estate any of the adults on the estate there is constant building work in progress had asked about volunteering to build new 5 and 6 bedroom houses. The to run youth groups play assumption is that these are for the bengali sessions and child care population who live in extended family sessions. EEH organised a Saturday event in groups. While this is going on the ‘rat runs’ 5 Wager Street to recruit these folks. are being designed out of the estate and the We sat around all day waiting for the residents who have lived tightly together for influx of adults, which never came. A couplePL AY T IME S 30 or so years will no longer be able to carry of lovely bengali women expressed an interestplog on ‘popping in and out of each others houses in volunteering which was great news for me. three or fours times a day.’ one of the elders also volunteered… ‘well The trick is to remember that more than these kids here. They aint going to take any one thing can be true at any one time. notice if some-one from outside comes in to tell ‘em off. Ill do it, they’ll listen to me. We About 5 Wager Street. understand each other.’ What did surprise and delight us all was There was a shop front allocated to child care that the older children volunteered. At first of some sort in the first stages of re-generation. I thought they were just bored and whiling it was going to be used by Sure Start from the away their time. but as we talked I understood outset. After discussion EEH thought that that they have a genuine sense of community. the shop could also be used for after schools Why should I be surprised at this after all I play sessions and for Youth groups as well have learned form these people.? as as a community centre. The open spaces They filled in their application forms and consultation was held there and PATH are personal statements. ‘I baby sit for families on able to keep their loose parts there and use the estate and I had a work placement in a it as a base . There is quite a lot of interest nursery’. (Teenage boy) in this shop front from the community and one kid was very into football and said as we will see in the up and coming entries, he wanted to show the little one show great they are taking control of this community it was being outside rather than sat indoors
  • 82. jANUArY2011 th 06 with their x boxes. Another said that they cohesive communities , envy and jealousy know and understand the little children and where none existed before, a resentment of want them to be able to play. bengali families that had not been present These kids are sweet and kind. until the regeneration and a feeling that I spent a while with a woman from the white community is being treated withPL AY TIMES Sure start. We started to discuss her play a negative prejudice. These perceptions are memories. She was transported at once and expressed with caution. but I hear similar making and sharing the memories kept unfolding. She seemed remarks in many places I visit. Play is the sort play memories in to be moved by the strength of the sensation of arena that can address this kind of hurt. london’s east end but more than that by the fact that she was It is generally accepted that all children need organizing sure start activities and training to play and that children should be playing parents and that no-one had ever asked her to together. Through doing this the barriers of recall her own playing. She had not stopped the unknown are transgressed. The mums to think about the reality of play. this was a will chat and find that ‘The other’ is not a very very bright, talented and lovely woman horrible creature, but some –one who can and I really look forward to hearing from her become a passing acquaintance or a close about ways to enhance the play that she is friend. The other thing that works is food. offering in her provision. Memo to self, a foody all age play day! So having recruited a lot of kids as trainee As the little children and I stood in front playworkers/volunteers, we sat back and of a space that they wanted as a garden, ‘;for waited for the adults. Still nothing. So at them as don’t have a balcony or a garden of about 3.30 we closed up. I went walkabouts their own but still love to grow things’, a with two of the children. They always make miracle happened, even greater than their sure that they ask mum before they do this.. wisdom. The sun set over mile end park and I like that. We looked at some of the opens between two blocks the most luscious plumPL AY T IME S spaces on the estate and they imagine their and custard sky burst out of nowhere. I captureplog ideas. The childrens garden and growing is and showed them on my camera, catching spaces. The way that the squares could be their glowing faces as well. ‘That looks like used so that all the families could be out Africa’ they breathed. And I remembered there like they were last year with the world reading over Andover again to my one year cup parties. Should these spaces have locks? old son, ‘the sun rose over the African plain Yes… wait No because if they have locks then …something and something… as it had done the other kids from other spaces wont be able since the beginning of time’. Well the Lion to come in and they will feel sad and left out’ King finally paid off! one of the children (Eat you heart out secure by design people. told me about the difficult times she had had This kid could think it through to know that before she moved on to the estate, then she people, when excluded from public spaces said, her face glowing with the sunset light,’ feel sad and he knows that if they feel left out when I moved in, me and my mate would get they are also going to feel jealous and if they stools and sit together outside on the balcony feel jealous they are also going to feel cross and watch the sunsets. I love sunsets’. and if the feel cross they do cross things.) I This community works beautifully and is in 11th November 2010 danger of being dismantled by design. Here forgot to mention that one of the housing am I funded by one Tower Hamlets, a social officers had told me about ‘mischievous cohesion fund, and what am I being told? That night’ Explanation below is taken direct improvements are liable to create division of from Wikipedia.
  • 83. jANUArY2011 th 06 Mischief Night (also known as……. Devil’s his mistake and apologized. Local and swift Night, Hell Night, Cabbage Night, Gate an effective. This authoritarian imposition of Night, and Mizzy Night and Miggy Night) unwritten rules with unspecified penalties is an annual tradition in parts of England, without any kind or judicial procedure or Canada, and the United States; a night when appeal is never going to work. We made surePL AY TIMES the custom is for people (primarily teenagers that these kids were welcomed to the sessions and preteens) to take a degree of license to play and their importance to us made clear. This making and sharing pranks and do mischief to their neighbors. was a glorious session for me. There was den play memories in The most common date for Mischief Night is building and small world and drawing and london’s east end October 30, the day before Halloween.[1][2] conversation and fun and games with the However the traditional British Mischief Night entry phone and dressing up and the tent that is the night before bonfire night as this was the h had given to the project and cP stayed to night Guy Fawkes was caught implementing his help out and the mums stayed and planned Gunpowder Plot. a christmas present making session with She had the same lost in reverie look that PATH and also decided to enter the ‘perfect people do when they remember their early christmas’ competition’ from sainsburys. years as she told us this. And the dads came in to see what was going This week there was torrential rain and on and stayed a while. I hadn’t realized til rainer and I decided to get permission to run then how matriarchal this society was. Again, the sessions from 5 Wager Street. this is fresh out of the pages of ‘Family and This could not have been a better decision. Kinship in East London’. The children came in, I went off to collect At one point I saw rainer sitting down, some with one of the kids. We built dens just watching the evening unfold. and drank hot chocolate and bit by bit the I have never seen that before. I looked at him shop filled up with young uns and teenagers and we smiled and greed that the playing wasPL AY T IME S and parents. A bizarre game of catch with a doing itself. We didn’t need to support it veryplog plastic crab ended the day. It was lovely and much at all this week. relaxed and cozy and felt like a family. The older children asked if we could run the sessions a little later so we have decided I 18th November 2010 to extend the finish til 7 and start at 4. but got a call from cP to say that some of the we must be mindful that the younger ones older kids were in trouble on the estate. are also in need of their own time. We must They had been messing about (playing, guard this with care. not shooting up or dealing drugs or committing violent crimes mark you), in one 25th November 2010 of the stairwells. An adult resident had come Penny was busy researching the archives out to complain at them, one of the kids had of Lady Allen of Hurtwood in Warwick. responded with choice and ill advised words Morgan and cathy worked this session and now, although they didn’t know it, these together. kids were to be punished. This is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left 2nd December 2010 hand is doing or why. These acts of arbitrary This is a strange piece of work. one minute injustice serve to sever the community and I find myself elated by the possibilities of the do not instill a sense of self worth and well work and the next plunged into depression being in a young person. If you remember the over another piece. Satsuma throwing incident, the child realized
  • 84. jANUArY2011 th 06 However when I stand back I realize that and the flower beds were looking now. It we have stumbled upon a place filled with turned out that he was taking care of the wonderful people, who have made use of the planter he had worked on. ‘I aint gonna mess opportunities we have given them. it up.’ He said. ‘I planted that.’ 5 Wager Street is becoming a shared A local resident who has lived on the estatePL AY TIMES sitting room. We are doing the christmas pretty much all her life was thinking about decoration event with the mums next week. the proposals to open a up a large green space making and sharing the play sessions and the youth sessions are that previously had only been opened to play memories in melded into one. The young people support mow the grass. This will be the first of the london’s east end the children, the children welcome new new ‘parks’ on the estate. ‘ oh. I’ll be able to children into the sessions, bengali ones at sit and read my book and look at the trees. that, so much for the stereo typical label of We was never allowed to play there when we racism. was kids’. My colleague this morning was telling me about how one LbTH rSL had said how it christmas decoration making was impossible to heal the rift between the workshop at 5 Wager Street. S elders and the teenagers. Not on bede. Here a grandmother uzannah and Penny prepared a volunteered to supervise the youth club for workshop with maximum glitter a couple of hours. The kids were happy with and fun. The mums had been eager this and helped her lock up after they had to have a session ‘just for us with finished. Do we sometimes paint our children no kids’. This was partly said in fun and and communities in the worst possible partly serious. I think they liked the idea colours so that we make ourselves appear of something for them. A woman stopped more impressive? ‘oh you should see the cathy and Penny on their way in to the shopPL AY T IME S estate/kids/ children/tenant/young people and said she wouldn’t come to a christmasplog that I have to deal with. They are dreadful.’ decoration workshop but she would come There seems to be a thought process that leads to a bingo session. This request was made people to think that if they describe their several times during the day. estates as the very worst , they will inspire cathy and I cleaned up a fair amount. The high esteem and respect from others. This is place does need to be cared for as , like every not supporting the community at all. It gives other shared facility it begins to look shabby the place a bad reputation which becomes a quickly and broken window syndrome kicks self fulfilling prophecy. If it was indeed ‘the in. worst’, how would such an attitude help? The mums were slow to arrive, cathy had off to a session there right now. Note to to go out head hunting and they began to drift self, buy extra glitter…. in. There were a couple of children around Stop press. too. They were ill and off school. There were some nasty bugs around. . anyway the room Two lovely quotes. looked so cute. We dimmed the lights so that the fairy lit bottle glowed and Suzannah Until recently one of the squares on the estate made beautiful candles. The women made had long neglected planting squares in it. In baubles and decorated bunches of withies october a community project took place to with stuck on glitter, fairy lights and other repair and replant these raised beds. sparkly bits. A local teenager was asked how the square
  • 85. jANUArY2011 th 06 The session ran over time, but we were elders down the temporary staircase. having a great time and I don’t think any ‘More than one thing can be true at the same one wanted to stop. The banter amongst the time.’ women was sharp and fast and incredibly (APb) v funny. It was a very comfortable group toPL AY TIMES be a part of. I have seldom felt so accepted oting closed on the Perfect and so at home. It felt like a consolidation christmas. We heard nothing. making and sharing of the work that we had done with the kids. could it be that this place was play memories in So natural to do something for mums to not pretty enough or middle london’s east end enjoy, a play session for themselves. And they class enough to fit the Sainsburys criteria? threw themselves at the afternoon with all It was fun to play with the vague possibility the exuberance of children at play. This is that the advert, shot in a darling little a compliment, not a put down. It is rare to village in Yorkshire or somewhere, could be find a group of adults who have the lust for recreated for the pre-christmas sainsburys life, the zest and appetite to share playfulness rush advertising on this estate. I did want with their friends and for themselves in the them to have a lovely surprise. skilful way that children do. We mentioned Several other things happened over that the ‘Perfect christmas’ vote. It seemed that last week or so. we were very successful in getting a lot of There had been a robbery in the area. votes and we wanted to make sure that all Police action had followed. The young people the mums had used their vote. It would be so were at once assumed to be responsible. but great to have a big free party for them in their on ccTv footage, there was no sign of them ugly grim car park. To have something that being part of the operation. made them feel special in a good way. Again, a young person found playing in the “The uglier it is, the stronger the message: stairwells was sent a warning notice. ThreePL AY T IME S ‘you don’t deserve beauty: what you do is not strikes and your out… he was not part of theplog worth very much.’” David Sillito on public discussion and didn’t know a complaint had space design in 360 cAbE Issue 23 Autumn been made about him til the notice arrived. 2010 There are few issues at work here. one mum in particular was eager to get Innocent until proven guilty? home to be there when her teenage son arrived The rights of the young person for adequate back. There is a huge amount of delicate and representation. attentive parenting going on here. It gets The creating of a set of policies, and the misinterpreted I think, the style is not Super initiation of those policies, after the event. Nanny or Mary Poppins, but it is every bit (You have broken a law that we just made up.) as robust and solid and dependable. It is The assumption that the this section of the grounded in a fierce love. You can certainly community of the estate are wrong’uns. see it reciprocated in the children. They show I lack of understanding of the culture of the concern for their parents and neighbours and young person and an assumption that he is tease them and test them and make them racist. laugh. Not understanding the behaviour of I was listening to an account of a child I know adolescents, mistaking ordinary hi-jinks for quite well from a member of staff. Her view anti social behaviour. (My son was given a was entirely at odds with my own experience short term exclusion from his rubbish outside of him. I glanced out the window to see him London school because he wouldn’t tuck his carrying the shopping trolley of one of the shirt in. Had he been found teaching the
