“I just love the way you trust these children”

During the summer I have been lucky enough to work with different staff each week, this could be considered both positive and negative depending on your thought process. There is an argument that the children require consistency in a staffing team, offering people they know and can build strong relationships with, there is also the basis that the playworkers offer something to the environment being a play resource themselves, so having new staff means the children have new characters to play with and suss out.

This past week I have been joined by a colleague who unconsciously reflects upon his practice and how the children differ between the borough’s playgrounds. This has triggered different thoughts for me around how the children play and the relationships this has to the area they live in. The children who choose to play at our playground are extremely streetwise and are considered to be disadvantaged young people by local communities, (but not the young people themselves). They are children who come in with their stories of what has happened the night before whilst out playing on the streets, these children come in and have a laugh and joke with the playworkers, make judgements on what they want to share with us and look for respect from the playworkers, an understanding of their way of living, and the staff to be non-judgemental of them.

Working in this particular area I find it hard when people talk negatively about the children, instantly becoming protective. However today whilst reflecting upon my practice and looking the differences between the playgrounds I realised that actually these children are so much better off than most in the borough, they have strong relationships (gangs) that stick by each other, they know where they stand and just get on with things. In comparison with other playgrounds where the children are described as needy and soft, these children are tough and enjoy the rough and tumble play along with the banter that goes around. What makes them want to keep coming back to their adventure playground, even at the age of 17? Well…

Yesterday my colleague said to me “I just love the way you trust these children”, at first i was taken back, i didn’t know how to respond but soon after i replied by saying “How can the children trust us, if we don’t trust them?”. For me this said so much in just a few words. They were strange words for me to come from another playworker, as I believed that we all put trust in the young people we offered these play opportunities to or do we in fact just work to offer a service, a place for them to hang out. By putting trust in the children, do we offer something more to the children than that space they can come to, it opens up that can of worms once again as to what the playworkers role really entails, where does it stop. This summer has been a learning curve for me, reminding myself that our role is never ending and it doesn’t stop at the door, these children come back time after time because we care and offer something different to most other places.

Playday 2015

This year at Creasys we planned to have a low-key Playday, however as with most ‘events’ after a few conversations with the children, the activities that were being asked for became quite a bit more. We started with the idea of doing what we do on a daily basis…providing play opportunities, but a slightly bigger scale. However the children soon began to sound out ideas and became excited by the day. Many of the children wrote lists of stuff that they wanted for this ‘special’ day of play…Shaving foam, bouncy castles, waterslides, big boxes, and walls where they could graffiti.

The regulars planned their day and invited many of their friends, and family. The children made posters and proudly distributed them to the local community looking to show off their space, but as with any day at a playground we couldn’t predict what may happen throughout the day.

The day came and the ‘regulars’ arrived bright and early (earlier than the playworkers in fact) to get set up, although for most it was their way of getting into the playground earlier than the ‘proper’ opening times. The resources that we sourced for them led on from other games and moments they had been engaging in the previously couple of weeks, and fed back to what they had asked for. The children and family centre were invited to come along as an offering for parents with young siblings, knowing that it would offer a different element to the day.

Over the day around 350 people came and went, playing along the way. Everyone appeared to have a good time, not fussing over the state of clothing or if they had stopped for lunch. There is just something about National Playday that brings everyone together and makes everything acceptable to the outside eye. Parents giggled as playworkers got pounced upon by groups of children with cans of shaving foam, teenage boys who wouldn’t normally be seen doing arts and crafts, painted large card with their graffiti ‘S’s, and the children gained an extra two hours at the playground. The day offered something for everyone, it was a day where I thanked the children and staff for supporting me in making it possible.

20 Challenges for 2014

Each year I set myself a new years resolution, and each year I give up after just a couple of days because of drive to succeed at it. This year I have decided to do something with a difference where I hand all responsibility over to friends and colleagues on Facebook in deciding 20 challenges for me to complete throughout the year. Soon after asking for ideas I had an exciting list emerging, some more extreme than others.

