Archives for category: Uncategorized

The concrete cage is empty. Silent.
Trickles of energy start to sweep through the space,
Drowned out by busy adults swarming the perimetre,
Not us, but others, looking busy and are powerless in their poison fuelled vehicles.
Don’t mind us, their young bodies will just absorb your waste, why don’t they get the space and freedom whilst we watch fat cats prowl the cages under the glare of dogs.

I wait, prepare for our own rush hour.
It’s easy to lose your self preservation at it’s peak of chaos,
Some of us huff, frown and puff.

Some even scream. Grab it, board it, share it, love it, remember yesterday’s? We must do that again, dump it, throw it, swing it, trade it…

But most laugh, joke and play. We find happiness in the chaos, not always a happy hour though, a handful of souls escape the chaos, can’t cope – warning – wall- yellow.
But for each one of these sufferers of life thrown at them, there are 100 more that are relishing in our space.

A quarter of children disappear, our loose parts go away,
Guilt runs through me for I’m denying them what they crave.
Where’s the signs, the key and ‘Come on now, you know not to climb inside’…

The peak is nearly over, the complexity of the rush hour makes this time rich with events, memories, laughs and cries – yet it’s all lost in perspective. We know who we are, that hold onto these pockets of time and reflect on what, how and if. But those of you who don’t listen and look will miss it, for the rush hour is just

Playtime.

Advertisements

On the third day of the tour we visited Sollentuna Forest School. Teachers have part of their training here so they can teach in a natural environment. Children come and learn about nature, how to identify creatures and trees, whilst learning how to sustain nature for the future. The Forest School is a playful experience which is led by teachers, yet the children have much freedom in their activities. They are fully equipped in wesatherproof clothing and are able to go inside for breaks from cold weather. They light fires to cook food, walk for miles and play games to keep warm. The very cold winters the smaller children which are ‘preschool’ age 6-7 will have short periods outside and then go inside to continue their learning. Teachers in training use the same facilities and we caught one group in action, they ate around a fire, then collecting water snails they walked to the base and conducted a session where paintings were produced from the snail studies.

Here in the UK Forest Schools are becoming more popular, schools are encouraged by Eco/Green School initiatives to take lessons outside or to a local park or a farm. Unfortunately its not compulsory and many schools miss out on the outdoors, with un-stimulating playgrounds and fears of all-weather play. We think our British children are losing touch with nature and therefore aren’t prepared to take care of it either, but in Sweden teachers believe this disconnection is occurring there too. Hard to believe, when they have a culture in schools that outdoor play is a normal, integral part of learning and ‘play policies’ aren’t required and government agendas for play aren’t because of obesity or depression. There its just what children do because they are children and they don’t feel the need to justify it.

Lily

Today was for visits of school grounds, we seen two schools and an after-school club. Being a Sunday, the schools were locked up yet we were able to roam the grounds as the public would on a weekend. The first school was in the district of Rosengard, which has a reputation of dense immigration levels and poverty. There is a history of rioting on here and disputes between the people and police. The roads were clean, children were playing out, the grounds were natural, thoughtfully considered and the public used and respected the environment equally as the children were expected to. Features such as woodlands blending into further woodland with no indication of boundaries apart from to the road, random stone fixtures built by what we’ve assumed the children and/or parents/staff. Logs and tree trunks create seated areas and have potential for much more. Its a shame we could not see the space in action, we could only imagine the children racing around the trees wearing the grass beneath their feet, crouching behind the brick wall peering over through the forest corridors. Piles of leaves that bury people and are lifted up to make a whirlwind of leafy rain.

The second school grounds were backing onto a large open green and then onto a quiet road. The school was surrounded by residential areas and green space, you do not know what is public and what is school. The woodlands that surround this school has pockets of self-built structures and a tree hollowed out enough for a small person to curl up inside. The pond is 30cm deep, 50 years old at least and surrounded by wilderness and self made objects by the children. We discover that the caretaker in this school helps out during the day with the children and is supportive in their creations.