  • 86. jANUArY2011 th 06 youngest children in the school how to shoot tomato soup, comfort food for cold children.. up I would have had every sympathy with the It felt good. As we walked around there were school.) always clutches of people talking and there The assumption that telling young people was always a word to be shared ch wanted off and threatening them with a punishment me to arrange some training for her. M had aPL AY TIMES will make them change their ways. This picture of a thing that some-one had tripped organization need s to have its tenants on over in the snow. G needed a friendly contact making and sharing side. They should work with this kid and over the two week break. T and M needed to play memories in they would find a loyal supporter in him. know when the club would open again.) london’s east end Work against him and he will turn against So in the freezing snowy conditions you. Simples! bernard and Andy and I walked the triangular In the last play session I took part in estate and looked at the new build and the there was a grandmother daughter and spaces and the people. There was a group of granddaughter. The two mums were young people roaming all around the place concerned that the young people were in the it felt a welcoming place not the ASbo session every week. I explained that they were land nightmare that its reputation boasts. helping me out and that the sessions would be It this desire to have a tough reputation the moving onto the squares as soon as possible equivalent of leather jackets and tattoos, it is and I would need them all the time there. armour plating? We are tough so we will not ‘Yes but I don’t want her’ (pointing to a 5 get taken advantage of? Is it like the fighting year old granddaughter) ‘to know the things frill on the bearded dragon? (Look how big they know’. I must remember that while I am and tough and scary I am). Is it a reputation delighted with the ideas of playable space and generated by the residents or the estates an end to age segregation, that we do need to staff dating back to some distant point in ring fence time that is just for the little ones. the past… ‘I work on the X estate’ – answerPL AY T IME S The teenagers have their time and we will comes in tones of impressed awe ‘blimey,plog try to make sure the mums do too. And any do you. Its really rough down there. I don’t other group that wants it. The children lead know how you cope with it.’ such adulterated lives already, we have to be Whatever it is I simply don’t feel it. alert to their right to play without having to I walk through the place and fruit tree compromise their childishness. This is hard lined boulevards spring up before my eyes, to do when street savvy bolshy teenagers are wide pavements sprout beautiful swinging swearing all around you and discussing sex. seats and fountains. The desolate gray spaces bubble and burst into English country W 17th December 2010 gardens, (john riley House) community alked around the estate play gardens filled with growing beds for with bernard Spiegal from households and a children’s garden. In the PLAYLINK in the snow. It Portia Way triangle I see a circular goldfish was fantastic to have Andy pond with a tinkling fountain and a lipped osborn –project manager –join us. edge to sit on while you admire the water (I find myself looking for excuses to visit lilies. the estate now. I know I will always see some- I can see the gently mounded kick about one I know and have a chat. Had c knock area with a curling slate topped gabion the window to me today. She invited me in wall just right for all sorts of being there… and introduced me to the grandchildren. We there are picnic tables and beautiful stands had a natter while she cooked savaloys and of slender silver birch or sculpted conifers,
  • 87. jANUArY2011 th 06 every block of flats has an elegant doorway moasiaced haven is as doable as any other. and there is wisteria and passion flower I like seeing the world this way. I sometimes and fruiting vines and virginia creeper and get the split screen effect that allows me my all year round it feels like a luxury country preferred version of the place a whilst also estate. It is beautiful. seeing some-one else’s.PL AY TIMES rose tinted spectacles? I have to tell you. My way is better. making and sharing Perhaps. but my version of a quirkily play memories in london’s east endPL AY T IME Splog
  • 88. jANUArY2011 th 06 November 18th 2010PL AY TIMES Eric Street making and sharing play memories in london’s east end play sessions We have run play sessions from here So on this first session, it was a good idea on about four previous occasions, and I have for me to playwork it along with a colleague hung around this space a lot during the from the Play times Team. It is my intention building process. to keep the local knowledge that this team We had playworkers helping with has and build upon it shamelessly. They consultations and with the launch of the recognise and are recognised and are familiar space and some summer playdays. with the geography of the area and of the I really wanted to make sure that the space people. However there were none of the team continues to be as popular as it has been so far available yesterday so I borrowed another and make sure that the playability of it did not worker from the Playing out team and set off lapse. The estate is having increasing activity to meet him at Eric Street, (‘you cant miss it, on the regeneration work and it seemed there’s a cow there’.) I got there early because important that we continued to emphasize I wanted to see where the children came from the message that the whole community will on their way home from school and at what c have to have some beautiful free space during time.PL AY T IME S –as well as after – this process. athy from East End Homes hadplog I was delighted that HALc were able to already sent letters to all the make a grant to PATH to fund this work. So families in the area announcing two playworkers will be working here every the start of these sessions. And Wednesday throughout the winter and into after all the families and I had got to know the summer. each other fairly well over the last few months. Although the area presents a few problems, I took a lot of photos while I waited. I the garden itself has not been the scene of generally do. However this site pleases me dealing or anti social behaviour. In fact now and the last of the cabbages were looking there are fairy lights in the tree the visibility great and there were some green tomatoes on this space is so good that it would be that I was tempted to steal to make chutney. foolish to use it for illegal purposes. And The japanese anemones looked fantastically indeed I found out last night that there are fairy like and delicate in the freezing cold, in eyes on the space from all four sides, the fact the planting in the borders of the gardens curtains twitch constantly, some folks just was looking good. Not at all municipal, very pull the curtain wide and try to stare you out soft and colourful and domestic. and lovely K , who shouted at us n the first I waited a little longer. No playworker turned day of the building works, now has her chair up. permanently angled to get a clear view of the I stuck a few ‘play’ flags in the ground garden and the entrance to the square as well and got some twilight shots of them. Still no as her telly. colleague. Kicking myself for bad practice
  • 89. jANUArY2011 th 06 – I didn’t have his number in my phone, I office saying I was leaving the session and started to try and trace him. by now I was with a few more photos and a fumbling cold feeling aggrieved and more than a little fingered text message to East End Homes, I miffed. I wondered round a bit more, took left. photos of the fairy lights as they came on in We will try again next week. perhapsPL AY TIMES the tree… then a text to say my colleague had I will make some posters for the estate been taken to hospital. notice boards. Winter sessions are always a making and sharing Shame faced at my own bad karma for challenge, even when there are fairy lightsto play memories in being angry, I wrote a note to the children help you. london’s east end who might have turned up. Phoned in to thePL AY T IME Splog
  • 90. FEbrUArY2011 play session at When a child picked up a st 01 small world dolphin to throw at another kid who had beenPL AY TIMES 5 wager street goading him, I saw a chance to make a game of this. ‘No throwing dolphins at any time’ I said and wrote it on making and sharing 20 th January 2011 a wall (white board paint… play memories in cathy and Penny had met with a couple genius.) I had to amend this to include all london’s east end large sea life. From then on the rules on the of the older kids the previous day and explained that we needed them to support a wall became a motif. session with the little ‘uns. we also promised ‘No two people can be Michael jackson at to work towards them getting another any one time’ evening session for the older kids and that ‘no boys or girls in this area’ we would try to find a way of helping them ‘there will be no laziness here’ out with some advocacy to support them ‘you may use your hands’ in their relationships with the estates office. you may not use your hands’ They agreed to allow the little ones to have At the end of the session we closed by their time uninterrupted. and were true to expanding the silly rules game. one child their word. We also said we would set the suggested that we collect all these rules doors to ‘exit only’ so that the session could together and invent loads more and print not be crashed. A small investment in time them out on the computer so they looked like spent listening to them and explaining the proper rules. They totally got the joke. They situation paid dividends. are surrounded by ‘no’. This is a way of saying We had seven children, the atmosphere that this space and time is different. started out a little challenging but as the Some of the kids who had been the hardestPL AY T IME S became so soft playing in pop-up tents,plog children found that their arguments were not treated as a big deal and that both sides of a painting the faces of sworn enemies, taking dispute were both treated softly, the interest orders and serving drinks to each other. one in conflict waned. of them said to me, three times, in a voice of Inga, Habiba, bekki, cathy and I worked mild surprise,’ I like this. it feels good’. the session, two mums joined us for a while The clear up took a long time but this was but soon felt ok to leave us to it, even though almost deliberate, they needed a long wind they had been very guarded after the troubled down. Each child wanted a responsibility session the week before. to tend to the session. The clear up felt like It was amazing to see the children melt keeping it private, special, it felt like a gentle into childhood. They found a bucket of sand practical looking after each other. one kid and poured it onto a sheet of plastic playing wanted to do more photography, we will with small world toys on it. They painted, bring them some cheap cameras and maybe they made stuff and face painted, all tightly go on some camera trips, also a trip to Glamis gathered round one table to work together. at the half term break. We have suggested A game of football with a sponge ball knocked that we turn the shop into a beach one week. a ceiling tile out, so after that they were joked They wanted to understand the plans for into playing in stocking feet. They saw that the development of the estate in their own we knew it was an accident and tempered detail. one child from the tower block when their game afterwards. asked what she would like to discover when
  • 91. FEbrUArY2008 st she walked out of the block in the morning Little ‘Uns’ but I said no to the postcodes. 01 said ‘a club like this and a park with sand and There was no argument). water.’ It was an utter joy and it felt as if the It felt unique, an evening of firsts. The clouds of pressure to be cool had been lifted. children have fought hard for their right to I am reminded of the quote from the childPL AY TIMES play, though it is doubtful that they have ever at Glamis, comparing their life inside and played freely in quite this way. They were outside the boundary fence, ‘out there I have making and sharing all surprised by the ease with which they to be so hard, but in here, I can just play.’ play memories in suddenly became children again. Their faces And great news. The number of reported london’s east end and words and body language relaxed. They ASbs has plummeted on the bede estate became small and wonderful. They said they since the service was opened to the children wanted to name the session ‘the Little ‘Uns’ and young people. Yeay!!!!! (not quite true, they wanted to call it the E3PL AY T IME Splog
  • 92. FEbrUArY2011 st 01PL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end wag e r street january 21st 2011 As a part of our deal with the young Some of the young people I had not got to people to leave the ‘Little ‘Uns’ session know so well came in and one guy discovered undisturbed, the previous evening, cathy that he and I had met before at his school in and I had promised to open the centre so a ‘consultation’ about their building Schools that the young people could welcome some for the Future open space plan. We were both visitors from the USA to their club. They have delighted to remember where we had met made these friendships over the last few years each other before. through their work with the Tabernacle youth The conversations and humour were great. work project. They spoke so fondly and with It was mellow and lovely and I really didPL AY T IME S a quiet pride, it was obvious that they wanted not want to leave them. My son had a loadplog to welcome these friends to their own club. of mates around at the weekend and it was However the visitors all had jet lag and they hard to see any difference in the close family were clearly disappointed. but their mood was atmosphere at home and that of Wager street lovely and gentle and cozy and they chatted that evening. I felt that I should behave like and played pool and wrote on the walls and a guest, because I am – that was understood were absolutely mellow and friendly. The shop and I was made to feel at home. A good couple front felt more than ever like a sitting room. of hours of life.
  • 93. FEbrUArY2011 st 01 Eric StreetPL AY TIMES january 17th 2011 making and sharing play memories in london’s east end I found this session one of the most one girl was so enchanted with the flickering moving that I have ever experienced. Words flame of the candle that she asked permissionPL AY T IME S failed me as I tried to record it the follow- to take it into her house for her mother. Stepplog ing day. All I could do was to try to capture by faltering step she carried the torch upstairs the spirit of it using the photographs that I to her flat. I went with her and was rather took. Hopefully, this power point will be nervous of the greeting that we would get, available shortly. Until then, let me say that but need not have worried, it was as warm a local resident took the impetus and organ- and beautiful as the flame itself. ised a gazebo lit with fairy lights, hot drinks Another girl said, ‘Let’s put everything nega- and candles. The children and mums were tive into this flame.’ Let’s let the magic of this rounded up and spent the whole session with destroy the bad stuff. us. rainer, cathy and I supported the ses- During the session a local councilor was sion but the children and the mums seized doing a walk about on the estate with some of the moment. the rSL employees. I was glad they had seen The children and the Mums told me how what was going on. they wanted the open spaces on their estate The session over ran considerably, and to be developed and drew me pictures and none of us noticed. Eventually the children told me stories. They painted and made bead- and mums went home and we tidied away. I ed strings. They lit candles and night lights in felt moved and a little stunned by what had the tree crown and made dens with transpar- just happened. ent fabric. The wonder and delicacy of their treatment of the tiny flame was amazing.
