I’ve been thinking lately about playwork in adverse circumstances – unsurprisingly, really. Ours is an era of shrinking funding and growing need. British children are famously among the “unhappiest” in the world, which ought to serve as a call to action to all of us whether we’re playworkers, parents, aunties or uncles or neighbours, simply because we’re human beings. The occupation of Battersea Adventure Playground shows that being a playworker (in the sense of advocacy for children’s rights) sometimes goes far beyond doing playwork (supporting children’s play directly).
For all those conversations about professionalization in the sector, the scale of cuts suggests to me that lots of us will be doing playwork unpaid for awhile – whether it’s through direct action such as this, or hosting local events such as street parties, or simply because people are now applying these skills to the children they meet in “civilian” capacities. I wonder whether these changes, and how we respond to them, might encourage us to think of playwork as not simply a profession but also as a form of activism.
This line of thinking has been bringing up a lot of questions for me, such as (in the absence of the funding we’d grown used to) how do we keep being playworkers? Why do we do this work, and how can we stay encouraged? How can we see the resources we do have more clearly, use them more creatively, and best consider what we’ll do next to continue making real, positive changes in children’s lives of play?
So that’s what I’ll be exploring in the next few posts. If you have questions or stories of your own to share, the comment section is yours.
You can sign the Battersea Adventure Playground petition here.