We go to an after-school club called St Hansgarden which is funded by the local council and government. Children are taken here during the day with their teachers to do sessions and for the adults to learn outdoor teaching skills. The site is beautiful, with animals loose, buildings with grass for a rooftop, campfire circles, loose parts on hand for building, games, art made by the children, grapevines hanging from the veranda and a cosy little cafe making healthy snacks and hot drinks for the families to refuge. The place feels a bit like the city farms we have back in UK but with beauty and charm of Swedish style and tradition. Children attend and care for their own pets, grow their own food and help cook the food they’ve taken care of, whether that be meat or vegetables.

Keywords of the day:

Accessible
Community
Attainable
Freedom
Trust
Nature
Simple
Sensual

Lily

We arrived in Sweden yesterday, I have instantly felt the difference in equality. Just being on the train with the dads and prams, you felt the people owned their space whether a man or a woman, Somalian or Swedish. There was a strong presence of men and their children. As we drove to the house we were staying in, hosted by the very hospitable Gareth, we noticed the space that Lund had, most people living in flats meant that space was freed up on the ground. There was plenty of green space that was used by all people and design is always fully considered. People didn’t have to go far to play and socialise, so everybody walked or cycled. Families cycle, the roads are nearly empty.

We arrived at the beautiful house, settled in and started our first discussion. Themes that came up was:

-Disparity
-Media’s influence on society’s opinion of people in poverty
-Maintenance problems of school grounds creating new ways of using outdoor space
-Use of language when working with other professionals to get them on side with your practice
-Playwork as professional status, are we not taken seriously because we don’t need a degree to do our job well.

In Sweden, life is ‘Logam’, just-so, normal, just right. This means people don’t generally strive for more and flamboyancy isn’t encouraged. Swedish culture doesn’t demand people to be better and have more than they need. With the housing system, people that rent are on waiting lists so properties that come up available people will accept because they don’t want to wait. The properties are of good quality and are heated throughout so people never go cold and benefits provide enough so people don’t starve. There’s no feeling of segregation. Today we visited some flats that housed people from different backgrounds and on various incomes, everyone was on the same economic level. There was plenty of green space and playful spaces surrounding the blocks of flats so there was plenty of opportunity to meet other people and come together as a community. We visited playgrounds in Malmo which were integrated into public space and flowed between the spaces in the town, rather than a space being segregated and labelled as children’s space. The playgrounds consisted of sculptural features that pleased adults and children alike, alongside equipment that was aimed at the child’s curiosity using imaginative themes. At every opportunity of walking along the coast and through Malmo and Lund there are pockets of playful design and aesthetics have been a strong occurrence in design features. Its not just about basic function here, its important also that function extends to pleasing the eye and the soul which children will be of course, drawn to.

Lily

We, as playworkers are tools. We are enablers, facilitators, advocates, multi task-ers, artists, punch bags, ‘favourite adult’ persons, crazy persons, listeners, speakers, the list goes on. But, we are not teachers or parents. We sometimes though, pass on wisdom that may be seen as teachings but we are not to be concerned with whether the learner has learnt. As we all know, children are learning stuff in their play, in between and when they’re not playing. There’s no right and wrong and I believe somewhere, there is a balance out there which as professionals we need to cooperate to create. I keep thinking of this god damn ‘Us vs them’, right/wrong, too much too soon campaign, government priorities… Its a mess! We need a UNITED Kingdom with a bunch of pros that all have the same agenda: promoting children’s rights and well-being. Easier said…

Sometimes our wires are crossed, especially when you are faced with ‘other’ professionals on a daily basis. So sometimes you have to be fun, firm, caring, angry, rule-abiding, activist-y, context controlled, employer pleasing, ludic-centred, child-centred… Its hard. Always reminding myself WHO I am, WHY I’m here and HOW I’m going to get it sorted.