  • 94. FEbrUArY2011 T wag e r st 01 he younger ones came to the street session today, 15 of them. A couple of mums stayed for most of the time and rainer, Inga and Habiba as well as cathy and Penny were there.PL AY TIMES The session took off really quickly, even before january 27th 2011 we had managed to pack away the pool table. making and sharing (We find that having the pool table there is play memories in like having a screen on. It draws the attention No one was unpleasant to the little boy. We london’s east end to it all the time and monopolises the agenda all made a quiet fuss of him. He kept close of the session. The children cannot focus on to the adults and especially Habiba. He also playing because they are yearning to play said to me that he felt uncomfortable because pool). However when it is out it occupies all no-one was speaking his language. the space in the room and makes it impossible ‘but you told Ma all that in English and I for the children to play without elbows getting understood you perfectly. Why don’t you jogged. And there are always rows about who teach me some bengali? ‘(When cathy goes next, who cheated etc…) checked with His Mum this morning she The children wanted to decorate the hut and said he had loved it and wouldn’t stop talking draw and make things. about what a good time he had had. This is I brought a camera in for them and the pink great news and we hope that he starts to come sari fabric that had caused a bit of dissent in along regularly.) an earlier session. by the end of the session Habiba and these When the kids saw the fabric their response same kids who had reacted with such hostility was exactly the same as I had heard on that to the sari fabric, were having a rough and first play session.’ We don’t want that Indian tumble play on the settees. They were allPL AY T IME S fabric here. Take it away. We are white and giggling and joking together so relaxed andplog this is our home.’ happy. A superb piece of playwork from This was an echo of what I had heard from Habiba. the other group saying. ‘we hate pakis. They Meanwhile rainer was having a difficult get everything and we don’t. Their houses get time of his own with some of the kids done up all new and ours don’t.’ overstepping the mark and testing his These little ones saying the same thing. boundaries. ‘We don’t want no Indian stuff here.’ They As usual there was a lot of lovely stuff but are talking about a piece of fabric and they this racism made the atmosphere tense. There are being this harsh, how do the non-white were also phone calls from some of the mums residents of the estate feel? to their kids telling them not to leave the Habiba and a new bengali boy were sitting centre because there was a big gang of Asians together getting to know each other. on their way over to the estate. I asked, what about Habiba? She’s our friend, The reaction of fear from the kids was she’s part of this group. immediate and genuine, then the bravado There was uncomfortable silence. Almost as came back and a panicky stressed sort of if they had assumed every one in the room playing started. There was a lot of chocolate was white, like them. They had not noticed and sweet milky drinks taken by the kids she was Asian. during this session, they were more hyper than ‘She’s not Indian, She’s bengali’. She escaped I had seen them before. At about six o clock condemnation on a technicality. three boys came in. They were all carrying
  • 95. FEbrUArY2011 st 01 stout wooden sticks and putting on very male in their lives. mannerisms. cathy did an amazing bit of After all many of them go to christian work and brought them into the centre and schools and mix with white families on an got them to sit and chat and make necklaces. estate that is predominantly white. Their lack They asked me to run another session, as this of understanding about nationalities and theirPL AY TIMES one clashed with a club they went to, and I disconnect between the abstract idea about said I would if I could find the money to fund other cultures and their relationships with making and sharing it. Habiba et al, makes me think that this is not play memories in They were the last to leave, and they went so much a racist response, not yet. We still london’s east end off collected there sticks again and started have time to avoid that. to harass the shop keeper next door. Again And, perhaps today was the end of our cathy made them come back and apologise honeymoon period and we are in for a few to him, I went in the shop with them as they weeks of the Treacle moon. There is always did it – in a fake Indian accent. a point when the relationships of trust are Disappointing. established and the testing begins. May be I am trying to find more bengali playworkers this is our test. who will take this on, being kind and loving to the kids so they have a different experience Today was Holocaust Memorial DayPL AY T IME Splog
  • 96. FEbrUArY2011 rd 03 Eric StreetPL AY TIMES making and sharing February 2nd 2011 play memories in london’s east end Another wonderful session in the twilight be the main content of the presentation. What with a candlelit gazebo. The children were a great feeling to let them know that they are helpful and mixed comfortably. one guy celebrated far far away. came out to help us because his mum saw the Leaving the session always feels like waking I tent blowing away as we tried to get the site from a dream. This is a joyful experience. sorted out. showed my Director, Glenys Tolley the Mum and daughter suggested making paper photos that I had taken at the candle lit aeroplanes today and that was very popular. session, the sense of magic reached her The children seem to expect a lot of help to too. do tasks that I would have expected them to on a related note. I had the privilege of be able to do on themselves. Gradually, by taking Michael rowan around the two estates, doing less and less and showing the children Eric and Treby and bede today. I wanted how to do it for themselves a little more, to check out my ideas for planting, which that dependency is changing. When they he knows a lot about and does beautifully. understand this the children take the agenda Although the estates border Mile End Park,PL AY T IME S on themselves. They organise great games of he did not know them well. I was delightedplog chase and hide and seek on their own and that our ideas chimed and although I had the adults can step back and chat and just imagined planting that would not thrive in a watch the gate to keep an eye on who leaves couple of places, the sense of the planting and and who arrives. It feels relaxed and friendly. having a low maintenance continuous beauty About 13 children joined in this session with on the two estates was a real possibility. It three Mums, a resident cathy and myself. was also great to get a view of the corridors What is lovely is that the children are of biodiversity that could run from Mile End developing their friendships alongside the Park through the estates to the cemetery adults who are doing the same thing. ‘I never Park. That has to be time well spent. spoke to r before we started these sessions I joined in a meeting with rockcorps and now here we are her and her sister and organiser Safia Noor. This has got my brain I planning a bangladesh Independence day working on identifying a project that we party together.’ All the women muck in could do with rockcorps to develop an area together to prepare, run and pack up the for play . session . It is what we have been aiming for. Then a visit to central Girls Foundation At the end of the evening I told the children School with the art teacher and the resistant that I would not be with them next week as I Materials tutor. We are planning for a group would be in America giving a talk. They asked of the girls to make perspex birds to hang in what I was talking about and I was proud to the trees in the liminal spaces. This is very tell them that these very play sessions would exciting as it allows the girls a chance to use
  • 97. FEbrUArY2011 rd 03 their work in a fairly high profile installation one of the play spaces on the periphery of the and gives them a sense of participation in the estate. It turns out that there are about 30 park. This is lovely project to have an ending children living around this space. They are to the LAP 5 work. What a flourish! all from bengali families and the woman was After that I dropped into number 5 Wager concerned that they had a good play offer. ShePL AY TIMES Street. I hoped to clear up some details of spoke with fondness of her own childhood a workshop with a graffiti artist who will in the countryside, of hours spent in woods making and sharing be working with the community of the site playing with trees and streams and was keen play memories in hoardings and ask about some contacts with that the children should have a little taste of london’s east end the green grid and the superhighway projects this outside their front door. We also agreed and the regeneration work on the estates. that the redevelopment of the area should not However there was a consultation event be attractive from the road side, this should going on about stairways and access routes be a small private garden. ‘Less is more’, we and stuff. but there was one woman – who decided. I had previously met earlier in the project Then rushing off to the play session on Eric when she was doing voluntary work in St Street. Paul’s church. She gave me a lot of useful All in all a really productive day. information and ideas about the redesign ofPL AY T IME Splog
  • 98. FEbrUArY2011 nd 22 2011PL AY TIMES 8th January and taken to the prison (hammock) so they This was our first week back after could gleefully escape again. I spent some making and sharing the christmas holidays and we received a time making and playing on a hammock play memories in really nice welcome back from the kids. The with 2 girls. The boys had taken control of london’s east end sessions at all three squares on the estate were the main hammock but we had some extra a bit busier than usual. We made hammocks net and the girls sought out an alternative and did some crafts folding sugar paper, then space to hang another one in a corner of games of high jump and limbo with a skipping the square between a lamppost and a locked rope. The next square was great with lots of metal door handle. They told me they had to kids coming out when they saw us. What’s be careful not to step onto the grass because great about this square is that the kids here that corner was by an elderly lady’s flat and feel much more of a group and when we play she would yell at kids for walking on the children of all ages seem really comfortable patch of grass in front. “Not even one foot”… together with the older ones considering At the second square we were soon joined by the younger ones. This square is private, our regular kids, we had a game of football open only to residents, you have to buzz the which began seriously and ended with a lot of intercom to enter, and they’ve created a nice playful cheating, trying to wrap opponents in community for themselves. The children here net, or hi-jack the goal keeper! The last square all know each other yet they tell us they don’t was much quieter though a group of girls in play out together here much when we’re not their early teens who we used to see a lot lastPL AY T IME S here, perhaps their parents don’t encourage it summer stopped by for a chat.plog as it isn’t obviously a play space, being just an empty square without equipment that often 18th January has rubbish blown across it from an overfull just a few children came to the session bin area. The kids have sometimes pointed today, a few of the regular kids came out to an area where they say rats live but we’ve briefly to say hi but said their mums didn’t never seen any sign of it, possibly because want them out in the cold too long. A new we always make too much noise! Today we girl came with her mum, they’ve just moved played chase games and hide and seek – the over from Moldova, they were asking all old favourites here. about the sessions and to play for a while. 20th january Today was a messy session, lots 15th January of painting, hand printing and paint flicking! We had a lively session at the first We played football indoors with a soft ball square, making the most of the sunny, windy and made friendship bracelets too. day by flying kites we made from paper or just brightly coloured plastic bags on strings. 22nd January Some boys returned who we hadn’t seen in a As soon as we arrived two of our few months but they remembered the game regular girls ran out and wanted to tie the we’d played last time and began recreating it hammock in the new place they’d discovered – a war between humans and aliens with lots last week. We’d started playing at doing some of play fighting, they wanted to be captured gymnastics moves with it last week and they
  • 99. FEbrUArY2011 nd 22 wanted to continue – we bunched the net in the square where we play. Now we have a into a rope and did forward rolls over it. This bigger piece of hammock net we can make week I showed them a harder version where the hammock in this square too and the kids you hold the rope and walk up the wall then loved it, we hung it high so it was a challenge kick your legs back to backwards roll back to get in and out of it but after protests theyPL AY TIMES over. They tried it many times before they couldn’t do it, most of them found their own could do it and when they got it they were so way of doing it! We had a chase game where making and sharing pleased and proud of themselves. We went on the person who was it had to wear ‘the skanky play memories in to the second square. It feels much friendlier wig’ till they caught someone and had a tug london’s east end towards us now, some of the mums smile of war with the rope, 2 older boys wanting to when they pass us on the stairs coming in take on all the younger kids and us together! or as they take their rubbish out to the binsPL AY T IME Splog
  • 100. FEbrUArY2011 nd 22 january to FebruaryPL AY TIMES 2011 making and sharing 22nd January has become a regular over the last few weeks, play memories in We had more kids coming to today’s came with her mum and spent her time playing london’s east end session than in recent weeks, the milder chase and hide and seek. weather enticing people back! We played lots of chase games, and painted, and swung in 3rd February the hammock chatting and catching upa! Loads of kids came today and lots of games were going on at the same time, lots 24th January of arts and crafts took place and some ball At today’s session we played both indoors games and chase. Some of the children chose and out, with lots of painting, play fighting, to use the face paints, transforming each pretending to be monsters and making other into butterflies, vampires, etc! monsters too! 5th February 29th January It’s been a windswept session! We had We had a lively session with our regular plenty of our regular kids at the first square, kids at the first square today, making kites playing in the hammock and racing about and playing in the hammock, testing with the kites but no children came out at the how many people it could hold till the net next square. The last square was busy againPL AY T IME S stretched down to the ground! Two new boys with our regulars and a group of 10 newplog joined the session and joined in some games children joining us to play, they’d walked over we played with the rope – skipping and doing from roman road and Masud knew them the limbo game! Masud joined the session from his other play sessions in their area. A today, the girls teased him for sitting down few of them had some attitude, asking why till they got him up and skipping! we here as though we shouldn’t be but we The next square was quiet, just 2 girls came had good games with them, playing with the out today, we played chase games and hide kite and rope. At the end, however, they were and seek. At the last square we had our usual annoyed we didn’t agree to let them keep the kids, the brother and sister. The boy was rope so they went and tied it to a tree with happy to meet another male play worker and many knots, making it as hard as possible for spent most the session with Masud playing us to take it either. chase and building a spider web from sticky tape. 8th February There was a bright and cheerful 1st February atmosphere on the session today and it was Quite a session took place today. A few a bright day. Quite a few kids joined us and kids came by and chatted to Inga and Habiba played chasing, painting and swing games. about how they weren’t allowed to stay out A few kids played at taking rainer’s hat to long in the cold but did a little painting and make him chase them which turned into a chalking while they were there. one girl, who game of ‘It’ with a big group of kids, some
