Save Skrammellegepladsen i Emdrup

Skrammellegeplasden in Emdrup has been described as the birthplace of ‘modern’ playwork. The junk playground has served as a beacon and inspiration for playworkers all over the world but is now under threat from similar financial constraints that have closed several much-loved adventure playgrounds in this country like Stonebridge and Battersea. Changes by the local authority will see children segregated by age to make the playground a more traditional day care centre. Older children will be moved out. Staff and supporters are afraid this will lead to increasing restrictions in free play and risk, losing the ‘children’s democracy’ and autonomy that has characterised the site for over 70 years.

Skrammellegeplasden occupies a special place in the history of children’s play. In the 1930’s the Danish architect C.Th.Sorensen imagined a ‘sort of junk playground in which children could create and shape, dream and imagine and make dreams and imagination a reality’. This was based on his observation of children playing with the building materials on a new housing construction and his belief that children should be allowed to play without adult intervention. Rather than provide adult-built equipment and purpose built structures, loose parts – packing cases, bricks, water, trees to climb and earth to dig – should be available to children for them to create their own playground.

The first playground inspired by this vision was built at Emdrup on the outskirts of Copenhagen in 1943. This was surrounded by a six foot bank and wire fence to prevent noise and offer a sense of seclusion for the children. It was decided the site could not be left without supervision. The first leader, John Bertlesen set the tone.

‘The children are sovereign and the initiative must come from them. The leader can make suggestions, but he must never demand. He must obtain tools and materials needed or requested by children, but he must at any moment be prepared to give way to new activities. To organise and arrange programmes is to stifle the imagination and initiative and preclude children whose lively curiosity and interests demand new outlets.’

The adventure playground concept was introduced into Britain by Lady Allen of Hurtwood after a visit to Emdrup. It was championed in the 1950’s by the National Playing Fields Association. The idea was quite straightforward. Through the provision of tools and materials and discrete adult supervision children could dig, build, change their environment and engage in co-operative projects using their own initiative to create their own play space. This spirit still lives on in the many adventure playgrounds in England and places like Plas Madoc in north Wales or the Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Glasgow.

The supporters of Skrammellegeplasden are concerned that the character of the playground will be altered forever. That the younger children will miss out on the interaction with their older peers and their parents will not be given the choice to allow their children to come and go as they are now. They have asked for messages of support addressed to the Mayor and Town Council about how the playground is a ‘special and unique place’ that has inspired them and influenced their work with children.

You can support the ‘Save Skrammelselegepladsen i Emdrup’ campaign by writing to Dorthe Rasmussen Kjær at dk@rysensteen.dk

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5 Responses to “Save Skrammellegepladsen i Emdrup”
  1. Dorthe Rasmussen has sent further contact details where you can express your concern and support for the Empdrup Adventure Playground by writing to the Town Council at this address: http://www.kk.dk/email/field_collection_item/19626/field_email?destination=node/16721 or to the Minister of Culture, Bertel Haarder at this e-mail address: kum@kum.dk

  2. Helen Simpson says:

    I was lucky enough to be shown around Skrammellegepladsen by Sussi last November and it was obvious how passionate she was for the play area and ethos of the original idea. She stressed the importance of the mixed age groups being allowed to play in the same space and showed us a silent, black and white ‘home movie’ of children playing there in the 1950’s. Within minutes it made me smile as a boy who looked to be about 5 gave another boy of the same age, a clip around the head…to little reaction. The rest of the film (which I feel honoured to have a copy of) consists of different age groups of children completely focussed on being busy: Playing…building…working together and achieving.
    It’s so natural for children of different ages to spend time together and some of the best games/play experiences of my own childhood were spent this way. Caring for younger children, listening to older children, fitting in….and sometimes challenging their rules, all part of growing up.
    Sadly, although we (as play professionals) know the many advantages, children just don’t get the chance to experience this kind of play enough. It would feel wrong NOT to fight for this.

  3. mickplay says:

    Sent this: I am very concerned at the news that there are plans to change the nature of Skrammellegeplasden which for over 70 years has been a beacon of what we in the United kingdom call adventure play. In my view Emdrup should be a World Heritage Site because of the inspiration it has given to thousands of playworkers all over the world. Which even more importantly has meant that millions of children have been able to play in what are widely recognised as near-ideal play environments. I strongly believe it would be in direct conflict with Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and an act of cultural vandalism to threaten the ethos of Skrammellegeplasden. It was born in and survived under Nazi rule – do the local authorities really want to achieve what the Nazis couldn’t?

    Mick Conway http://www.playfile.co.uk Facebook

    On 2 February 2016 at 17:20, Love Outdoor Play wrote:

    > Steven Chown – Play England posted: “Skrammellegeplasden in Emdrup has > been described as the birthplace of ‘modern’ playwork. The junk playground > has served as a beacon and inspiration for playworkers all over the world > but is now under threat from similar financial constraints that have clo” >

  4. Tim. Thanks for your support. The typo has been corrected. The perils of cut and paste. The blog has embedded links to films of adventure playgrounds in the UK. A few years ago Play England commissioned films of Garston Adventure Playground in Liverpool and Indigos Go Wild and Forth Apache in Torbay. These show what these spaces mean to children and the volunteers who support them.

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