Two boys struggle to be in a playground. All they would seemingly want to do is go inside, run away from the chaos, hide. Who am I pleasing, helping, listening to, by encouraging them to stay outside? I suggest a task, a game, a frame in which we as a three will play. Maybe not happily, it might be hectic, a struggle between willpower, special needs, control, desires. But, by being the glue that holds the play together, in which they are then able to make their scrap car that they ‘agreed’ to so they can pretend, role play and interact with others, makes all this struggle worth it. Is it? If I walk away or choose to not guide verbally, they shout and hit out at anyone who dares pass them, borrow a wheel or provoke intentionally. Maybe it depends on the amounts of involvement you need to have? If you hold something together past the point they aren’t interested, then this is bad. I’m adulterating their play admittedly, but without me, they don’t play at all. Once inside it may be isolated games, away from others. But, isn’t my job to promote play? I’m not only promoting to adults but also the players themselves? I’m voicing their need, want and love for it, but subtly and always with sensitivity. The boys one day, may feel ok being outside and I’ll feel like my support paid off. Is this adulteration justified? In the long run, they would have possibly got more skilled at containing their own play and even just being present on the playground.

Lily

Playful Woman

Playful woman
she enjoys her work

She slumps and smiles
The energy paid upfront
yet its barely felt

In her heart she enjoys the day but looks to the clock
For all the work she completes her time is done
not to take home

She scorns those smaller folk when tiresome, despite the cues:

Chase me,
tickle me,
look at me,
something,
anything.

Walks away
missed opportunity,
gold

Her faces are transparent to the smaller folk,
the smile for rent and not through love

Can we blame this woman?
It is clearly not for her, for Playwork is a craft

For the true player appreciates the magic around,
within and in between

The fire in our hearts will never go out, constant thoughts

Joy is not enough, playful woman.

Lily

After posting yesterday, I began to go over all the thoughts I’d been holding inside over the past few months. But where I’ve been distracted with finishing uni and exhibitions, oh and getting a brand spanking new job, I have ended up neglecting my writing. I have always believed this, and I know for fact that my like-minded players feel the same. There is a workforce of playworkers that the majority of whom all care about children and work hard at promoting play, and then there are the remaining who, on the surface are enthusiastic and responsible not letting the people in our care come to harm. But, beneath this exterior of fun-loving is someone trying to earn a few bob. Now we all need money and we all do what we can to work, and I’m not insulting anybody for being in a role that is convenient and, let’s admit it, an honour to be in. But I can’t help feel this day in, day out, that we are split through the field. Maybe its through lack of training, lack of enlightenment and experience. Through lack of valuable connections made with inspirational individuals, or just that its not in your heart.

I feel these differences when chatting to passionate people like fellow player Joel Seath and mutually feeling that there’s a difference to ‘feeling’ it (to the point where a tear comes to your eye and you feel full of this strange energy) and someone who is there in person doing a job that sees them through financially. I’m not doubting these people at all, I was once somebody who ‘loved working with children’ despite feeling so tired after working with them, ‘cared about them’ and was happy to do the energetic stuff like chasing them around and being a really playful person. Then as I grew spiritually and matured as a professional I felt very, very differently to this initial ‘summer job’.

Joel mentioned to me in a facebook chat that its a constant ‘appreciation’ of play and what you see in every moment ie on the Tube. You look at a child’s eyes and you just click in that moment and you manage to break a grin out of them. Most people would rather look down and carry on reading their paper. So what I’m trying to say, is that maybe and very possibly, playwork is not a job you can be immersed in straight away or good at as soon as you start but something you have to grow in to do the job ‘well’. I say well like that I suppose because of my previous post about not being the perfect playworker, but maybe if you have this feeling/connection with your little/large people then that’s close enough.

Lily

What we are taught in the Playwork Level 3 is one thing, remembering what you learn and putting it into action is another. You have to adapt the theory to the reality of the people you work with, the environment you are placed and the obstacles of situations you are faced with. You then have the exceptions to the rule, maybe a moment you think I’m not behaving like a Playworker this minute but rather a concerned parent/friend or your personal feelings might take over and after you regret it thinking you should’ve done it this way. One example may be I’m playing in the stream with a group of children aged 7 to 11 and some of them aren’t sure when I suggest we climb along a thick branch to get to the other side. Now, within 5 minutes I’m already breaking many Playwork theoretical rules like, not to encourage a child to do something when they seem unsure, like, telling them I think it would be better if they sat and shuffled despite them insisting they wanted to walk it because I know for a fact that they will slip and fall in the water and that particular child won’t like it, like, when one child questions me in regards to some Dark Play ‘Why can’t we stick a bug to our sticky bracelets?’ And I respond lightly with ‘because its mean, you may hurt them’…

I suppose we call this on the spot decision-making Dynamic Playwork, which is what you literally do ALL the time! We all are human, we all have different personal feelings and in class last year I would have been told not to let these personal feelings to get in the way of child-led, un-influenced play. I think that’s what we need to strive for, I don’t disagree with the principles and I don’t think people should just do as they please when in this honourable role as playworker/playful adult role.