  • 101. FEbrUArY2011 nd 22 younger ones joined in too and were totally to anyone so instead we hung them up to part of the game although nobody ‘caught’ display them! There were some nice play with them as they were too small to catch anyone face paints taking place too, the kids began else again! Towards the end of the session painting rainer’s face, then did each others. Inga did some knitting with some of the girls Some children did animals and things, othersPL AY TIMES and rainer and Habiba had a long game of did abstract designs with lots of little squares ‘Grandma’s footsteps’. A few of the kids who and circles. making and sharing hadn’t been out for very long through the 1 boy had complained of being bored for a play memories in winter were able to stay for the whole session while but then began to show rainer some london’s east end today. Zoe and Tess (previous play workers gymnastics moves on the sofa, falling onto for PATH) came back to visit the session it in a back drop then bouncing back up! which was really nice. The others started joining in (they’re allowed to do this without shoes!) and they made it 9th February into a game of running and flipping without Today rainer, Inga and Tania (a resident touching the arm of the sofa. This game volunteer) worked on the session and 11 carried on for the best part of an hour yet children came. Painting and jewellery making didn’t get too wild as it often has been when took place on the wooden table while a boy jumping on the sofa games began here! In played football with a couple of girls over recent weeks we’ve noticed the kids getting on the grass area, saying he would only play really hyper after having their hot chocolate football with them because they weren’t ‘girly – we’re hoping to avoid the sugar highs in girls’! A 6 year old girl had a gleeful glitter future by giving them fruit smoothies instead! fight with a 4 year old boy, they had a great At the end of the session, one boy wanted time and left the session with shimmering to mop the floor and did a great job of it, heads of glitter-hair. However, one mum was he’s someone who’s been rude and testingPL AY T IME S unhappy that this was wasteful. the boundaries of the play workers to beginplog rainer and Inga had draped kitchen roll with but has had a much calmer couple of across the climbing frame to make it look weeks now. These sessions feel like they’re different today and the kids really liked it, getting much happier and more established they decorated it further with some thread in general now. and coloured it with chalk. When it got dark they found some lights for it and it looked 12th February really nice. We had several kids coming today and It feels like the kids here know each other well the weather was much milder, making it and are mostly pretty nice to each other, at possible to sit still long enough to do some one point the older kids played football being craft stuff again! We turned a large piece careful of the younger children sat drawing of white fabric into a colourful montage on the paving with chalk. of many children’s drawings with bright coloured fabric crayons, the girls drawing 10 February th lots of hearts with their minds on the Today’s session took place inside today approach of valentine’s Day! one girl spent as it rained heavily, one of the children had ages decorating a piece of paper by covering a bad headache and the others were asked to it with some plastic film we’d brought and keep the session quiet for him. Lots of crafts then weaving strips of black tape across it, it took place, the kids made valentine’s cards looked fantastic. She told me she wants to be but said they didn’t want to take them to give an artist but her parents will never let her be
  • 102. FEbrUArY2011 nd 22 one, they want her to do a ‘sensible job’, I again, he made his mum wait outside for him helped her make a sketch from some of our for half an hour while he mopped every bit of coloured paper to take home and practise floor and cleaned the walls and tables. on. Another boy added some decorations onto our kite and tied it to his scooter, nearly 20th FebruaryPL AY TIMES crashing into everyone else as he scooted fast It rained all day today and was much looking back to watch it! colder resulting in a quiet session today. making and sharing The next square was quiet, just one girl came Habiba and I were joined by a chloe, who play memories in out to join us and we continued our drawings is quite new to play work, and picked her london’s east end on the white fabric. At the last square we brains for new game ideas from her sports played on the climbing frame, the prison background! For the first 30 minutes no game returning with one of our regular girls children came out but we set about playing a who’s kept wanting to play that for many skipping game and saw several kids watching months – she always takes the role of prison us from their windows! one of regular girls keeper, instructing us in daily tasks in return came out and joined in the skipping, then for shillings! Her younger brother played a we stood chatting under umbrellas about war game with rainer and we played hide homework, bears and trips to see cousins. and seek chase altogether. At the next square we also had just one girl coming out to play, we know her well now, 15th February she always begins games and then finds This session was quiet and cold, 5 or a reason not to play herself but try to get so children came, mostly girls. They drew everyone else chasing about, changing rules flowers and shells on some fabric with fabric to suit just her and we teased her about it. We crayons and one girl brought some knitting played on the hammock with her, then the that she’d been working on at home to show hammock became a classroom and we werePL AY T IME S Inga who had begun it with her the week her students – she created a chart to mark ourplog before. 2 mums stayed to the session too names with happy or sad faces depending on and one of them showed the girl some more our behaviour! knitting techniques. Meanwhile rainer and At the last square we mostly played with 2 of a boy played ‘It’. our regular kids though some older girls who used to join our sessions were walking round 17th February the estate in groups and came by for a bit. Today’s session had indoor and outdoor We ran a lot, playing hide and seek chase and play, inside the kids sat in the plastic discs and a power-rangers inspired play fighting type span in them, outside there were chase games. game with the younger boy. Lots of curtain Some of the children started climbing the twitching took place today, some from scaffolding from building works at the estate wistful children wanting to play but some felt though the play workers didn’t encourage this. uncomfortable, I had a feeling one guy was chloe, who lives on the estate and volunteers angry about the noise we made in the game with the sessions, mentioned that the games as the boy was especially into his super hero played out here are much higher energy on energy today and we met it enthusiastically, the days the play workers come. the acoustics at this square make sound echo At the end of the session the boy who had andmultiply far more than other places! mopped the floor last week wanted to do it
  • 103. MArcH2011 th 08PL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end eric & bede I have become a little lazy over the past involved two grown-ups holding the fabric few weeks in my writing about play and swinging the children and helping them on these estates. I started trying to use in and out of the swing seat drape. It took me face book and twitter and move the a good while to see this as well. I knew that I discussion beyond this forum alone. but was getting irritated by something but found somehow, I miss the freedom to roll around in it hard to identify what it was. I was annoyed descriptive phrases and linger over thoughts by the constant demand of the children and and rememberings. the fact that there was a queue that some of The play sessions on Eric street continue to the boys were pushing in in front of their be a wonder. They are warm and comfortable sisters and some of the girls were giving up and the children play deliciously freely. It their turns to please their brother, it was a feels as if they have known each other forever, sudden realization that we, the adults were but this is not the case at all. They have only not needed at all. If the swing was securely played together since the playgarden has been tied, and it was only six inches or so above thePL AY T IME S created. The mums are comfortable together ground, why on earth did two of us need toplog as well and the real issue in playwork terms be supervising this activity. is, what is our role here? I checked the knots and pulled the women The children have a strange way of relating helping me away showing them as we left that to adults. They are capable and independent. the line of children had broken down into a However they adopt babyish mannerisms cluster of kids who were helping the little ones whenever they are around grown ups. So a to get in and out of the hammock swing and child who has been doing quite adventurous were creating other games around the swing, climbing will come up to the adults and make whereas before they had simply stood in turn a winging sound with a ‘verge of tears’ face and bickered. Within minutes another swing and point to something that they could reach had been made by one of the taller girls and themselves, but would rather you reached for the playing had really blossomed. them. How did I fall into that trap? They wanted a fabric swing last week. This Well I think it is because I feel as if we need was suggested to them by the fact that rainer to be seen to be doing playwork. I now decked the tree crown with long lengths of deliberately spend most of the time when I fabric to make a clear visual impact.* am at sessions talking to the adults or tidying Well the adults hung the fabric securely or doing small tasks. This keeps me within and the children started to queue up for their the play space, watching and listening, but turn to swing. Somehow both they and the removes me from any direct interaction with helping adults got lulled into a system that the children. When they do approach me,
  • 104. MArcH2011 th 08 I am usually incredibly rude or indignant The Greetings from Mile End postcards are to them… (cartoon rude/indignant. It is a now printed. They are images taken locally game and I always check that the children with quotes from local people on the reverse. are getting the joke and are not cut to the You can see them here. quick.) It is possible to do this and still let the ht t p://www.theinter nationale.com /PL AY TIMES children know that you are being loving and PATHgreetings playful. *I was at the US Play coalition meeting making and sharing I seem to want to get further and further in February. Had loads of excellent play memories in away and see the children as minutely as if conversations with people there and learned london’s east end I were directly with them, but behave as if I a great number of interesting things. one were invisible. They seldom need us as much unlikely fascinating chat was with a guy who as they did when the whole process was new. is a sports coach and doing his doctorate at Also I am hearing the team telling me that the moment. He spoke about how children the children on other spaces in the Playtimes will do casual, improvised co-operative area are not using the sites when they are games based on baseball –or whatever – in not there. This is exactly what we wanted to an informal setting. but if you take them to avoid… however, this has not happened on a ‘proper’ pitch/stadium/court etc, they start every site, within the same estate some spaces to play by the grown up rules and be super are well used all the time and others are not. competitive. Isn’t that interesting? It’s a puzzle. Anyway the violets are peeking out of the rolling hills on Eric Street, so are the mini daffs and the crocuses. It just keeps on getting better.PL AY T IME Splog
  • 105. APrIL2011 th March 9th 2011 06 Eric Street – a photo storyPL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end bright cold day. Sy and Ike came along to Eric Street to look at ways to encourage the kids to make some swings on the tree crown. I chatted to the blacksmith from Step-PL AY T IME S ney city Farm about another project,plog while Isaac made a Monkey’s Fist. This is a Monkey’s Fist This is for swinging on. Sy spliced a piece of rope to make a It will have to be taken down when swing fixing. there are no adults out with kids. As soon as the children arrived they The rest of the rope work can stay up started to explore the new things they all the time. could do with the rope work
  • 106. APrIL2011 th 06PL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end The children got hold of some masking tape and made rope work of their own. It was difficult to pull the ropes tight over the tree trunks. As the rope gets pulled and played on, it will stretch. It has to be tied tightlyPL AY T IME S and it will need to be checked andplog tightened again in a few weeks. The growing boxes were filled with amaz- There was rocket and mustard and ing vegetable and herbs, lovely cabbages, coriander and fennel. one of the children pulled a little off each It was sooo delicious, I had to stop my- of the plants and gave it to me to eat. self from cutting a big bag of salad for my lunch
  • 107. APrIL2011 th 06PL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east end Then she quietly picked up a tub of chalk It was great to blow bubbles today. The and walked to the car park to do some wind and the sun caught them beautifully drawingPL AY T IME Splog This one rested on the spring flowers. They sat lightly on the grass Today the project was being visited by chris Taylor who was doing an evaluation of the whole three years of the Play Times project. She spoke to lots of people about how they felt about this play space. I was so proud of the work that the Play Times team has done. We also had a visit from Phil Doyle. He has been here before. And had a great time and liked the space. He brought bernard Spiegal with him today as well.. They both know a lot about how good play places work and they liked this one. They also liked the idea of fairly lights in the street trees on this estate.
