Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Playwork Campference 2019: Reflective Letter from our Previous Keynote Speaker


Dear Campference 2019 attendees,

Why do we attend conferences?

To paraphrase the 20th Century poet, T.S. Eliot: ‘information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom’. In other words, it is possible to have lots of information in your memory about a particular subject, but if you don’t know what it means then it’s worthless; and if you don’t know what to do with that information and knowledge then it’s largely useless. One of the great things about most playwork conferences is that they have the potential to provide all those things - information, knowledge and wisdom. There will be presentations offering hard facts about the world of playwork; and workshops run by experienced practitioners who can share their knowledge. To make the best use of the wisdom on offer we need to develop the art of judging the difference between those who offer wisdom and those who offer nonsense dressed up in the ‘emperor’s new clothes’.

Of course, the other great thing we get from playwork conferences is the opportunity to network, to make new friends, to meet like-minded people, to debate with those holding different views. In 2017 I attended the first Campference, where all those things were possible, and much more besides. It was organised by the Pop-Up Adventure Play people, and it involved not only the usual conference fare, but also the opportunity to camp out with the other Playworkers (and in some cases their children) at the Eureka Villa Adventure Playground in Val Verde, near Los Angeles. That must have seemed like a good idea when the organisers thought of it – after all, who wouldn’t want to camp out in sunny California? Unfortunately, on the second day, the heavens opened and we had a month’s rainfall in one day. The site was awash, but the playwork spirit came to the fore, and in the end, it felt as though the event had actually been enhanced by the incredible weather.

However, the thing that particularly struck me about the Campference was the thirst for knowledge of the attendees. People came from all over America, and in some cases far beyond. I met playwork people from Japan, Australia, Kenya, and Guatemala. They came with enthusiasm and positivity, and above all an intense desire to learn more about playwork. At the end of one of the evening sessions, I was one of the Panelists who were given the task of summing up the playwork approach in a few words. I think the questioner probably expected me to fall back on my usual ‘fun, freedom and flexibility’, but I had just been talking about the therapeutic aspects of playwork, and so I said “unconditional positive regard”.

Fraser on stage with Erin, Luke and Michele, the panelists at Campference 2017.

In this response, I was drawing on the work of the humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers and the play therapist, Virginia Axline. Humanistic theory would see the playwork environment as characterised by respect, understanding and openness on the part of the playworker – an environment where the child is free to express their feelings completely. In such an environment the role of the playworker is that of a selfless helper, whose task is to satisfy the child’s fundamental need to play, while at the same time developing warm human relationships. All this may eventually enable the child to come closer to self-actualisation than might otherwise be possible. ‘Unconditional positive regard’ is the term that applies to the fundamental attitude of the playworker towards the children. The playworker who adopts that approach deeply values the humanity of the children with whom they work, and most importantly, cannot be deflected from that attitude by any particular child behaviours. The attitude is constantly reconfirmed by the playworker’s “acceptance of and enduring warmth towards the children” (Mearns and Thorne,  1988, p.59 – slightly paraphrased).

I hope this year’s Campference lives up to expectations, and that all those attending maintain ‘acceptance of and enduring warmth towards each other’ – in the spirit of playwork.

Prof. Fraser Brown
Leeds Beckett University
January 2019


Monday, 7 January 2019

Playwork Campference 2019: Introducing Jill Wood

By Zan

In preparation for the first Playwork Campference in 2017, we interviewed US-based playworker and Director of Adventure Play at The Parish School, Jill Wood who we had invited to the event as a special guest. She was such a hit at the Campference that Morgan and I felt strongly that she should play a much bigger part in the next event. One year later, Jill, Morgan and I had a Skype meeting that ended with happy and warm hearts: not only would Jill be one of our keynotes, but we would be taking the Campference to her in Texas. Here's a short interview with Jill as we prepare for the Playwork Campference 2019.

Pop-Up Adventure Play: What were your favorite moments of last Campference?
Jill Wood: I met person after person who was creative, open-minded, generous and highly motivated to improve the quality of children’s lives. Reimagining things requires community and support. It requires shared experiences and resources, stories of success, and honest conversation about challenges.

I went home to Texas smelling of campfire, soggy from the rains, and reinvigorated to keep our Houston playground as adventurous as possible.

PUAP: How do you feel about Campference coming to yours?
JW: I am ridiculously excited! It is such an honor to have play people from all over the world gathering on our playground. I would be nervous, except that I know the children have created something beautiful in AP. It’s a space that deserves be shared and will make a great place to conference.

PUAP: What are your hopes for Campference 2019?
JW: A few years back the kids on our playground started digging a huge hole they called ‘the Mine.’ They would dig until they found a chunk of clay, put it on a window screen, spray it with a hose until it was palm-sized, then run around with fists held tight around it. One kid told another, ‘you throw it against the wall and if it sticks, it gives you super speed.’ I heard another say it gives you multiple lives, so when you get shot you can jump back up again. Someone else said it makes your brain icky to zombies.