We seem to be the in-between person of Adult and Child, or Authority and Child. I feel we are the advocate, the protector (to an extent ie risky play), the ‘play-thing’ and a tool at their disposal. We get mixed up in feelings of what the child/parent needs and what we should be doing.

Like in the above examples of today’s play frame in the stream using sticks and a team to participate in tasks, challenges, frolics of laughter and curiosity of objects I sometimes forget to look at, the moments when I doubt myself, I then realise that despite having moments of relapse of confusion (‘shall I keep quiet at this point’/’will I get told off by my boss if I allow this’/ ‘if the parents or another PW are looking worried then am I strange that my stomach is as smooth as the stream I have my wellies in up to the brim’)…I realise that the children are happy. So happy and relaxed. They are taking in the leafs, the sticks the exchanges of fantasy talk, whilst another Playworker looks on anxious, I carry this frame on until THEY decide its enough. Playwork is not perfect, there’s no perfect in anything, as you can’t measure play or happiness. As long as my ‘participation’ is welcomed, they are in control, they seem happy, submerged and intrigued, I think I’m doing my job.

Lily

Bath School of Art Degree Show – Fine Art

My Degree Show ran from the 7th of June until the 16th June. A great number of people came to the Private view and I had all my family and friends there, even someone from my Youth Club came with a parent to see my work! It was lovely speaking to people who had a lot of questions about my work and had many visitors intrigued by the bold statements that drew them into the finer details.

IMG_0600IMG_0594 IMG_0601Degree Show 2013IMG_0595 IMG_0607

Thanks to everybody who came throughout the show and supported me.

L x


Image

This swing, installed on campus at Bath School of Art was a piece that had hugely been inspired by other projects that had also involved swings being used as a tool for playful engagement, community play and social space intervention. The swing was put up during the cold winter months and wasn’t up for very long. Not a good result you think? Well no i wasn’t happy that it was taken down after a few days, but, by being taken down proved my issue with public space exactly.

Image

The¬†swing looked rather ethereal in the sunlight when these photos were taken. The harshness of the winter seems nonthreatening when i think of playing outside. The nostalgia many people hold about their chilly days out playing, really wishing your wellies wouldn’t leak and worrying about the state of your raw fingers and wondering if you’d still have them when you arrived home. Not worrying too long though, the play would continue as you embrace the differences in temperature and the crisp grass crunching beneath your boots.

The swing, such a classic object in childhood memories and when you see a playground you expect to see swings. But why have to go to a playground to use one? The campus needed an injection of playfulness. Maybe my swing didn’t achieve that – if there was children around, it may have been popular. But are people scared to try? Are they afraid it would break? Anyhow, it came down because it was ‘damaging the bark’. Pah. The tree would’ve survived, the tree may have appreciated some play rather than just be walked past everyday.

 Image

The red colour was influenced by The Red Swing Project, and i liked the thought of having one on campus after looking at Maayan Bar Yam’s work. Check him out. Red stands out obviously, but it reminds me of something bad, naughty, seductive. When i think of red alongside innocence it reminds me of the scene in Schindler’s List with the little Jewish girl wearing the red coat, walking far in the distance.

Image

The swing was about disruption of space that is usually used by adults, in standardized ways. The swing is a symbol of rebellion, innocence and an extension of play space beyond the ‘playground’. A child shouldn’t have play space thats designed in the interest of the adult, the adult’s fears and control needs to be left at the gate. And if it can be helped, have no gate at all, the more integrated space for all groups which is shared, the better. Fences are for adults.