  • 108. MAY2011 th 10 play timesPL AY TIMES March – April 2011 making and sharing play memories in london’s east end 5th March 1st March Today was sunny but with a cold wind. Today’s session went well with lots of We had a fairly quiet session with some of our painting, knitting and swinging. regular children at the first square, then just one girl who came to play out at the next. She 3rd March rode her bike round and enjoyed rainer and We ran today’s session outside on the Inga chasing her round and trying to catch estate, with 2 playworkers on each of the her in some blue net…carefully! They also 2 squares. rainer and I made a tent with had a long game with a dreadlock wig, the some young children who came out to play, girl claiming it gave her the power to freeze a brother and sister both under 5 years old. the playworkers when she put it on and make We played at pretending to be monsters and them do whatever she wanted! A lot of this they protected their tent home from us! We girl’s games revolve around power but it stays also painted and later played at race and long playful! Eventually the dreadlocks started jump games with them, drawing starting breaking off the wig which the playworkersPL AY T IME S and finishing lines on the ground with chalk. seized, saying they too now had the powerplog Some older boys came over to join us and and the game folded into happy chaos with we played hide and seek, then did a series of lots of chasing each other round in circles. challenges – a race, an arm wrestle, an escape game and a balance contest! 8th March Meanwhile, Habiba and Inga had a good ses- Today’s session was pretty busy, a sunny sion at the other square after an initial bit of day for playing outside. rainer was playing trouble with some of the boys throwing the chase with 2 young children when 3 six year paint around at each other and trying to ruin old girls came over and wanted to join in, another girl’s painting. However, it ended they linked hands to make a human chain when one of them fell over into the paint – he to catch rainer in, calling Inga over to help laughed a lot at himself then hurried home to them get him! Later Inga was involved in lots change clothes before he got in trouble with of knitting with a few girls while the oth- his grandma! They also played at dressing up ers played on the swing and rode their bikes and one of the younger boys wanted them to around. Most the children stayed till the end make him a sari which he then wore to the of the session which was great but some just shop. Some more kids arrived with toy guns passed by, stopping to do a quick bit of paint- and had a long game of running and pretend- ing or have a quick turn in the hammock. ing to shoot each other. The usual group of mums came along with their kids too but seemed much more relaxed about leaving the kids to get on with their
  • 109. MAY2011 th 10 play unsupervised while they got absorbed in 19th March a beauty catalogue and chatting together. It’s been sunny for today’s session and we had our 4 new playworker trainees with us 10th March today, our regular kids were curious to come We made a hammock for the first time and get to know them. They brought somePL AY TIMES at this estate today and it was very popular, new energy and game ideas to the session, the kids had lots of fun but with lots of small one game involved several people lying on making and sharing squabbles over turns and how long each per- the spinning round table and reaching over play memories in son had the right to stay in for! We let them to see who could pick up items thrown in by london’s east end get on with organising it as far as possible but an outside person. We also played ‘off the stayed nearby, although the hammock was ground chase’ where you couldn’t be caught barely a couple of inches from the ground if you your feet were off the ground because and had little scope for anyone hurting them- you were hanging off something… until your selves by falling out, I felt very aware of be- arms gave out that is… good, strength-build- ing watched by some extremely ‘health and ing play! safety’ conscious eyes! The next square was more hectic, lots of kids We also made kites with the kids and drew came out and everyone played together in a obstacle courses to run along with the chalk. long game of chase. We chalked a couple of one local resident leaned out her window to ‘homes’ on two spots on the walls and the shout at me about it being too cold for the game got more fun and silly when some girls children to be playing outside, she was put started cheating and drawing themselves out that the shop wasn’t open to provide the more ‘homes’ all over the site. inside play space today. I tried to show her the kids were happy and warm from moving 22nd March about but she made the decision not to let her It’s been a beautiful afternoon / earlyPL AY T IME S granddaughter come out. evening and between that and its being par-plog The 18 year old sisters of one of the boys who ents evening at the nearby school we had a plays out here came along and got involved busy session. About 20 children and their in the session, suggesting some games to the parents came by and joined in the play in be- kids and initiating a chalk drawing game tween their appointments with the teachers. where she drew a starting shape on the floor Lots of chasing games went on while some and the kids used the shape as a start point girls sat and did some chatting and knitting. for whatever picture they chose. The kids here have started playing much The kids were reluctant to let us pack the more independently recently. hammock up at the end of the session, taking lots of ‘just one quick last go’s but with prom- 24th March ises to bring it back next week we eventually We had the new playworker trainee got it down! girls working with us again on today’s ses- sion and the girls from the estate especially 17 March th enjoyed getting to know them, chatting and We made smoothies with the kids today playing hopscotch. Some kids made a den which was popular as well as a solution to under some scaffolding with the parachute avoiding some sugar – hyper behaviour! We material, creating a private space in the mid- played with paint and the bubbles too and dle of the square to sit and chat in. rainer the session flew by. and I had a long game of hockey with some younger children and an eleven year old boy
  • 110. MAY2011 th 10 who took on the role of referee and chief or- involved in a game on the hammock with ganiser of mini tournaments. the other kids while his Dad stood back at the side watching all the games going on and 30th March grinning. It was one of the warmest days of the At the next square about 10 kids came out,PL AY TIMES year so far today and lots of kids came to play cycling their bikes around and playing hop- out. We had a lot of gold fabric with us to- scotch. There were 3 dead birds at this square making and sharing day and I made a hammock in one corner today so we had to be careful to avoid these play memories in of the square. Suddenly lots of kids wanted areas in the play. Some older teenage boys london’s east end their own piece of fabric and used them to came out to play football and were friendly go and build their own hammocks all round towards us, saying hi and smiling but keep- the square, working out how to tie knots and ing to themselves in their game. how much fabric this took. I went round Two girls and their mums were playing out at helping them strengthen them as lots of kids the last square, we hadn’t met them before so used sticky tape to attach the fabric or did we explained about playwork and they joined single knots which quickly came down. Lots in a game with us and some of our regular of the kids just wanted it done for them but kids on the basket swing. a few of them picked up how to double knots – keen to learn it when it had a purpose for 5th April something they wanted to do. We also played Today’s session at this estate was really lots of chase and race games and a group of busy again which was great considering it boys rode round on their bikes then had a was raining and much chillier than the last long game of football. over the last few couple of sessions have been here. Quite a lot weeks we’ve noticed that the kids here inter- of parents came along and one group after act with us a lot at the beginning of the ses- another passed by, stopping to play and chatPL AY T IME S sions, wanting to use the things we bring and for a while. A girl used the chalk to draw aplog then get into their own play without needing ‘Hello Kitty’ handbag on the floor which she us by the end, which is what we want to hap- said was a present for one of the new play- pen. We had a little trouble with one boy get- workers, and lots of games of chase and hide ting rude, bashing at our tent with a bat and and seek took place too. using the chalk to write swear words on the floor. He got a minimal reaction beyond hav- 7th April ing the bat taken away and later he brought a Lots of kids came out for the session, at bat over to me to play bat and ball with him the square I worked on we made a den from and we had a good game. the parachute fabric with a couple of 7 year old girls, it billowed in the wind and looked 2nd April fantastic and the girls decorated the inside A small group of children were already with a sari for a carpet. We played with bats waiting for us when we arrived today, we’ve and soon lost the balls over into neighbour’s gathered some new ‘regular’ kids over the houses. Unable to get them back, we had to last month, a couple of pairs of brothers. The get inventive, first we used our small world girls used the rope to play limbo and high plastic animals then a strip of fabric knot- jump, and brought the boys into the game ted up small. one boy had the great idea of to compete against them – girls won limbo, keeping this fabric ball together by wrapping boys won high jump! one dad came out lots of sticky tape round it which worked with his small son, the boy ran over and got brilliantly and he looked really pleased to be
  • 111. MAY2011 th 10 with more to keep up with the requests for praised for his idea by us and the other kids. A playworker went to ask for a ball back at different games and loose parts to use! Inga one house and no one answered the door, and Habiba chatted to the kids about what then the kids tried again later and were toldkinds of food they would like for the leaving to get lost! We also got the face paints out party we’re organising for next month as partPL AY TIMES though they were mostly used as body paint of our exit from the project and made a com- to decorate hands and arms as people were prehensive list of desirable crisps and sweets making and sharing reluctant to have their faces done today, oneas well as receiving instructions about what play memories in boy did a flower design along my forearm they didn’t like! london’s east end and the new playwork trainees showed the During the session I went to the shop to see kids some henna style designs. if I could get some shuttlecocks, a boy who over at the other square they played with a used to come to the sessions a while ago was small tent and had a long game with some passing the shop with his mum but ran in to new children. one five year old boy tested tap me on the back and say ‘hello alien girl’, the new playworkers by calling them insults, referring to a game we played months ago! he was upset not to get so much of rainer’s The next square was busy too, a long game of attention due to the greater volume of chil- hopscotch went on and another group sat in dren playing out today, some weeks when the the shade drawing and making Easter cards weather was colder he’s had almost undivided and chickens, we had about 10 kids come attention for the session. out for the session, mostly girls, we encour- aged them to stay out and play after we left 9 April th but most of them said they would have to go Today brought warm, sunny weather back in. and more kids out than we’ve seen since The last square was already busy when we last summer. At the first square we played arrived with lots of new kids we hadn’t metPL AY T IME S loose versions of badminton and rounders, before, out with their families and visitingplog hide and seek and skipping. one boy deco- relatives on the estate. We did more drawing rated the square with strands of bright col- and some origami with one group of younger oured tape from tree to tree then later ran girls while others played with the badminton through to break it down. Lots of patches of racquets and balls or chatted on the swings. separate games went on and though we had There were quite a few young mums out five playworkers it felt we could have done whowanted to chat about our project too.
  • 112. MAY2011 th Painting with Stik 25 playing with street artPL AY TIMES W making and sharing hen the community play de- East End Homes, the registered Social play memories in velopment work first began landlord, had renovated two of the shops for london’s east end on the bede Estate it was community use. PATH looked likely to move clear that the estates officer into this parade as well, relocating their of- was keen to have some graffiti work done by fices to be closer to a community. It was with young people with the rest of the neighbour- the two EEH shutters that the project began. hood joining in. PATH had already got close The first morning was a little bit full on. contacts with the well respected street artist Historically the young people on this estate Stik. have been viewed with mistrust bordering When the go ahead was given for this work on dislike by the rSL. All their lives they to happen, all of us were a little surprised at have been told what they cannot do in the the complete lack of op- spaces they live on. I have position to the project.Stik heard many complaints has a slightly unusual in about their troublesome his approach to his work. behaviours turning the While his pieces are well next minute to see from respected and very well the office window, one loved by those who choose of the ‘ringleaders’ help-PL AY T IME S them as their personal land ing an older woman carryplog markers, he also is keen to her shopping. My experi- use his work to promote a ence of the children and better understanding be- young people had been a tween landlords, councils, very pleasant one. Indeed police, young people and the ‘full on-ness’ of the graffiti artists. He also has first day was not hostile a way of being with people rather excitable. Some of that builds friendship and the adults were not happy mutual respect. He has with the eyesore that were studied Playwork and is a thoughtful gentle being created, however as the work devel- and considerate presence with children and oped through the first day and the commu- young people. Like his stick people, he has a nity watched heir young people and children simple wise way with the world. working together, in their usual quick witted Stik was happy to come and work on this kindly way, they began to warm to the pro- estate. He suggested that, rather than work- ject. The fumes were a problem but we made ing on the hoardings,which are temporary, every effort to keep the number of cans at a the young people would gain a greater sense time to a minimum. of their own investment in their neighbour- After the two shutters had been painted hood if they were to paint the shutters on the we were surprised to find that both rita’s parade of shops. the hair dressers and the crusty loaf bakery
  • 113. MAY2011 th 25 were enthusiastic about having their shut- This work was taking place the week be- ters painted as well. The staff of the bakery fore St Georges day, Easter and a little before even joined in the painting, though mostly the royal Wedding. Having explored the ir- they stood and watched and laughed at the ritation values of the national flag and racist kids work and antics.’we like the kids round iconography, one young person said he want-PL AY TIMES here. We have never ed to make one of the really had trouble with figures jesus, because making and sharing them. They are just ‘there’s nothing done play memories in like we were at their for the White man london’s east end age.’ round here no more. At last, with a little bit ‘A brief theological of cajoling we got per- debate established the mission to paint cost facts that jesus was cutters three shutters not White, he was a as well. That meant jew and that Islam that the whole parade reveres him as one of would be decorated by their prophets. The is- stick figures clothed sue was not pursued and accessorised by again. the children and As the week moved young people. on we found more It was interesting to and more friends and see the number of allies. The parade be- times a Nike Swoosh gan to look great, the or similar branding behaviour from everyPL AY T IME S was added to the figures. Stik was quite clear one involved became calmer. The health wor-plog that unless Nike was funding the artists their ries connected to the spray fumes was man- branding should not appear. aged better, where folks had to be exposed to There were a couple of attempts to add the smell for any length of time, they were T swastikas as well. At the times when these given face masks. were added, work was stopped until the im- he press came to photograph the age was removed. There were a couple of is- work and street art photographers sues at work here one was the shock value of and a documentary film crew the symbol and the false association of pride spent time with the artist and the in the community, the other was a lack of un- young people as well.. The atmosphere was derstanding at the depth of the significance relaxed and in the end Stik was happy to say of the symbol. It had transgressive rather that he didn’t need any more help to man- than genocidal connotations. age the situation. The ambassadorial role The flag of St George was skipped into the was no longer necessary to ensure his com- designs in many subtle ways, and was equally fortable place within this tight, protective subtly edited out. (It is curious that on this community. estate at the end of the road the tower of St So on Good Friday, He painted the last Georges church in Limehouse, the flag of St panel alone with the children and young George flys from the flag pole, carrying a dif- people to help him complete his works. The ferent set of signifiers.) This became a piece of neighbours right next to the parade of shops game play between artist and young people. are in the habit of sitting out in their front
  • 114. MAY2011 th 25PL AY TIMES making and sharing play memories in london’s east endPL AY T IME Splog yards in the evening sun. They watched with friendly with her. She was clear that she did mixed reactions. The initial hostility calmed not like the piece. However a couple of weeks down as they realised that we were working later she called me over. ‘I still don’t Ike it’ she with the children and young people. said, ‘but half the people round here do like one of the close neighbours had been fair- it, and we all have to live with each others ly upset and hostile at the start of the project. likes and dislikes.’ Stik and I made a point of talking to her, that bravo.That, I thought, was exactly the point. was easy and lovely. She had a great new pup Thanks to Stik and to East End Homes and we found it perfectly lovely to talk with for the inspiration and hard work involved in her as we played with the dog. We became this piece of building.