I hope people leave with immortality, lightning speed, and brains that taste like poop to zombies. I also hope they leave knowing there are 80 other people around the world who believe childhood is precious, will fight to protect it and would be happy to Skype for a reflective pep-talk!

Registration for Campference will close on 15th January 2019 but there is still time to sneak you in! Check out the information here and get in touch today if you want to come! Follow our Facebook and Twitter for more! 

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Hello 2019

By Zan

The coming year promises to be filled with adventure.

Right off the bat, we are excited to be just over a month away from the second ever Playwork Campference, a gathering of over 70 play advocates from 6 different countries in one of our favourite adventure playgrounds: Adventure Play at The Parish School. Morgan and I will get to hang out in person for the first time since October 2017, and will also be popping in to the TASP/IPA conference in Virginia in March.

I'm have been invited back to Asia too! I'll be doing some training with the folks of Playright - Hong Kong's Play Association, and will be traveling on to Malaysia to hang out with Queenie Tan and her team. I can't quite believe that I will be going back to a world where everyone looks like me - I feel both privileged and alarmed, but as long as I prioritise the needs of the child at all times, I know that I can overcome my own adult fears.

In between these trips, I also hope to continue developing Just Play MCR - play opportunities in my own community. It was a spectacular 2018, so I hope to fit in more pop-ups in 2019 and gather playful folk from all over Manchester in the name of play.

These are the physical adventures Morgan and I will go on - there might be a few more (and we are always open to more) but so far this is what we have in the books.

Adventure is certainly in the mind for us too as Morgan and I battle to finish our PhDs. It seems like just yesterday that I agreed to dedicate 6 years of my life to a specific area in play and then promised to write about it, but 6 years later, I have still not finished and have had to put it on pause twice. Hopefully this is the year that I will be done, I will be able to celebrate with Morgan as we put this writing monster to bed.

Having typed all of these plans out, I am excited about the next 12 months. It's going to be a lot of hard work - especially the PhD - but I know that it'll be worth it in the end. Much like trying to put outdoor gear on a toddler before going outside - there will be tears, tantrums, lots of random excuses and procrastination, and probably even a rogue dragon invasion, but once it's done and we start playing, it will feel amazing.

Hello 2019 - we look forward to meeting you head on.

More from us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. See you there!

Thursday, 27 December 2018

End of Year Reflections: 2018

By Morgan

As I write this, it’s the little gap of time between Christmas and New Year, when the world seems cold and quiet. My notes say to talk about how Suzanna and I spent this year apart - no tours, no shared events, but instead focusing on home and local work. Then I looked at the notes of where we’ve both been, and remembered that our version of “quiet” is still pretty darn busy! 

Suzanna went to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore to do some training, and to Portugal to do her first ever solo keynote in the beautiful town of Cascais. I stayed more local (relatively) by visiting the Heritage Museum (MA), The Yard and Brooklyn Wild (both in NY), Sunflower Creative Arts (Florida), and popping by the Prioritizing Play Conference held by our good friends KOOP in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. We’ve also brought 26 students onto our flagship Playworker Development Course, and continue providing an online opportunity for folks working in recess or after school programs, called Playful Schools Online.  Not least, we’ve started working with individuals in a new way, through online coaching for play advocates and project leaders. 

Clementi Park Pop-Up Adventure Playground with Chapter Zero Singapore

All this leads neatly into our Biggest Thing Right Now, which is the second ever Playwork Campference! Will you be there?

It’s been two years since the first Campference, and people keep telling us what it’s meant to them - how important and rare it felt to spend whole days with others who are passionate about play. Those of us who share this particular playwork perspective have a way of both needing and finding one another. That’s because (as proud as we are of our online courses) this is an approach that you need to learn in person, through practice and reflection, which is to say through community. We couldn’t be prouder to be helping this phenomenal movement grow. Every registration matters, every donation to our financial aid program and Playworker Traveling Fund helps us to enrich and diversify attendance. If you can make it, we’d love to see you. If you can’t, please consider supporting on the ground work around the world.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned local projects. It’s been a funny little irony for us, spending so much of the past decade helping people far away do work in their own neighborhoods. Suzanna has been doing far more, which you can read about here, but I had a little attempt as well. In these stories, we accidentally show two paths that we’ve seen again and again for folks who reach out to us. Some will host dozens of pop-up adventure playgrounds, connecting with local businesses and building community. Others will host one, and suddenly realize (or remember!) how much work is involved. I’ve followed both of those paths at different times, but I guess I just wanted to give a little shout out to any readers who may be concerned that hosting a pop-up is an enormous amount of work, that they don’t have time to dedicate to it, that the timing isn’t quite right.

If that’s you, here’s my advice. You might be right. And it doesn’t matter at all.

