Playday 2013 – Celebrate what you do where you are with what you have!
Guest post by Playday founder Mick Conway
Back in 1987, the play sector in London had seen the abolition of the Greater London Council and the same fate being faced by the Inner London Education Authority which was very worrying to us because they were key funders of adventure playgrounds, school-based play centres and holiday playschemes. Ancient history now, but maybe some lessons there in a new age of austerity?
Three of us called a campaign meeting – and nobody came. So we went to the pub to drown our sorrows and somehow came up with the idea of Playday. From just a couple of events in 1987, Playday grew to around a dozen in London by 1989, went national in 1991 and is now the biggest celebration of children’s play in the UK, if not Europe! We never imagined in our wildest dreams that 26 years on it would still be going strong with hundreds of locally-organised events all over the UK and up to half a million children taking part.
What made it work? Purely by accident we had come up with a simple idea that people could get straight away. It would be a celebration, not a protest, so local politicians and decision-makers could at least tacitly support it. It could be any size and any shape – celebrate what you do where you are with what you have – and call it Playday. It was in the August silly season when the media were desperate for stories. Gradually we built an infrastructure to support local people and organisations and developed a media campaign.
We were very excited to get a small sidebar Playday feature in the kids section of Time Out in 1988 – compare that with 753 pieces of TV, radio, print and online coverage in 2012 that reached 9 million people!
Some members of the play sector and others have questioned whether Playday has had any real impact. All I would say is that when the Number 10 Policy Unit approached Play England to start discussions on what would become the Play Strategy it was the annual Playday polling statistics (and no doubt the accompanying media attention) that had initially interested them.
More importantly, people all over the country have told us that it helps raise the profile of play locally:
- ‘Playday is always an excellent day fro bringing our community together.’
- ‘It is a fabulous concept and keeps the importance of play at the forefront of peoples minds when thinking about children’s needs.’
- ‘Playday gives us the opportunity to really highlight what play is and how important it is to the local community.’
- ‘A great opportunity to celebrate children’s right to play!’
So why don’t you become part of an even bigger and better Playday in 2013?
Go to www.playday.org.uk to find a Playday near you or get information on how to organise and register your own event. Remember your celebration can be any size and any shape – from just a few of your children’s friends and neighbours playing together where you live to a huge event with thousands of children – they are all Playdays!
Mick Conway is a Play programme Manager at Play England.