Sunday, 20 March 2016

Adventure Play in NYC

By Morgan

Have you heard that there’s a new adventure playground opening in the US - in fact, right in NYC?

We are so excited about this project, which is led by the group of extraordinarily dedicated individuals known as play:ground. They’ve been hosting pop-up adventure playgrounds for the past year and a half, raising momentum towards the launch of a more developed adventure playground site this summer.

The site they’ve chosen is Governor’s Island, which coincidentally we know very well! That was the site of our first pop-up adventure playground residency, back in 2011. It’s a gorgeous location, a summer oasis from urban living, reachable only by (a free) ferry.  It feels like NYC’s magical backyard!

Here's a photo from the multiple journeys Pop-Ups Zan made to get to Governors Island and back in the Summer of 2011.

We’ve been working with play:ground as they came together, talking over Skype and then drinks about play, playwork and building community.  Two of the team have been studying on our Playworker Development Course and we couldn't be prouder to be expanding upon that relationship this summer.

Their adventure playground model combines summer camp programming during the week with free open access every weekend. This will help them to do two things in the same year: offer children those rich and in-depth experiences, which you only get when returning to the same place day after day; and help as many children and families as possible learn firsthand how much fun adventurous play can be. Their events have been enormously successful so far, and you can see some pictures on their Flickr page.

We’ll be providing staff training in playwork practice, and to work alongside them throughout their summer programming. In fact, I’ll be there all summer long!

But our adoration isn’t enough.  They’re still fundraising, and need your help to make this dream a reality.  Take a look at their Kickstarter page, promote it on Facebook and help spread the word. Wherever you live, whatever your resources, you can help them reach their target - and the children who need this adventure playground the most.

To hear more from Pop-Up Zan, feel free to visit her personal blog. To read more from us, visit our facebook page or check out our website

Friday, 4 March 2016

National Playwork Conference 2016

By Zan

After reflecting for a couple of day, I am ready to tell you about my adventures at this year's National Playwork Conference. Hosted by Meynell Games Group, this is the biggest annual playwork focused conference in the UK. Every year, hundreds of playworkers journey to England's south coast to attend the conference at Eastbourne, a lovely little seaside town. Last year, we sent Andy to the conference as Morgan and I were in Australia. This year, I was able to represent Pop-Ups in Eastbourne, and was funded generously by Leeds Beckett University where I am doing my Playwork PhD.

Here is a photo of me playing on the beach at Eastbourne.

My journey down to the south lands started with Playworker Development Course tutor, David who became my travel buddy to the conference. It was a long but playful journey in a minibus filled with students, and when we finally reached the conference we were tired but excited. I haven't attended this conference since 2013, and with my work mostly outside the of the UK or online, it's not often that I see other playworkers, so I was a bit nervous. It wasn't long before Grant Lambie, (one of the US Tour 2014 special guests) tracked me down and thus began a 2 day long river of playwork conversation.

I wasn't able to attend everything: I don't think anyone can! But I tried my best to go to a variety of things which kept me engaged, but not enough to make my brain hurt too much. I wanted to keep it my head clear and receptive, and be responsive to other people and reflective about my own experience. I did manage to catch a session with Tony Delahoy about the Playwork Principles, a skype call with Chris Bateman on the Lineages of Play, I hung out with Grant a bit more as he encouraged others to create a tiny model version of an adventure playground before presenting about my PhD to a lovely crowd of 7 people at the end of the last day.

I'm really grateful that they came to my session: the last talk at the end of the first conference day isn't always a popular time, but all 7 of my folks stayed to the end of my presentation, were engaged and asked some meaningful questions. I was greatly encouraged by their thoughts and they were all so very complimentary about my work. Aww.

It is at Eastbourne every year when the Annual Playwork Awards also take place. It is an opportunity for folks in the playwork field to be recognised for their hard work, and though the prize is of no monetary value, it really does feel like you get a big pat on the back from the field to say "you're doing a great job, keep doing it!". We were nominated for 2 awards this year - "Playwork Trainer" and "Playwork In Other Contexts". We didn't come away with either of the awards (the who organisations who got it really truly deserved their win) but I feel like we at Pop-Up got a win by simply having our names promoted and out there. Being able to come across fellow Pop-Up supporters as I cruised around the conference really put a spring in my step. It was cool to see the name was getting out there and that we were known! When I was last at Eastbourne, nobody had a clue about Pop-Up Adventure Play. This time, it felt a little bit like being greeted at the conference with a hug.

The Playwork Awards took place at a venue at the end of the pier in this photo! Such a beautiful setting!

The second day started a little slower but with just as much passion as the first. I joined a session detailing the newly established Playwork Foundation (more on that another day) before preparing myself for my second presentation - "Popping Up in the Community". Eight people came to my session despite the sideways rain that appeared out of no where and I was able to tell folks about our work, how our Pop-Up Adventure Playground model was developed, and how they too can get involved. It was great to talk about Pop-Ups - the last time I talked about this was in Singapore on our World Tour, but I won't lie - I missed having Morgan next to me as I presented on our little organisation. I hope I represented us well!

On the way back up North, I said to David that this conference felt different to me compared to the last time I visited. I feel like I have more confidence in myself, more experience under my belt, and real stories of my own to tell. I feel a little different, I think. I am longer the new kid, trying to find my way into the play. It feels like this is a community that I am part of, that I am able to find support in, and hopefully be helping to build a landscape of play for children no matter where in the world we are.

If you want to hear more from Pop-Ups Zan, please read her personal blog. If you want to hear more from us, please visit