by Simon Bazley
The All Wales Playworkers Forum has been running since 2007. Orginally established by Play Wales to provide a forum for those working in adventure playgrounds it has evolved to meet the needs of the sector. The Playworkers Forum is run by a dedicated steering group of playworkers, for playworkers. In the past a number of regional play associations took it in turns to administer the event with our collective aim being to keep the costs as low as possible, whilst bringing as many playworkers as possible together to share information, network and recharge our batteries. More recently, with the sad closure of the vast majority of the regional associations, Play Wales have taken over administration of the event on behalf of the sector, with the steering group working hard to keep things fresh and exciting for all participants from year to year.
Over the years we have toured around Wales, from as far south as the Gower Peninsula to as far north as Hawarden. We’ve made temporary homes in orchards, willow globes and big tops and generally we have almost always had the weather on our side. Anyone who’s ever attended will be fully aware of how much of a special event it has become in the playwork calendar. As our infrastructure has changed here in Wales, the forum has also been opened up to anyone from across the UK and it has brought playworkers together to share their unique experiences and support each other. The event has always been an overnighter, with participants camping out under the stars and often sat up into the small hours gazing at the glowing embers of our fire and putting the world to rights.
Over the years we’ve been lucky to attract some of the best playwork trainers, speakers and academics and they have all really helped to make the event what it is. We tend to have a blend of theoretical and practical sessions, normally focussed around an emerging or current hot topic. One of the annual highlights is without a doubt the ‘Annual Playwork Games’ hosted by Martin King-Sheard. Two teams of goblins and elves compete in a head to head to find out who will be crowned champions for the year ahead.
This years event was somewhat different from previous years, due to the lockdowns that sadly made meeting in person impossible. Instead, to ensure that we maintained continuity we all came together on 24th June 2020 for an online book club that was organised and facilitated by Play Wales. It was so much of a success that they are now continuing these for free as a monthly professional development opportunity for play and playwork professionals in Wales. Each month they select a freely available online paper, article or other publication relating to play and playwork for you to read and then you can join an hour’s discussion and reflection on the content. All Book Club meetings are held on the Zoom online meeting platform. More information is available here.
In the first book club, participants discussed the Play Wales guidance paper ‘dynamic risk management of common but potentially hazardous play behaviours’. This paper was written by Mike Barclay, Dave Bullough and Simon Bazley. The paper is available for free download here.
The event was facilitated by Martin King-Sheard and Marianne Mannello from Play Wales, who also ran a ‘Q and A’ session with one of the papers authors, Simon Bazley. The successful event was then followed by an online version of the playworker games where contestants competed to find out who would be crowned champions for 2020. It was a close call with competitors racing around their houses to undertake a series of challenges and games. In the end the mighty elves came through victorious once again, just beating the goblins in the last game.
Anyone interested in attending future events should keep an eye out on the Play Wales website as we hope to be back to meeting in person once again in 2021 if local and national restrictions allow.