What a year and what a precious gift the village now has in the new, inclusive Playscape!
If you made it to the official opening, kindly hosted by the Shelford School PTA, thank you for rearranging your plans around storm Arwen! Hundreds of people turned up to watch Santa and his reindeers officially open the Playscape and the atmosphere was just fantastic: a truly festive, friendly and fun community event.
If you missed it, you can read our chair’s speech below about the importance of dreaming big and designing inclusively.
You can also listen to the speech via this link (it may take a little while to load).
The charity’s founding members were brought together by a shared frustration with the limitations of the old playground, which did not cater for really little ones, older children or anyone who uses a wheelchair.
We all knew the old playground could be improved, but our guiding vision emerged slowly, through curiosity and consultation, and by questioning what a playground should even look like. It was when we discovered the ideas of a landscape-led approach and inclusive play (that is, people of different ages and abilities being able to play together) that we really got inspired – the idea of a Playscape was born.
It was this strong vision that inspired others to join the team and they helped keep the dream alive these past 6 years. To all past and present members of the Playscape committee and Parish Council, I give you my heartfelt thanks! Thank you for all your dedication, skill and commitment, but most of all, your friendship.
It has been so exciting watching the Playscape emerge over the summer and now seeing the community gather to explore its open-ended possibilities. Seeing those in wheelchairs finally being able to play in their local playground has been a joy: rolling into the heart of the sand pit, or onto the roundabout or trampoline not only gives them access to physical experiences, but crucially to social ones too. Another highlight for me has been watching a beaming two-year-old being guided down the slide by an 11 year old who they’ve only just met: this is what community is all about.
Teenagers (as predicted!) have flocked to the hammocks and they are truly welcome here. Each and every person is encouraged to find their own Playscape challenge: whether it is going uphill on the monkey bars, or over the top of the climbing frame, or simply rolling down a mound, this whole space has been designed for open-ended exploration and play, for all. Just to be clear, everyone here is allowed to play in the Playscape, no-one’s too small, too big, too young or too old. As our sign says “you don’t stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing.”
This journey has given us time us to think about some of the deeper issues facing our generation. We have hit a point in human history when time spent outside, time playing and time just moving our bodies have all become seriously endangered, yet we also know how important all of these things are for children’s development and resilience and for everyone’s well-being. The reality is, our environment either moves us – or restricts us – so it’s really important what we build and what we prioritise. This Playscape has been specifically designed to move you and entice you to stay outside with others.
The Mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peñalosa, famously said “Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.”
Observe how this space moves you, how it inspires play and let’s take a moment for some collective imagination to dream about what the rest of our local environment could be like if we prioritised well-being for creatures great and small.
So where do we see children out in the shared public realm, when do they get to explore it by themselves, is there anything hindering them? This project shows that dramatic change can happen if there is the will and the vision, and we all have a role to play in shaping society: it can be as simple as completing the numerous transport and local plan consultations currently open, or donating towards our next phase, the wheelscape or volunteering with a local group, so let’s keep moving forward by looking back to simpler times and forward to bolder visions.
Just like the children who have discovered the genius hiding places between the base of the towers and the top of the mounds let’s keep exploring possibilities. Above all, have fun, keep moving and don’t stop playing.