Loving Outdoor Play at Homerton Grove
Have you ever been to an adventure playground?
I mean a real local playground, a secret magical space, a bit of nature and adventure in the inner city? A place kids from 6 to 15ish can hang out, play, cook, scream, dig, make friends…
Well on Friday I had a lovely few hours on the brilliant Homerton Grove adventure playground, run by Hackney Play Association. I hung back so Niece and her friend, staying with me for half term, could explore and get familiar. Next time I’ll just drop them off, but I was curious too. I’ve heard lots of good things about this space – and the staff offered me some delicious jollof rice and chicken!
It was chilly, but no one seemed to care. About 30 kids were playing very happily and had been there all day. The day before they had over 40, and at weekends there can be a hundred or more! The staff and volunteers, including support workers for some of the kids that need it, work hard to make sure this is the kid’s place. There is stuff to do – but importantly that they have the space to just do what they want to do without interference. It’s not a tidy and antiseptic place, but clearly a space literally generations of kids have loved.
It’s free for everyone, so everyone comes and they all feel welcome. For local families this place is a godsend. For kids that live nearby its where they like to be most – after school, at the weekend, in the holidays. For the kids that need it most, it’s here. And it’s really welcoming to those visiting from further away, even if just for a couple of hours.
Think what a difference a place like this makes to kids in this area? And quite probably for kids whose parents are visiting relatives at the hospital nearby? Most don’t have their own gardens and you can’t build fires in the park! Space for adventures shouldn’t be limited to those living near the country or for holidays. Kids need this everyday!
What do you think?
Places like this aren’t free to run of course. This playground is funded by a mixture of council funding, grants and local fundraising. Local councillors are very supportive. They also benefit from a bit of funding from Play England – from a Cabinet Office grant – to develop volunteering and build up stronger relationships with the local community. But mainly they are funded by Hackney Council who recognise the transformational difference small places like this, led and run by trained playworkers, make to kids growing up in densely populated, impoverished and ethnically diverse places like this.
It is a little piece of magic and joy.
Thanks to Bridget, Jenny, Neelam, John, Real and Volkan for making niece and her friend, and me, so welcome. Looking forward to our next visit!