The Playwork Foundation was launched as a membership organisation at a special event in London last week.
The Playwork Foundation finally opened for business last week at a special launch event in London.
Board members Ali Wood and Karen Benjamin, experienced playwork trainers, writers and consultants, introduced the event with a review of the foundation’s development, which began at a meeting called by Bob Hughes and the late Professor Perry Else at the University of Sheffield Hallam, in 2013.
Wood and Benjamin said that an extensive consultation with the field had found overwhelming support for a new vehicle for playwork and had established some clear aims and principles.
They said that, although slow because of the lack of resources, the development work had been proceeding steadily to this point. The new body has a charitable constitution, adopted by a board of trustees, and is awaiting registration. It has a website, a list of potential members and has developed a dialogue with national bodies in each of the four UK nations. The time was ripe, they said, to launch a membership scheme as the next significant milestone.
Among the guest speakers at the launch event, held at Goldsmiths University of London, was Professor Fraser Brown of Leeds Becket University, who welcomed the launch and spoke about what makes playwork unique, illustrating each quality with a story in his inimitable style. Professor Brown said the playwork approach ‘actively resists dominant and subordinating narratives and practices’. Playworkers, he said, practice non-judgmental acceptance of children, holding them in ‘unconditional positive regard’, akin to the approach of person-centred counselling as developed by Carl Rogers. He said playwork offers children flexible environments, in which to afford them opportunities for the fullest possible range of play types.
Penny Wilson, the London-based playworker and author of The Playwork Primer greeted the launch of the new body with a lyrical and impassioned entreaty from the field, reflecting the discourse at the recent adventure playground conference in Bristol. Wilson said the field wants ‘an organisation that is tailor made – like playwork is – a bespoke design with enough strength in its warp and weft to be responsive and resilient, to be able to meet and greet the unpredicted; an organisation that is play literate and promotes play literacy’.
Adrian Voce, author of Policy for Play, and a member of the foundation’s board, spoke about the need for the playwork field to create its own vehicle, after previously seeing its support structures hosted or controlled by organisations with wider remits – and for whom play would only ever be a priority when it was in favour with government or brought in extra funding.
Quoting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Voce said it was a mistake to believe that the decline in playwork opportunities was long-term. He said the period of austerity should be seen as an opportunity to re-group, stronger and wiser than before, ready to take the case for play and playwork into the next election campaign. He suggested that we need to now move quickly given the volatility of the political situation.
Meynell spoke about the longer-term history of playwork development, and previous incarnations of the national movement. He hoped the new organisation would help to revive the field after the decline of the austerity years.
Although modest in scale, many of those attending said the event – and the new body – felt like something they could identify with and belong to. Others said it was a significant moment in playwork’s history.
Time will tell.
More details of the different presentations, including a full transcript of Penny Wilson’s speech, will be made available soon.
WITH THANKS TO GOLDSMITHS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON, WHO HOSTED THE EVENT FREE OF CHARGE
JOIN THE PLAYWORK FOUNDATION HERE
The Playwork Foundation Board is
Simon Bazley (pictured, top)
Karen Benjamin (inset, right)
Ali Wood (pictured, top and inset left)