It’s pizza all round for three London adventure playgrounds that kept the spirit of adventure play alive during the ongoing pandemic.
Three London adventure playgrounds that went to extraordinary lengths to keep children playing – and in some cases, fed too – during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic were yesterday announced as joint winners of the coveted London Adventure Playground of the Year Award. Excited children and staff at Triangle and Max Roach Adventure Playgrounds in Lambeth and Hackney Marsh Adventure Playground heard the news via a premiere on London Play’s YouTube channel.
Usually celebrated in noisy style with hundreds of children at the Prince Charles Cinema excited to see their own films about the places they play on the big screen, this year’s online event was very different. But the message – that play, and adventure playgrounds in particular, are vital for children’s wellbeing and happiness – endures, and has, if anything, been amplified by circumstances which have seen children’s right and opportunities to play curtailed like never before.
There is no doubt that it has been a challenge for adventure playgrounds, whose ethos is open, tactile and very much ‘hands on’, to adapt their services to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Located in neighbourhoods where families are more likely to be living in flats with no open space and in potentially challenging circumstances – being forced to close their gates on these children was difficult. But adapt they did, and the three winning playgrounds stood out for their innovative approaches, demonstrated in the films they submitted as their award entries and in their stories from a summer like no other.
Hackney Marsh Adventure Playground
Even as the government dragged its feet on publishing guidance for summer playschemes, the team at Hackney Marsh Adventure Playground were advancing plans of how to reopen safely and all the while, connecting with their young adventurers online. Playful videos shared via Young Hackney’s online youth hub kept the adventure play spirit alive, with staff never passing up an opportunity to make fun of themselves.
“We are all so excited here at Hackney Marsh to have found out that we won alongside two other amazing playgrounds in Lambeth,” said senior playworker Angela Day. “We have strived forward with planning and changing methods to ensure no circumstances stop or rob our children of the right to play. Looking back at the summer and our initial research and plans to open the adventure playground again seem all but a blur but we are here, we are open and still doing what we do best, allowing children the opportunity to get out and play freely.”
Agnes, aged 6, said she thought Hackney Marsh won “because it’s such a fun place. Everyday there’s something different here.”
Max Roach Adventure Playground
As lockdown hit, the team at Max Roach Adventure Playground began a meal and fun delivery service called Happy Lunch Play. Play workers arrived by bicycle at children’s homes with smiles, healthy packed lunches and play resources – providing a lifeline to families shut indoors.
“The children and team at Max Roach are elated to have be selected for the award of London Adventure Playground of the year 2020, alongside two other fabulous adventure playgrounds,” said Candice James. “During these extra-ordinary times, the team were able to bring play to children both in the centre and to their homes. Working with some of the most disadvanged children within our community, play has been fundamental to children’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic. It’s a wonderful testimony to all our staff, volunteers and trustees that worked passionately, before and during the pandemic, to adapt and provide a play service for the needs of local children.”
Triangle Adventure Playground
At Lambeth’s Triangle Adventure Playground, one of the oldest adventure playgrounds in the capital – lockdown saw staff immediately turn their hand to broadcasting daily online play sessions – from toilet roll keepy-uppy challenges to daytime raves. Once open again for limited groups in the summer, the joy of children returning ‘home’ to their playground was captured in their vibrant film.
“After the difficulties of this year all of the Triangle APG family are very proud to be crowned APG of the year,” said deputy senior playworker Gabriel Green. “We worked very hard to support our young people during lockdown both online and reopening site for summer as soon as we could. Big thanks to all our young people, families, community, supporters and donors. And we are even more proud to share the award with Max Roach and Hackney, two great adventure playgrounds!”