Making Islington a better place to play outdoors
With the least amount of open space of any local authority in the country you might think that Islington isn’t a great place for playing outdoors. However, over the last few years the council has been working hard to make parks and open spaces better places to play.
With 56 formal play areas there are plenty of opportunities to play on traditional equipment like swings, climbing frames, zip wires, water features and slides. Our busiest play area, Highbury Fields, received nearly half a million visits in the last year!
In 2011 we drafted a Greenspace Play Strategy to help shape our approach to play in parks and open spaces. The strategy stresses the importance of providing a wide variety of play experiences both in play areas – and beyond – and recognises that exposure to risk is an essential part of play provision. We are also working with other teams in the council to develop a council-wide Risk in Play policy that will formalise our use of a risk-benefit approach to managing risk in play.
But far more exciting than the strategies are the changes that have been taking place in parks. With London Play and Monkey-Do, we ran training sessions with our park managers, rangers, apprentices and park keepers in the art of installing temporary tree swings. Swings have popped up in parks across the borough and they have been hugely popular. The installation at Whittington Park was so successful that a more permanent tree swing has now been installed.
We’ve also been working hard to create more and better play opportunities outside of formal play areas and increased opportunities to interact with nature. A tree house climbing structure has been installed, long grass areas have been developed, felled trees have been kept in parks as informal play structures, exploratory trails have been opened up into planting areas, den building sessions have taken place with help from Islington Play Association and the number of play-focused events has expanded significantly.
There might not be much space for playing out in Islington but the parks and open spaces we have got are becoming far more exciting places to play!