Here I will keep a regular diary of how I’m getting on, who’s knows there may even be some photos to share! See below for the challenges I will be attempting…

  1. Organise 20 Play Days in August with organisations/parks in your area.
  2. Start training to do a marathon for 2015
  3. Record a video about my experiences as a Playworker, my take on the state of play in the UK, what an adventure playground looks like, include the Playworkers travelling journal etc. for trainers to use with their students!!
  4. Get a local paper to do a big piece on the state of play in 2014, or a local radio station!
  5. Learn Tae Kwon Do
  6. Do a skydive and raise £1,000
  7. Once a month try a new restaurant and take someone new with me.
  8. Travel to a new country
  9. Learn how to fail – be a loser!!!!
  10. Give up my mobile phone for a month
  11. Smile at a stranger every day
  12. Give up my favourite food for a week
  13. Getting up an hour earlier every day for a week
  14. Make someone smile every day with a call or message saying something nice to them
  15. Make a new friend every month
  16. Have my picture taken in five interesting places (Interesting as in a place not many would know, been in)
  17. Learn something I didn’t learn as a child
  18. Swim with sharks
  19. Go gorge walking
  20. Cycle to work at least once a week
  21. Abseiling
  22. Learn a new language
  23. Go swim in the sea on Christmas Day
  24. Spend a day with Play Torbay

Be back soon with the first of many updates 🙂

What makes me so difficult to work with?

Tonight in session we were joined by another playworker from a different site, one who I have worked with just the once before. At the end of day we always take at least 30 minutes at the end of sessions to feedback on how the session went and on personal/ group practice. During this time feedback I was challenged with a piece of feedback which was

‘I’m not so sure other people in the service would necessary want, or would work with you, they might find it difficult’

Obviously I questioned this and It was backed up with the understanding that my values and beliefs are extremely strong and may put some of the staff off from working with me. So what is it that puts them off? 

I have high expectations but shouldn’t we all as playworkers, always wanting to improve our practice within the next session and be better at our role? Having worked in different setting and for strong minded people in the past I find this is a natural process. I do however find myself going over what may be so negative, maybe not negative but maybe uncomfortable for staff to acknowledge the way I work. I’m up front with staff, and always start a meeting make it clear that nothing said is personal but instead professional and a way of becoming better at our role.

It would be appreciated from those of you that know me, or have worked with me (or those that don’t in fact) as to why it may be such a difficulty, or is it more the fact that this member of staff was uncomfortable with the deep discussions we engage within at the end of session? The sessions are filled strongly with praise as given to all staff on interactions…and interventions where needed but I find the need to reflect slightly more on this. Your thoughts please.

Glastonbury part 1

This week i have been offered the opportunity to join the Meynell Games Group at Glastonbury to work in the kids field. Totally awesome right?

So far for me the experience has been almost surprising, with lots of hard work but also lots of time to play i established my place in the field.
I began feeling slightly nervous as if i had something to prove but yet i embraced the moment and found myself taking one step at a time.

The highlight of my day came when i picked up on one girls play cue to play tug of war, a game that instantly grew and involved not only children but adults as well, after all is that not part of Glastonbury. The ability to provide a space where everyone can disregard other stuff and to enjoy their own opportunity for play and expression.

Food of Bulgaria

food(Drawn by V.E)

Bulgaria is a country of many foods and it shared lots of lovely meals with us throughout the week we spent in the city Sofia.

Here’s a few of them 🙂

SAM_1043The spread that awaited us each morning at breakfast. SAM_1041 SAM_1040

SAM_1143Wild Mushrooms


Cheese, cheese and more cheese…


Roasted Pork





Quote of the day (9th March 2013)

‘well, you don’t really work, you just play and wear a uniform! But you are the best adult at playing I know’




The experiences of Eastbourne

The past two days I took up residence alongside another 300 playworkers, all who were in Eastbourne to come together for the National Playwork Conference. This year was my 4th year attending and I decided for the first time I had made a plan of sessions to attend that i will stick to.
I turned up slightly early on the Tuesday morning giving myself a wee bit of time to play on the beach, and with the sun shining on the sea, I spent a few minutes throwing stones and watching for the splash (the bigger the better).