  • 115. jUNE2011 nd Play Times 02 14th April Today we took the kids from this estate on an Easter holiday trip to GlamisPL AY TIMES Adventure Playground. They had a great time playing on the structures and swings, sitting by the fire and playing chase over the draw April & May bridge. Some of the kids help break up the making and sharing fire wood, learning to use the heavy sledge 21st April play memories in hammer effectively. There was some tension The session began quietly today, it was london’s east end between 3 of our boys of 3 of Glamis’ regu- really warm weather and we sat and decorat- lar boys – lots of insults about each other’s ed some plastic balls as Easter eggs, one girl postcodes were exchanged and the postcodes got really into it and brought out more paints scribbled within the wooden tree house. It from home. We had a water fight but quite a blew over after they were kept apart a short chilled out one! The kids here especially love while. The girls we took were keen to use the the hammocks, asking for them week after playground’s hair and beauty product collec- week and they want to stay in them for ages tion and sat painting their nails and doing once they get in! We thought one boy had henna designs on each other. Everyone had a gone home when we didn’t see or hear him great time and sat on the bus back chatting for about 30 minutes but he turned out to about the things they wanted to do there next be napping in the hammock having covered time they went. himself in fabric! 16th April 23rd April It was a sunny session but quite quiet Its been a hot day making it difficult at the 1st square today. Inga made Easter bas- to carry out the Easter egg hunts we plannedPL AY T IME S kets and chocolate boxes with some of the without all the chocolate melting! just 4 kidsplog girls. Games of chase and badminton went on came to the first session, it was unusually qui- too. The 2nd square followed on with the arts et, perhaps because people had other plans and crafts. The last square was busiest with for the Easter weekend, all the more choco- lots of kids passing through and stopping to late eggs for the 4 who came! play a while with the sports equipment we’d The 2nd square was busy however, about 10 brought, as well as our regulars who mostly kids came out, mostly girls, and we had a wanted to chat and tell jokes today. fantastic session. The majority of the session was one long water fight with our new water 19th April pistols, and since we didn’t have quite enough Its been sunny and hot today and the of them we improvised some more from some session was very relaxed. It was quite quiet squirt top juice bottles we found and rinsed initially as the youth centre was running an out! A small girl of about 3 who we hadn’t Easter holiday play scheme but after a while met before came out with her Grandmother. the kids came out from there and came to join Her grandma is a tiny but severe looking us, we sat in the shade chatting and drawing elderly lady, dressed in full Muslim dress, with chalk and doing a few bits of arts and who stood in the middle of the water-fight, crafts, such as drawing on fabric. Mostly the looking on with a serious face. None of the children got on with their own play, riding children dared squirt her and it didn’t oc- bikes, chucking some water bombs around cur to me to offer her a water pistol. Fifteen and playing in small groups. minutes into the play however she seized her
  • 116. jUNE2011 nd 02 granddaughter’s pistol and started running hear what we were doing for it too. We met about squirting everyone, talking to me in a few new children today which was great, bengali as she squirted me in the face and their parents came out to ask about what we chest, “Ah, so you’re hot here… and here” ! did and seemed keen on the idea of the kids (Habiba translated for me). It was a hilarious playing outside more.PL AY TIMES sight and suddenly all the kids were squirting her. After everyone got tired from running 30th April making and sharing in the sun we sat and drew with the chalks, Its been warm weather and a fairly busy play memories in squirting the chalk with the pistols so the col- session. At the first square we played with the london’s east end ours ran into a thick paste of rainbow shades. parachute and some dressing up games. The The kids squelched their hands in the paste 2nd square had lots of chase games as usual and ran to the wall to make hand prints, one but also some arts and crafts, Inga showed girl used her hand printing to make a flower some children how to make origami boats. pattern which looked fantastic. Meanwhile, some other decided to tie rainer The 3rd square was busy too, we played with to the tree with lots of string! They made a the pistols again but as this square has no tap good job of it and he remained tied there till the play was slowed by the children having he was rescued by the other playworkers at to go home to refuel! one 5 year old boy got packing up time! aggressive when he got squirted back by the The final square was busy, it’s got increasing- boy he squirted but I explained he could only ly busy each week here lately. A new family play if he was happy to get a bit wet too and came along and one boy came with the big- that the sun would soon dry it. I showed him gest water gun ever, attached to water tank how my clothes had dired from where he had worn as a rucksack which he had great fun squirted me and by the end he was playing wetting everyone with. The playworkers and well and even enjoying being squirted too. other children made themselves shields fromPL AY T IME S fabric! rainer had a long game in which theplog 26th April kids told him he was an animal which they It was a busy play session today, lots of were going to catch – they played chase, cap- kids got on with their own games while oth- ture, escape and re-capture in happy cycles. ers played chase games with the playworkers. We showed the kids how to make whistles 3rd May from paper which they got really into. one The beginning of today’s session was boy asked Inga to teach him how to knit and especially busy with lots of kids stopping by picked it up incredibly quickly, getting into on their way home from school. We covered doing several rows! the round table with plastic and did lots of painting on it. There were swing games and 28 April th chasing going on too. We also did lots of Its been warm again and we had a long jewellery making with string and beads and water fight on the session with the water pis- some of the mums got into this too! one tols, as well as some games of badminton, mum cheekily made a very long necklace as football and hopscotch. It felt quite a patchy a means of being able to take the beads home session with children staying a short while with her. then leaving as others arrived. The people liv- ing here were preparing for a street party to 5th May celebrate the royal wedding tomorrow and the Today was a warm weather, chilled kids chatted about it excitedly and wanted to out session. All the kids wanted their own
  • 117. jUNE2011 nd 02 hammocks and luckily we had a lot of fabric This problem crops up regularly here and in and net with us today! The kids lay in them windy weather becomes a really ugly sight. for ages, swinging themselves or getting in The session turned into one long, fun game with friends to chat! Two new girls, who were of chase. one corner of the square was used visiting their Nan on the estate, came out to as home and the play got very physical andPL AY TIMES play and wanted to draw at first but some boisterous with everyone attempting to push got drawn into the hammock games. one each other out of the home towards the per- making and sharing girl decided to make a paper chatterbox with son who was ‘it’! It was a good chance for the play memories in challenges for people to do, from touching girls to test their strength against each other london’s east end their nose with their tongue to seeing how and us, and their bargaining skills with each high they could jump. other for non-sabotage! over on the other square it was quieter with When we arrived at the last square there were just a few smaller children playing out. A 5 a few children out playing, some young chil- year old boy decided to make the small tent dren and mums and a couple of men drink- his take – away shop and spent a long time ing heavily. The men were interacting with 2 playing this, getting the other children and girls of about 11 who the girls told me they playworkers to be his customers. knew but I heard one of the men teasing the girls in a way she didn’t seem fully comforta- 7th May ble dealing with although I think he thought About 10 children, mostly girls, joined it was playful. I stayed nearby to keep an eye us at the 1st square today. It’s been a humid, and the girls soon decided to leave. It was an hot day and the session was relaxed, lots of uncomfortable session for us, about 6 more sitting doing crafts, chatting and swinging in men came out to drink and smoke joints the hammock. We had a long game of ‘Wink in the centre of the square and the play got murder’ sat on the round table. shifted around it, it wasn’t hostile exactly butPL AY T IME S About 6 of our regular girls joined us at the it felt strained between the groups with theplog next square. We kept mostly to one end of mothers anxious to keep their smaller chil- the square however as the other side was full dren away from the men. The kids drew and of litter bags that hadn’t been collected and made masks, played on the swings and got smelt too bad for anyone to want to go near. on with playing as usual.
