On the shoulders of giants

Now that I no longer live 30 minutes away from the British Library I’ve finally realized how much I took for granted, in terms of access to rare and wonderful books!  Luckily last time I was there I visited some of my favorite texts, and took copious notes.

Play Books

There are lots of gaps, in terms of playwork stuff available online, and posting some quotes from these fabulous texts seems a potentially useful thing to do.

The first had to be John Bertelsen, the first play leader at Emdrup. What follows is as perfect an explanation of a playworker’s role as I’ve found anywhere.

“I am of course employed as a leader, but on an adventure playground this is hardly the same as the accepted idea of a leader and organizer who works, as it were, from the outside. Rather, mine is a function which arises within the actual framework of the playground where I am in a position to give the children every opportunity of putting their plans into practice. This initiative must come from the children themselves and when the necessary materials are to be had these give the children the inspiration for play. I cannot, and indeed will not, teach the children anything. I am able to give them my support in their creative play and work, and thus help them in developing those talents and abilities which are often suppressed at home and at school. I consider it most important that the leader not appear too clever but that he remain at the same experimental stage as the children. In this way the initiative is left, to a great extent, with the children themselves and it is thus far easier to avoid serious intrusion into their fantasy world.”

John Bertelsen’s “Early Experience from Emdrup” in Adventure Playgrounds, p.20-1.

Adventure Playgrounds Bengtsson

This might be a regular feature, so please send along any favorite quotes or requests!


3 thoughts on “On the shoulders of giants

  1. I have spent many, many years ensconced in the British Library (and its sister the British Archives) back in the day (and not yer all new fangled, properly lit, nicely organised BL but the old one, where working was hard in order to reflect the hard life we all had back then, and that). Various projects in the last (burble incomprehensible) years have pulled me back there for research from time to time.

    Two years ago I (re)visited this all singing and dancing ‘new’ repository of our national collections for the first time with a bit of trepidation (it required a new photo ID and everything). How would it be, I wondered? It turned out it was as quiet as ever and not nearly as encumbered by new technology as I thought it might be, as I learned from the whispered shouts sent the way of one researcher who was berated for the briefest whisper her digital camera made as she took photos of various documents. In fact the atmosphere, I found, was very similar to the old days except that it took minutes to have documents delivered instead of the interminable months I remember from the old days.

    There is little (for a sad man) that beats the thrill of reading the original correspondence debating the politics behind the introduction of the 1870 Education Act and being able to see the machinations, intrigue, negotiation and bribery that resulted in the school system we all know and love today; or the embarrassment immediately following the barely suppressed yelp at discovering your own name mentioned in departmental reports on the revision of school building regulations some twenty-years previous that you didn’t even realise where there.

    As Morgan says, the British Library is an amazing resource and one that we playworkers need to make more use of. Everything has a historical context but to read, learn, digest historical material, reinterpret and then transmit this to others is nothing short of the basis of new knowledge and understanding.

    And my favourite quote from the BL? It would have to be that passage from the security chap on leaving there for the last time: “Excuse me, Sir, what is that you’ve got hidden under your cardigan, there?”

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