Here’s just a few notes from the sessions I attended:

The day started it’s journey with Patrick Bateson, a behavioural biologist and although I never understood all of what Patrick was going on about, I took abit of it in and found what I did understand interesting.

Patrick who had almost 50 people listening to his ‘words of wisdom’ spoke about Epigentics. Initially Patrick went through the process of explaining how smiles can be changed via expereinces.

The innate ‘not learned’ and ‘part of behavioural system’, comparing David Cameron and a Blind man who show very different smiles although smiling, their experiences can be shown through the way they smile.

Genes -> Instint

Environment -> Acquired behaviour

The way a child smiles changes through voices the child hears at an early age. for example Patrick says a child who listens to his/her mothers voice will develop at an higher rate whereas a a child who is used to listening to his mother but hears another voice will be at a lower rate.

(some of this may not make complete sense, but its a great way of me trying to straighten the thoughts out in my heads)

Epigentics was almost unknown 15 years ago, but by looking at the statistics regarding how many papers have been written, Patrick showed us how there has been a major increase in numbers.

The need to understand the processes of development that unlike the interactions between the devloping organism and it’s environment’ Waddington, (1957) He called this ‘Epigentics’


To some up Patrick explains Epigenetics as a way to tell us about the details of the development process.

The next session I attended was facilitated by Professor Perry Else (Congratulations Perry!)  and Perry was speaking about ‘Taking risks; how low can you go’. I had never heard Perry speak or present a session before so I went in with an open mind of not knowing what to expect, I was not disappointed. Perry looked into the feelings people had about children and racism, bullying, swearing, and lots more, the stuff that playworkers sometime struggle with when it appears in the play setting.

The main point that I got from Perrys session was that it’s all about the word ‘Intent’, the context the children are using the language they use. Whilst discussing the topics it took me back to a previous expereince where I had been present. A young coloured boy was playfully playing with another group of children who sometimes took things a bit to far, mainly because of the young boy being a bit to in their faces. This one day they called the boy (in a joking kind of way)a Paki. Now was this ok or not, well I immediently intervened by confronted the group, asking if they felt it was alright, I was interrupted by the young boy ‘But I am a Paki!’. I had a dilemma, and thats when I realised how Playwork is one huge dilemma in many different ways.

P = C + E + S  

‘Children are the experts in their own playing’ Something to remind people of every so often

Karen Benjamin’s session was next which looked at the Playwork Priniciples and the role of the playworker.

The work around principles 3-8 came as a refresher to myself, but also a way of finally hearing people like Karen and Simon Rix speak about something they are also passionate about. I have to include how absolutley mad Karen is, jumping and almost dancing around the room. It was just brilliant!

Along with the Dudley crew I was looking to pick out the ‘important’ bits of principle 7, easy stuff! Anyhow next…

Polly Charlton ended the day with her Advanced take on the Play Cycle. focusing on the metalude and containment we were pulled together as a group and asked to critic Pollys recent thoughts, by taking a look at her wall of thoughts and post our own thoughts up alongside them.

Slightly taken back by the middle of the wall, I took a few moments to digest what was in front of me and all I seemed to manage to post up was ‘tell me more’, unfortunately, but fortunately we never got that far as we listened to Perry explain the metalude. I have to say I became slightly confused when Perry described it as an invisible motion, something that can not be seen, especially   when sometimes children are clearly in some kind of motion before the play cue. So…sorry Perry, I have to disagree slightly with both Gordon and you’re theory of the play cycle if it’s how I understand it. If the metalude is invisible then what comes before the cue that we can clearly see, and is not so invisible?