  • 118. jUNE2011 nd 02 10th May the slide and tried to pull out the other sides Today’s session was really busy with and attach them to the ground with sticks. children and their parents stopping by for a The ground was hard making this impos- while on their way home from school. Some sible. Luckily, a couple of men were doing new children came and joined in too. rainer some repairs to a nearby stairwell and offeredPL AY TIMES tied a piece of blue net between the tree and to let us borrow their hammer for a while so the fence and the kids had a great time slid- the kids got to have a go at working with the making and sharing ing down it. They got a few friction burns tool. They made a good den and took the play memories in and scrapes from it but loved it and kept fabric inside to sit on and use as blankets. The london’s east end play coming back for more turns. rain never came. However the den got tested in the form of one 11th May of our regular boys turning up About 20 kids came along this on a destructive bent and pulling afternoon. one parent brought up the improvised tent pegs. The a out an inflatable paddling pool for the kids and they pretended it in girls got angry and chased after him but he got away laughing. may was a cauldron and that they were At the next square we were joined mixing spells. They also used the by about 6 of our regular girls and water from it to water all the plants played chase games, stopping to and herbs that their parents were do some crafts when we got tired growing in planter boxes in the square. A lot of running. Suddenly the rain shower we’d of kids played independently here today and been waiting for at the last square and then we interacted mostly with the youngest chil- forgotten about came, short but very heavy. dren while the older ones got on with their We huddled together under a heap of fabric own games of chase and football. and umbrellas till it stopped.PL AY T IME S The sun was out when we got to the lastplog 12th May square and the session got busy with swing Today’s session was fairly quiet with games, drawing, chase, origami and animal just our regular kids but they stayed for the impressions. whole session. by popular request, we made the hammocks again as the kids wanted to sit 19th May in them and chat and play with their phones. Today’s session was fairly quiet at both one 9 year old boy’s behaviour was particu- squares. We made hammocks again but there larly difficult today with lots of sexualised was a lot of squabbling amongst the kids comments and gesturing towards the girls. about who could get in, who was allowed with whom and how long for. one boy was 14 May th getting pushed out by the other kids so I dis- We arrived at the first square today to tracted him into a dare game, flipping a coin very grey skies and decided to build a rain to see who got the dare. I wasn’t sure if it shelter with a group of about 6 of our regular was a good idea to start this game as the boy kids and a new brother and sister who came can be one of the more challenging ones but by. They found it hard to join in with the his dares were quite sweet, making me run others at first as they’re a really established and dance in the middle of the square, or do group of friends but concentrating on the star jumps (nothing offensive!) and he did his den building task seemed to help them fit in. own dares with good humour, posing in the We tied the parachute between the tree and middle of the square and singing to the other
  • 119. jUNE2011 nd 02 play workers. today as they’d had to swap days this week, so we gathered some stuff and went outside. 20th May We met 4 of our regulars and had a short Today’s session was very quiet, it was a game of badminton before it started to pour warm, pleasant day but not so many children with rain again. We sheltered under thePL AY TIMES came out as usual. The beginning was busi- stairs, using umbrellas as walls. one of the est. A group of 4 of our regulars came and younger boys wanted to stay out with us but making and sharing wanted the hammock put up for them. We was only wearing a t-shirt so Habiba ran him play memories in tried to encourage them to do it themselves home under her umbrella to get a coat and london’s east end first but they were really weren’t prepared they came back to chat and chalk. However even to pick it up and try. They got progres- the rain didn’t clear up and continued to sively ruder and more demanding before pour down heavily, turning the square into taking the hammock net to go and hide it one big puddle that seeped into everyone’s round the corner. However, they came back trainers. A couple of mums started to shout later and were persuaded to go and get it and at us for not running the session from inside they did get some time in a hammock that and we went to find out if we could share the another girl had made since they left. We also space with the youth club which we did end played some badminton and drew with the up doing, but amid a lot of complaints from chalks. The second square was quiet on this the mums that the older kids shouldn’t be session too with just a couple of the children there as it wasn’t their night. They were wor- under 5 coming out to play, as well as the ried about the older kids starting trouble with older group of teenagers who hang out here the younger ones, they appeared to have been too. drinking and were especially aggravated. The session was ok though we were overcrowded, 22nd May there was no trouble between the kids, thePL AY T IME S Today’s session was warm and relaxed. younger ones happy to watch the older onesplog The kids played their usual, favourite games play Pool and we got some clay and board but the session was mostly about preparing games out. The rain eventually stopped as we for next week’s party. The kids chatted about were packing up to go! their favourite foods and what kind of games they’d like. They spent a long time designing 29th May and making posters which we taped to the Today was the day of the party we’ve walls around the square and also at the other been organising at the first of the squares we squares we work from so these kids could work at on Saturdays. our regular kids were come along too. one boy decided to destroy excited and waiting for us when we arrived, these to annoy us (succeeding more than he they helped us lay out the food on picnic knew)! A few survived to advertise the party blankets and decorate the square. We hung and the regular girls, who were particularly bunting between the trees, blew up balloons involved in the planning said they’d let as and drew coloured chalk arrows to the picnic many people know as possible! from the edges of the square with invitations to ‘join our play party’. one girl did some 27th May creative decorations on the poles supporting It’s been a difficult session today. We the trees with zigzags of coloured tape. arrived at the estate in a thunder storm. It A few new kids came out when they saw the cleared after 15 minutes and we discovered decorations and stayed for some food and the youth club were using the inside space games. We picnicked on baguettes, crisps,
  • 120. jUNE2011 nd 02 carrot and cucumber dips, pancakes and lem- sweet wrappers and sugar dust fell out, the onade, and some delicious onion bargees one sweets had been pulverised! Luckily, the kids of the girl’s mums had made for us. After, we found this funny and were proud of it rather started the games – the kids had requested than disappointed! (Next time I’m using Pass the Parcel and a piñata. The piñata softer, gummy sweets though). We stayedPL AY TIMES created the most excitement, I’d made it a for an extended sessions, we did some jewel- little stronger than I intended and it needed lery making, it was 80% girls who stayed to making and sharing a good 15minutes of bashing with a plastic the party and a groups of children and their play memories in tennis bat. We strung it up from the tree and mums came by from the others squares we london’s east end the kids took it in turns to hit it, shouting work at and joined us. We also played in the “DIE, DIE, DIE”! Eventually it fell off its hammock and chase games. It was a grey, hook, one boy dived on it then ran across the windy day and the rain brought a natural end square trying to rip the layers off, a big group to the session but we were really pleased with laughing and chasing him. They tackled it how it went. from him till it got ripped open – but onlyPL AY T IME Splog
  • 121. jUNE2011 th The Wedding Day. 02 A Word Play Picture IPL AY TIMES cannot find a shred of support in as possible to making and sharing within me for the institution of make the most play memories in the royal Family as currently use of the snap- london’s east end manifest in the UK. I find ab- ping of the time horrent the wealth and the suprem- and event, and acy of class and privilege, all funded finally processed from the public purse. and printed in a When the royal Wedding date costly lab, snug- was announced I knew that the peo- gled, when ut- ple on the estates I work on would terly dry, into a want to celebrate. They would cel- fancy little card ebrate a top knotch family wedding doily envelope between some of the richest people with scooped in the world, paid for out of public g uilt edges, funds. These great people on these wrapped in glass estate would donate and borrow and paper and slipped fundraise and gather together bits into a very Spe- and pieces of money and donations of food cial Album that some-one had splashed out and geegaws and they would share whatever on – (‘I’ll go without meat for me for a while.PL AY T IME S they could find to mark this right royal oc- This should have a Proper Place. It’ll be som-plog casion. mat to hand down to the grandchildren-god- It would be national doffing of caps. willing.’) And still the photos are brought out This is the East End of London and despite and shown on the special days when some-one the encroaching capitalist in-your-face plate sits down and says ‘talk to me, tell me the glass shimmy and the sneering ‘Fooled Ya’ of stories’. And the photos show shadows of faces the olympic lie (turning, by a slight of hand, all of whom can be named, and the pub and an ancient cattle route into High Street 2012 houses, and we still know who did the bunt- – but only where it shows – all fur coat and ing , who the landlord was, how much the no knickers,) despite all this I knew that the neighbour drank, what was sold in the shop people of these estates would push the boat just out of sight and how much it cost… out in their celebrations. What I am being shown in these worn This would happen, I knew it would be- card miracles is nothing to do with The roy- cause ever since I have been collecting play als. It is to do with the markers in lives that memories from adults in the area I have been were seldom celebrated, seldom captured shown the crumbling shreds of long treasured and went, largely without the communal ‘do and papery skin smoothed photographs. These you remember’ moment that the coronations ghosts of hard-soft beloved faces, these treas- weddings, anniversaries, jubilees add to the ures of unimaginable worth, taken on a cam- counting off on the rosary of shared lives… era that few could afford, with film that was the years and months stamped into memory used sparingly, with as many people crammed like a toddler footprint into wet concrete…
  • 122. jUNE2011 we will always have june 2nd 1953. It is a film and guarded from pre-event nibblers by th 02 touchstone. a Matriarch and her Staf. Terrance remembers being selected as one In Eric street the bunting had gone up the of the children to go from Mile End to wave evening before. construction teams working flags outside Westminster Abbey. Kathleen on the regeneration and new building of the has the street party photographs from her street had been cajoled into cherry pickingPL AY TIMES whole life saved in chronological order pac- the best spots to tether the tiny flappings and making and sharing ing out her years. Each of them is a perfect the larger rectangular union Flags with the play memories in time capsule. ‘happy couple’ superimposed into an oval in- london’s east end So we set about finding some funding for sert in the heart of the four nations. A curious these events. We wanted to lift the burden a choice of icon The Sun had made.. never had little. The big society is all well and good but. a royal looked more inbred or a rather pretty There is a real cost…There was loads to do, commoner looked so Essex. organising street closures, doing battle with In my home the day started early for a bank the obstructive officials from Tower Hamlets holiday. I was expected in the party zone for – who insisted that all children needed skin an 8.30 start. The wedding coverage started tests for each different type of face paint that at 8.10 on the Today Programme. Was Ed- they would be using, as well as gaining pa- ward Stourton really sounding nervous? What rental consent for each child whose face was on earth were the pruned and preened and painted. plumed early bird guests going to do for the Tables were borrowed, barbecues bought, next three hours in that freezing cold austere gazebos haggled over. This being ‘yer ol’ East un-yielding room? The Dress.. What would End’ Photographers and film crews from ‘out- she wear? What would her mother wear? Who side’ were clamouring for position with almost would make a fashion gaff? What would the the same intensity as the cenotaph crew vied behaviour of the tiddly royals be like? Was for the best position to snap Pippa’s arse. she nervous? Was he nervous? Was The QueenPL AY T IME S Meanwhile on the two estates, there were nervous? And Dianna… a difficult situationplog battles about who was going to benefit most with camilla,, and Why no left wing politi- from what. And there were acts of unbeliev- cians? And why the human rights violating able generosity. The old miseries playing hard lackeys of ruthless dictators? And did this tell to get and the old faithfuls taking on the us anything about the political attitudes of the burden of the responsibility for the planning. newly weds… oh and The Dress…. Tried and trusted and characteristically un- Perhaps because I was so delighted to be derstated, ‘I love a bit of organising’. discharged of any responsibility of clutter- car trips were made, on behalf of the es- ing my brain with any more of this drivel tates, to Asdas on the Isle of Dogs and hatch- (even radio 4 can do drivel), I was strangely backs were filled to groaning with mountains warmed by the thought of spending the day of hot cross buns and crisps and juice. (‘No. with the fantastic people of Eric and Treby We ain’t buying booze. This party is for the and bede Estates. I am always excited to be o kids, for them to remember’). in their company and to be with them for a n Wager Street they wanted a day of specialness was thrilling. I had made karaoke and a plasma screen it quite clear from the outset that the place I and the tables were laid out like had chosen for myself on this day, was behind the cross of St George on the the camera lens. From there I could watch the square…..the marquees were filled with tables beauty unfurling. I would not be an encum- heaped with pristine food sealed in silky cling berment, not a guest to entertain and feed.
