Making Islington a better place to play outdoors

Guest Post – Jon Winder, Islington Council

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!

3 Responses to “Making Islington a better place to play outdoors”
  1. Mick Conway says:

    Islington’s enlightened approach to making green space playable space, along with their ground-breaking initiative to protect adventure playground sites in perpetuity should be an inspiration to local authorities around the country. Keep up the great work.

  2. homemadekids says:

    Well done Islington. You don’t need a huge amount of space to make play possible. Best of all if you don’t have much space then what you have tends to be nearer to you (well in Islington) and that makes it more tempting to visit. Nicola Baird

  3. Tim Gill says:

    Great to read such a positive story. I’ve long been an admirer of Islington’s creative, public-service-oriented approach to the management of green space – another example is the partnership they have developed with the Garden Classroom over running outdoor learning sessions in Whittington Park. Would love to see some photos of the tree swings!

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