#ThisIsReal Campaign


An artist has built an adventure Playground in Glasgow which has been nominated for the Turner prize, and now people who didn't used to talk about adventure playgrounds are talking about adventure playgrounds. They are saying interesting things. They want artists to build adventure playgrounds, they want adventure playgrounds for grownups, they talk about the revolutionary past of adventure playgrounds and they contemplate the compensatory aspect of adventure playgrounds.

These conversations are thought-provoking and could be useful if they create new advocates for play, nevertheless I had a strange feeling when I was listening that the speakers were talking about adventure playgrounds as if they were some abstract thing - an idea, rather than real places. They had, perhaps, seen black and white photos from the 1960s and 70's of children swinging on ropes and throwing wood onto bonfires and were summoning up images of their own childhoods or imagined childhoods.
The talk was utopian, as if adventure playgrounds were part of a well meant past experiment or a wonderful fantasy created by artists and dreamers. They did not talk about adventure playgrounds as real twenty-first century places where children from some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country play.

Islington has 12 adventure playgrounds in a borough with the 2nd least public green space in London. Islington Play Association has supported and fought for these places since the early 1970's. The council has paid for these places even when they had to make huge cuts elsewhere. This is because they are real places where real children play 5 days a week all year round.

The undertakings that we call play are countless and random, children experiment with the landscape, their bodies, the loose parts they find and with each other. They are experts at play and we playworkers observe how it makes them resilient and flexible and how it provides constant opportunities for insights, humour and subversion of adult rules and systems.

I can easily understand why children's play is seen as a magical art form, why it has been abstracted into something unreal. I can see why playgrounds have been imagined as part of this fantasy but I believe that it is important for us to remember that Adventure Playgrounds are real places, which need real workers and real physical spaces. They are real assets of the present and should be protected for the future. And just like play itself they exist in the here and now.

Islington Play Association has decided to post regular pictures and stories from our 6 very real adventure playgrounds, so that people can experience some of the tangible, existent, palpable, real things that are happening on adventure playgrounds right now in the summer of 2015. #ThisisReal.

Lucy Benson
Adventure Playgrounds Manager


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