  • 123. jUNE2011 th I would not be an organiser, that would be burly bloke fine tuning the patriotic frills 02 like a stranger marching into a little known in the smoking shed out back. ‘Looks nice home and starting to re-arrange the kitchen dunnit?’ cupboards. I could not, in all honesty, join as The plastic bowler hats that make every one a celebrant. So I made my place behind the like a chipper pearly King or Queen (’300PL AY TIMES lens. A safe place. A portable hide. quid they wanted to come and visit the event r And the wonders that I saw and heard that £300!’) making and sharing day…… unning back and forth between play memories in …’Its like we are all married to each other. We the two parties on bin bag or gaffer london’s east end fight and argue all winter and then the sun tape errands. Snapping as I went. comes out and we have a great big love in. We ‘bunting for josie? Yes the corner have argued about this party for weeks now, shop just donated theirs to her.’ but we will all have the best time together ‘What do you mean you can’t stay for the par- today’. ty? Your daughter’s Football championship? caroline beaming and glowing, seeing the Tell ‘em you’re ill.’ master plan on her clip board coming to life ‘remind me we will need to find more serv- bengali boys ruffling up florists ribbon with ing dishes for the big Lunch…’ ( Note to self, such care and delicate attentiveness to make bring Mums serving dishes back her for them, perfect the rosettes in red white and blue to she will not need them again.) adorn the gazebos. The balloons bouncing and tugging cathy A princess on a scooter with her biker Gran- until I thought she would be carried away, dad. which would definitely have happened had Three visitors from the next door estate com- this been a story book. She would have been ing clad out in a melange of red, White and carried up into the air above the stilly path of blue, right down to the detail of the earrings. High Street 2012, nee the Mile End road. The pub so full of bunting and flat screens Up where the air is clear: up beneath the cir-PL AY T IME S that it was hard to fit the punters in, and the cling helicopters with their eagle eyes trainedplog down on minute specs of wealth far below them. From up here cathy would see quite clearly the other street parties in Tower Ham- lets. There is the one on the Glamis Estate. Look there are the parties acknowledged by Pravda, the local council endorsed/imposed ones. The Mayoral dicatat that there WILL be fun and festivities in The Park. The people WILL come out and show their joy over this event and they WILL bring their own food. With her clear sight she could see the little wriggles of parties all over the city, all over the country. She descends, still holding the red bal- loons, feet elegantly turned outwards into the square on bede estate. ‘It’s a jolly holiday with cathy’. The plasma screen keeps cutting out. one little hooded boy has been transfixed
  • 124. jUNE2011 from the first. He has sat alone watching been dismissed with fleas in their ears, the th 02 the cheering crowds and the jeering cars oc- cup of tea is good and hot, she has her beloved casionally waggling a union flag in a sort of neighbours with her and the big black shiny desultory ‘I am supposed to be waving this car door is just about to open to reveal…. thing ‘ sort of way. ……The plasma screen cuts out as the carPL AY TIMES Now though, the ranks of the viewers are door is opening. There are seconds of un be- swelling. The sound of cheering from The lieving silence, during which all that is shown making and sharing Mall is getting more and more hysterical. on the screen are the faces of the watchers, play memories in chairs are pulled up in from of the screen. A caught watching themselves on a redundant london’s east end semi circle of optimum viewing, flocks into piece of technology, expectant mirrored faces, place and Avril –who has not been to bed be- all primed for the oNE Moment of the day. cause she was preparing the cooked meats – The first glimpse of The Dress. Instead of see- swings into action with a fancy tea service and ing whatever whipped cream confectionary good strong cups of the fairy tale dream- brew to be sipped ers have spun from and clinked and gold, they see their paused over at times own faces betrayed, of greatest wonder. let down. With ‘They all think I am a shared cry that so hard but I’m a real could have sprung softy over things like fresh from the lips of this’ Eliza Doolittle at the And ‘our She’ cups moment when she her chin with her realises the hurt and hands and her hap- insult that is being piness is transpar- perpetrated uponPL AY T IME S ent, radiant. She is immersed in the magical her, the women utter, with a single voice,plog fairy-tale, golden-shimmering, happy-ever- her cry of humiliation and anguish, “Ah-ah- afterness of this. aw-aw-oo-oo! ” They rush off to the nearest At this moment I see her as a woman who of homes and crowd in unceremoniously to I has, all her life lived as a cinderella. She has make up for The Lost Moment of viewing. worked and worked and worked and learned , behind my lens, am amused by the to fight and felt claustrophobia in her phe- sudden changes and scatterings . The nomenal brain, frustrated by under expectan- square, a burgeoning party until seconds cies. Here for her, now, is a moment when a earlier, has been rapidly deserted, flags fairy godmother, not hers but at least SoME- and serviettes fluttering to the ground in anti- oNEs fairy godmother has pulled it off, and climactic downward spirals. the pumpkincar is drawing up to the abbey Those of us without a home to go into on and the crowd are screaming like the beetles the estate, cathy Poppins, Henk the reliable have just materialised dancing with Michael Youth Worker, Penny the Snapper, we watch jackson and the camera is nosing in on the the ceremony through glass and glass over the car that until now has just been a polished shoulder of christine who is in her soft cream sheen of reflected sunlit glory. And I think I dressing gown chatting to her Pomeranian, have never seen a woman look more glorious who had narrowly escaped being dyed red or more happy. Her face shines with expecta- white and blue for the occasion. tion of delight. Her squabbling children have back on Eric Street the castle is bounc-
  • 125. jUNE2011 ing, the cocoanuts are shying, the Duckies (‘Next time we will bring the barbecue up the th 02 are being hooked, the faces are painted, (the street and cook for everyone’) Well, that will A consent forms are signed but the skin remains make the big Lunch even more special. untested –there are limits of reasonableness.) n urgent errand to bede estate. Food tumbles out of doors on every side. Tanya has run out of bin bags.PL AY TIMES Tiny fairy tale cakes with golden rings atop Tanya has had to take time off the icing. Fragile little mouthfuls of sweetness work to run this event. Tanya nor- making and sharing in union flag fru-fru cup cake skirts, a superb mally wears her carers uniform like a state- play memories in ‘Guess the weight of the’ cake, complete with ment of fact, today looks like a hard working london’s east end its own Fascinator bobbling in the light breeze beauty, She has worked for days on end…. that flutters the many many many many flags. ‘Don’t go on Pen, This is what we do. This is The young lads, locally feted for their incred- how we live’. ‘right you are Tan..’ and off I ible dance skills, do an impromptu perfor- go, explaining to a hack visiting from the Ital- mance for the gathered crowd. I watch the ian press what exactly it is that she is seeing boys, black and chinese, dancing with a light playing out around her. It is a mystery to her. footed step that spurns gravity. I looked at the The local press latch on, do they understand crowd watching them, a rainbow of ages and much better than she does? Do they get the colours and class and genders and faiths and nuances? orientations and convictions, gravity forgot- And on bede the excitement is mounting. ten. The pony and trap have arrived. A tiny little The smell of the barbecue is coming from The pony and cart are stolidly ploughing a fur- corner. row up and down Wager Street carrying cart It was on The corner that countless genera- loads of giggling children (consent forms all tions of young and irritating but essentially signed.) And christine, now resplendent in good natured young people hung out and her party get up, is almost bursting with the chatted. fun of it. And Helen, attending to the detailsPL AY T IME S The cheapest youth project in the world. and the structure underpinning the fun.plog When the Secured by Design agenda trans- And the bengali Mum Giving her little lated this gathering as loitering, the wall was baby to two of the white residents who had pulled down and replaced with galvanised grown up on the estate, so it could have a ride metal railings. one of the young people man- and have its photo taken.. for the memory. aged to save one of the bricks. A memento of ‘You don’t remember this my darling but one a place that was the only place that was theirs. day when you were very little, there was a Their little bit of England. fairy tale wedding, we didn’t see that but we but today the space that used to be behind took a picture, see, this lady Shelia and this the wall and is now behind bars, is a thick lady chris held you in their arms while you cloud or meat-rich smoke that makes even went on a ride in a cart drawn by a white vegetarian taste buds yearn with an instinc- pony up and down Wager Street. Yes Wager tive, rather than cultivated, desire. A good Street right here! Imagine that my love. That’s willed gaggle are joining in the party. They are something to tell your grandchildren.’ blissfully unaware that to every one else, they And the white resident seeing her little are a crowd of bengali Muslim men partying known bengali neighbour moving through alone. (‘If that was white blokes they’d be up the square with her children. ‘Here She. Hold in arms’.) They only realised later how they this can, they don’t like beer. Hey love, you had looked. They had been caught up and know this is for you and the kids too. You can absorbed in their experience of The Moment. join in come on, get something to eat, there’s
  • 126. jUNE2011 At the end of day a passing line from a th 02 bloke, quiet throughout, watching always watching and now, I realise, smiling with a great fondness. ‘Next time we will have a party that runs all down Eric Street. It will TPL AY TIMES join up these two estates.’ he royals are being used as an ex- making and sharing cuse for these wonderful people to play memories in party together beneath the Union london’s east end Flag. I started the day with a hard heart. I took images of the flag of St George from behind so that it read ‘!dnalgnE’ and caricatured a country that has gone through the looking glass and beyond. White queens expecting poverty to pay for the lushest wedding in the world at a time when health, education, social services, our holding mechanisms, are being reconstructed and workers are sacked Halal, give the kids a balloon’. and expected to volunteer to do the jobs they A feat of organisation and miracle of things had been paid for. I was capturing the evi- that could have gone wrong. A kaleidoscope dence, the facts exposing the obscenity of the of tiny stories and images with nothing to do extremes of our country. And I ended the day with royalty. The sleepless nights of plan- watching a man with a wry loving grin and a ning and preparation and cooking and cool- bigger dream of more unity, next time. ing meats. There are still shreds of bunting to be seen.PL AY T IME S The matriarchy is in full sail. And I am very late in sorting out my pho-plog The men willingly follow in it’s wake and help tographs and sharing them with the party out in unexpectedly delicate ways, like stick- people. They keep asking for them. They are ing rosettes to the gazebo, tenderly placed and looking forwards to looking back firmly fixed with black gaffer tape.
  • 127. jUNE2011 o reflections of a th 02 riginally the Play Times Team had Future jobs Fund three women placed with them through the Future jobs Fund. they werePL AY TIMES all asked to send me six sentences at the end of each play session Assistant Playworker with Play Times making and sharing that they completed with the un- play memories in derstanding that these would be london’s east end included in the PLoG. I was interested to see if the placements/ students would begin to refine their obser- team. vational practice as they did more play ses- sions and absorbed more play and playwork 8th June Budette community Estate theory. I did not get any written work from Today at budette community estate the two of the women. the third however has sent children decided to use imaginative play, by me updates and I am greatly appreciative of wrapping me around with wool! The children this. The path of her learning is evident as you said “there knitting me” and one child said scroll back down through the entries. “I`m making a spider web” I believe the chil- Many thanks to you Nr for sticking with this dren certainly enjoyed themselves, as other task. children entre their play frame. 8th June Eric Street 2nd June Bede Estate Today at eric street the children had Today at bede was a very nutritious day, great fun playing Hide and seek. They played where the children enjoyed making many dif-PL AY T IME S at their residential building block, for shelter ferent fruit smoothies. I think today`s sessionplog when it was raining. went very well, as the children were experi- I believe it was a great session, as all the chil- menting their taste bunds. I remember one dren of eric street including the playworkers young person was making a smoothies that had joined in to play, by making it a super fun most contained blueberry. After she complet- session, although it was raining for some time. ing her smoothie she had a little taster and came up with a very wonderful joke” berry- 5th June Electric House berry” nice! Today at electric house the children had fun designing wonderful posters to pro- 1st June mote next Saturday`s party at their estate. Today at Eric Streetwas a lovely day, However the children were finding it diffi- where the children participated it different cult sticking their posters on the walls, as the activity such as, water play and arts and craft. trap was not sticky enough. Therefore they I think the session went well, as the children thought of an alternative approach and used were making animals out of clay. one little the trees instead, which the posters had stuck girl said “I`m making an elephant that looks on probably. Whilst they were doing that, I like an alien” and indeed it looked like one! could remember what one little girl said “peo- ple stick posters on the trees of their missing 28th May Malmesbury estate pets”, which she was quite right about! Today at Malmesbury estate was a great session for the children, because PATH held a
  • 128. jUNE2011 th 02 wonderful party for their community, which don’t think today`s session went badly, as all was full of different healthy snack for them the children played independently and freely. to eat and enjoyable games for the children to play with. The only thing that went bad at 11th May Eric Street today`s session was the pass the parcel game, Today at Eric Street I observed somePL AY TIMES which did not contain halah sweet for the children playing with a paddling pool filled muslim children to eat. Therefore the next up with water. I think they enjoyed this ac- making and sharing party, the play workers will make sure that tivity, because they were pretended that the play memories in there will also be halah sweets for the muslim paddling pool was a witchs cauldron. They london’s east end children to eat. also used a hockey stick as a spoon, to stair their make believe poison. If I had to change 25 Eric Street th one thing, it would be maybe having an air Today at Eric Street I observed some pump, to blow some extra air inside the pad- children doing water play. They were filling dling pool, so it could reach its full capacity. up a huge red bucket of water and spilling it down the top of a hill, I heard one child 9th May say “were making a water slide” I believe the Today at Malmesbury estates, I observed children`s water play activity went well, how- the children performing deep play, by mak- ever they were finding it difficult lifting the ing a childrens swing into an electric chair. I huge bucket of water up the hill, but then I can remember the young girl shouting at the was invited by the children to help them carry other children saying, “are you ready to be the water bucket up the hill. electrocuted” and then she had nudged the swing, whilst everyone was screaming. I be- 24 Budett th lieve it facilitated their play, as the young girl Today at budette estate I watch young had seen or heard about the eclectic chair andPL AY T IME S people entre its community estate play area, was demonstrating and re-acting it throughplog as they were celebrating their last day of play. school. They were full of emotion, by crying, shouting and screaming all at once. I found 5th May Bede it was wonderful seeing them celebrate their Today at bebe I had a fine day, as I late day of school, as it bought back my own observed the children do imaginative and school memories. fantasy play, which was inside a children`s play tent. They were all role modelling a 19 May Bede Estates th character of their own, acting as a shop keeper Today at bebe I observed both brother and a customer at a takeout shop. chicken and sister trying to overcome their fear of rub- was mostly on demanding at their fantasy ber toy sake. The Little boy`s younger sister take out shop, which was constantly being was first hesitant to touch the toy sake, but ordered. I believe today`s session facilitated then she realised it was just a toy! Although the children`s possessed of full power, through her brother was still scared of toy sake and playing a character at their own made up said “it will bite him”. “take out store”. 18th May Eric Street Today at burdette community estate Today at Eric Street I observed the there were fewer children out to play, com- children doing all sorts of activities, such as pared to the previous week. I believe it had colouring and playing football and add. I something to do with the weather being
  • 129. jUNE2011 th 02 much more colder than last week`s weather. bag for me, which I thought was lovely. Al- However, the children of burdette commu- most at the end of our session both children nity estate still had fun! As they were being and Player workers all played hide and run very artistic by drawing amazing pictures on togather, which was very entertaining and en- the ground, with different coloured chalks. joyable for the children.PL AY TIMES one of the children drew a Hello Kitty hand making and sharing play memories in london’s east endPL AY T IME Splog