Loving Outdoor Play at Homerton Grove

Adventure Playground

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?

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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.

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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!

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Comments
12 Responses to “Loving Outdoor Play at Homerton Grove”
  1. Amanda Jane Seery says:

    My kids have attended thebhomerton adventure playground. The evergreen playground in dalston and thd the shoreditch playground. They love it as they can run free and make new friends. Hope they stay open and get the funds they need.

  2. Cath – First can I thank you for posting this blog. We are really glad that Niece and her Friend enjoyed their afternoon at Homerton and we were all excited to see the blog afterwards.

    In response to Steve, I agree that a campaign is needed against funding cuts, but some of the best campaigns, particularly in play, are from grassroots (parents, local people, playworkers together), not top down from the national organisation. I agree with Simon, if we want a LAPA, we’ll need to make one, and possibly make one ourselves!

    In response to Arthur, regarding what is ‘led’. Of course playworkers do not ‘lead’ the play at Homerton Grove, but behind the scenes they lead on putting into place all the elements that allow the show to go on, funding, maintenance, resources, outreach, safeguarding, and the many, many bits of paperwork that allow the playground to continue to operate.

    Best

    Nicola, Hackney Play Association

  3. panegyric says:

    I worked at Homerton Grove from 1986 till 2001. In 1986, it had a grant of £70k p/a from Hackney, plus volunteers and the support of London Adventure Playground Association and Hackney Play Association.

    £70k equates to £166000 in todays money, that’s why the organisation could afford enough playworkers to run the site and activities adequately, service the management committee and do the admin (which was a lot less than it is now), have meetings to plan and reflect and develop the site.

    The salaries to the playworkers were enough to attract dynamic people into the job and there were four full time workers.

    When I left Homerton as treasurer in 2012, the grant from Hackney was £50k and was going to be cut further.

    I have called serveral times for the job of running an adventure playground to be measured for minimum staffing levels and responsibility levels so that minimum funding requirements can be set, this is a job which was done by LAPA in the early 80’s, when the minimum requirement was judged at three full time staff plus playscheme sessional staff. How many adventure playgrounds have that now?

    It’s no wonder there has been a decline. Not only has the minimum not been set, but there doesn’t seem to be an organisation with the clout and reach to do it. I think that if we want a LAPA, Steve, we’ll have to make one.

  4. janeplayengland says:

    Just reminds me how lucky we are at Fort Apache a very unique adventure playground or should it be adventurous playspace anyway its special .. and its certainly enhanced by the “People who make play”.. as a recent ( Primary teacher with her 3 children ) visitor said ” This is great .. the children just do their own thing, you dont really need to do anything at all ” .. praise indeed for the playwork style ….. and a reminder of the magic of playwork ..

  5. plexity says:

    Cath, I applaud this very powerful portrayal of our beloved adventure playgrounds!

    The more people that appreciate and support these endangered oases of freedom, the better.

    And I don’t need to remind you that without staff, it isn’t a true ‘adventure playground’, but it might be useful, for ‘lay’ readers, to just say that the phrase is often applied loosely to excellent play areas which do not have the bonus of lovely playworkers who do, well, they do that playwork thing. They may be lovely play areas, but they are not ‘officially’ ‘adventure playgrounds’.

    I should also mention that there is a guidance document on adventure play available on the PlayEngland website, for free. I should also say that if any readers don’t really ‘get’ this funny British word ‘playwork’, there are lots of resources on the web. PlayEngland and Play Wales (and Scotland and Northern Ireland) all have websites – good places to start. Or just google

    (I have to just have a little niggle: “led and run by trained playworkers”. Sure, run in the sense of management, yes; a funded project managed by an organisation who employ staff etcetera, yes. But led? led in the sense of? what or who is being led? Please clarify.)

    You can tell that I’m a bit of a trainspotter about adventure play – sorry!

    Read more about this endangered species here:

    http://www.playengland.org.uk/resources/developing-an-adventure-playground-the-essential-elements.aspx

    • Thanks Arthur, the point to the Play England resources much appreciated. It was great to get ‘a place with magic’ into official guidance, and we’ll certainly be keeping it in future descriptions of these important places.

      A reflection on management of Adventure playgrounds would be an interesting read – especially for those looking at alternative management models in social enterprises and community run spaces. The role of children in management committees varies across the country too. However I’ll probably keep my eyes on the bit about where kids can play freely, and leave the text about management to those with more experience in that area than I! If you’d like to write a guest blog…

  6. I think it looks like paradise! We used to go to our local adventure playground in Bristol (also a ‘proper’ one where playworkers stand back and kids get to make/adapt the space for themselves, have fires etc.) but it’s just been closed down 😦 . These kinds of dedicated spaces where kids can have a bit of freedom to hang out together and be themselves are invaluable in an age where children and play are ever more squeezed out of everyday public space by cars and development. Although we need to tackle that too!

    • The decline in adventure playgrounds seems to continue everywhere – sites close or stop being real adventure playgrounds – the children’s scope for building and play choked off by fixed, adult built, equipment. In terms of numbers, for example, more than half of the sites that once existed in London are now gone. To win back the land is unthinkable. There seems to be no national campaign, or co-ordinated effort of any kind to stop this decline -,just the occasional one-off battle like Battersea and Triange in Lambeth. The loss of the London Adventure Play Association seems to have been the turning point. A campaign led by Play England is long overdue.

      • Mick Conway says:

        There are some very positive developments – for example in Islington where the 12 adventure playground sites have been protected in perpetuity through Deeds of Dedication. Play Torbay are looking at similar options to protect their adventure playgrounds. The Play England Exploring Nature Play project and the Free Time Consortium are working to help the adventure playground model become more sustainable.

    • Thanks Alice – I know we are very lucky in Hackney. The local Play Association does a grand job and they tell me the Council continues to support all 6 of the playgrounds, at least for now. Nationally the picture is so very different, and I just hope through highlighting stories like this that Love Outdoor Play is part of getting adventure playgrounds back into conversations about funding locally.

      Steve – Unfortunately Play England is as affected by cutbacks as everyone else, and we just haven’t had the resources to focus a campaign specifically on adventure playgrounds. Based on our member consultations and steers from our advisory group and stakeholders, and on the funding we have, we focus on loss of freedoms more widely – freedom to play at home, on doorsteps, in local parks and spaces and adventures further afield. Adventure playgrounds are a very important part of this and we make campaign resources available and support local campaigns wherever we can. The recent ‘Write to your MP’ campaign was an example and we’d love to hear from any adventure playground that has used it – or other campaign material – to contact their local MPs to ask for their funding to be safeguarded so we can support them. The common denominator in all the areas that have seen some protection for play funding, is that they almost always have a local councillor’s support. And whenever we get responses from Ministers about play they again emphasise the importance of the local MPs and councillors.

      https://loveoutdoorplay.net/takeaction/ask-your-mp-councillors-to-love-outdoor-play/

    • Mel McCree says:

      Which one was that Alice? That got closed?

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