If you want to host your first pop-up, keep it small. That helps it to feel possible, sustainable, so you can keep going. But if you decide that you just can’t right now, that you don’t have the resources or volunteers you need, that’s okay too. Sometimes, some years, we need to put our focus elsewhere.  Maybe it’s time to see where you can fill your own cup first, and create more opportunities for play in your own life. That’s okay. Forgive yourself, and start by supporting play in the most 'local' way of all. 

That, and stay in touch, because one thing we’ve seen is that when people prioritize play - in their own lives, their families or their communities - it has a way of growing. Winter is a good time of year to remember that, because while it seems like the world is quietly asleep things remain busy underground, working magic in the darkness. It’ll happen in its own time, and when it does you’ll be ready. 

If you want to read more from Pop-Ups Morgan, you can find her on her personal blog here. More from us and what we get up to day to day, you can check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Monday, 24 December 2018

Popping Up in the Community - Part 6 - Celebrating 2018

By Zan

It has been an amazing year for me at Pop-Up Adventure Play. Not only have I managed to travel to two new countries with this little charity, but I have also started embedding play into my own community. I've been in the field for over 10 years now but have never had the opportunity to work on my own doorstep, but thanks to the Co-op Local Community Fund, I had a little bit of cash, a network of people, and a desire to make a difference in my neighbourhood.

The year has flown by, and I have an overwhelming feeling of being happy-tired when I think back. It's been busy but a good busy and I am so very proud to be telling you about the following numbers:

We hosted 19 pop-up adventure playgrounds... 4 different locations...
....where over 466 children between the ages of 0-16...
....were brought to play by 374+ adults.

We did this using £2,554.30 from the Co-op Local Community Fund...
...which was supplemented by £800 from Friday Food Nights at Radcliffe Market Hall and £100 from Prestwich Arts Festival...
...and further amplified by £558.86 of donations from wonderful play supporters in the local area from a variety of fundraising opportunities.

This means we were able to raise a total of £4063.16 in 2018.

This couldn't have been possible without an amazing network of people whom I will now attempt to list and thank personally. Brace yourselves for a lot of gratefulness. I have to thank thank you to....

Financial Support:
~ Co-op Local Community Fund - for giving us our start
~ Friday Food Nights at Radcliffe Market Hall, specifically Jodie - for having faith in the longevity of the project
~ Prestwich Arts Festival, specifically Jane - for reaching out and expanding our local reach
~ Folks of the local community - for your generosity

~ David - for being my rock, steady and calm at all times
~ Charlotte - for speaking up at the right time, and being there just when we needed
~ Andy - for taking the time to drive over the Pennines
~ Fiona - for helping when emotions spilled over
~ Mildred - for believing in the power of the box
~ Avanah - for being our first young volunteer
~ Faye - for rocking up and then just rolling with it
~ Dad - for being there every time I wondered if everything was going to fall apart
~ Pat - for saying yes and being there even though things were mad

~ Heaton Park Methodist Church - for believing in me and being the first location to host (read more about this location here and here)
~ Radcliffe Market Hall - for ongoing support and patience with our mess (read about it here)
~ Phoenix Center - for enjoying the madness, twice (read about it here)
~ St Mary's Park - for opening up your space to us for the first ever outdoor pop-up

Other Donations:
~ Live Electrical Radcliffe (encouragement, little boxes, tape and a million white stickers)
~ Think Design (business support, a big roll of brown paper and boxes)
~ Think Flooring and Carpets (cardboard tubes and carpet samples)
~ Radcliffe Flooring (carpet samples, cardboard tubes and vinyl samples)
~ Warent Feingold (business support, encouragement, accounts and boxes)
~ Self Storage Ian (loose parts and stuff for fundraising events)
~ Stanmore Insurance (insurance, ball pool balls and boxes)
~ Matt (moving house boxes)
~ Emma (box factory boxes)
~ Lindsay (boxes and an amazing pop-up sign)
~ Lynne (boxes and packing materials)
~ Pres (boxes and baskets)
~ Jade (boxes)
~ Rebecca (loose parts, packing materials and boxes)
~ Home Bird Crafts (raffle prize and giant box)
~ Adele (raffle prizes and boxes)
~ Lee and Dave (stuff for fundraising events)
~ Fiona and family (Judy the Trolley and stuff for fundraising events)

This isn't the whole list. I know it's not. Because there have been some secret donations, some passing conversations, some folks who have been supporting us without me even realising. To everyone who secretly left a roll of stickers on my table, or argued my case for a pop-up in a location, or invited a connection to come over and say hello, or shared my event in good faith, or fed me when I was too busy to feed myself.... thank you. You folks are wonderful, you genuinely are. Thank you so much for everything you have done to make this year go smoothly. All these playful events, all this talk of play, all the boxes and the play opportunities and the random fundraising, it is for you. Thank you in believing in the cause, and thank you for being part of it. Let's do it all again in 2019.

Pop-Ups Zan has been running Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds in the Manchester community and is super excited to be doing it as Just Play MCR by Pop-Up Adventure Play - a brand new FB page that will host the events. Go check it out and join the community of Manchester's play advocates!