Right, it’s pub time! (Yay), a quick drink in the pub before heading back to the conference for dinner and entertainment.

The evening of Tuesday raised the bar for entertainment once again, just as you think it can not get much better, the efforts Meynell and his team go to organising the conference if great. The evening offered more than just a space to drink, dance and be silly, it gave us more time to appreciate the efforts people go to throughout the sector in providing play spaces for young people.

I know I do it each year but the fire jugglers were just amazing, I just wish with a little more practice I could do some of the tricks they were doing, but as we kept telling ourselves..There’s always BOP!


Wednesday was the day of days for me! It would be the first time of becoming the facilitor instead of the participant.

Before I was due to present I had the opportuntiy to attend Wendy Russell’s session titled: The only is Ethics, Wendy a lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire never fails to provoke a fresh thought. The whole Ethics thing is something that I finds brings out a lot of discussion once in full flow, more so this time when we gathered as small groups and I found myself with Bob Carney, Jess Milne and Bridget Handscomb, so much experience between them and Jess always has a new story to tell.

Anyway we were asked to think about a cultural dilemma we may have faced whilst in face to face playwork, then the dilemma itself, it needed to be one that could be shared with the whole group (oh dear!). We got straight into thinking around the matter, and Jess the darling he is shared a really interesting story, and it was just a pity we did not a little more time to reflect over his actions. Time is precious and flies by.

I found myself getting slightly immersed by the next part where Wendy discussed both the theory of doing (Immanuel Kant) and theory of being (Aristotle; MacIntyre), hense why I lost track of note taking.

On leaving I had one sentence stuck in my head, Wendy said ‘Playwork itself maybe unethical’. So there we go…

It was time…The yellow brick road to Playwork via Childhood was just half an hour away, and to be honest I was shitting myself, I was not sure how many people would turn up, or how I would react to questions when they thrown in my direction. It was a whole new experience, the preparation that was neither complete or certain to fit with the participants that were dropping in.

I set up with imagination and silliness in mind, opening the powerpoint ready to start. Introductions guided me with the direction of the session, and within five minutes of starting I found myself going off track.

SAM_0130Beginning with a game of stuck in the mud to get the brains motivated for discussions, I gave out minimal rules that they must go underneath legs to free someone. It was supposed to offer a point of discussion for later on in the session but time ran away with itself once again, 90 minutes is just not enough. The rules adapted as the game went on with people running and almost having a game of tag, just like childs play. As we entered back I began to get the participants of their childhoods, sharing stories in groups and questioning how they played, whether adults were around, whether they would allow children as a playworker to play how they played as a child.

Using just 3 slides from the powerpoint, I realised its all about the flow of the session, working out where the participants are at and how to best get them engaged in discussion. SAM_0134

We covered many different topics including generations of play, which fed off to other links, or should I say connections of what we did including playing with animals etc.

The feelings I felt throughout the session were strange, I was the focus of the session with people following what I said although expressing their own opinions, I can only discribe it as bizarre but slightly cool.

Scan1Some feedback from participants:

Defo doing it again as long as Meynell will have me back!

Back to being the participant again for the final session, Stuart Lester. What an interesting session! Principle 2 put across using Jack and the Beanstalk where the Giant was obviously the hero 😉 and we were reminded to think differently, although as Stuart said ‘Think differently- although it’s not different because the process is the same’ Wise words.

Scan2Studying organisms Stuarts way I actually understood (Yay). It was what it said on the label, brain power. So here is just a few notes I took away from the session.

Organisms don’t move like Stuarts organism but instead they move with and through the shaping of the world, do playworkers move like Stuarts? or like the rest of the formated public?

 Hopefully like this…


The way we use childrens rights, we are maybe isolating the children.

Playwork as a compossibilty.

The thing about Playwork is we all have our moments of hope, those moments where we hope for things to be different.

Stuarts says ‘Playwork is a political act’

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