Monday, 30 May 2016

Campference 2017 - Eureka Villa Adventure Playground

By Zan

We have talked a lot about our focus for our Playwork Campference, about the focus on practice, and the emphasis on you. We haven't yet told you much about where we will be doing this, and the delightful hosts of our event. Ladies and gentlemen, Pop-Up Adventure Play would like to formally introduce the wonderful folks of Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play.

Jeremiah and Erica are the lovely people of SCV Adventure Play that we are working with to organise the first ever Playwork Campference. We met them in 2014 when we traveled across the USA in our little yellow car and they have been doing pop-up adventure playgrounds ever since. Not only are they offering their limited time and amazing design, they also provide us with untiring support and on-the-ground logistics wrangling. They are also proud owners of the site which we will be using for our camping and 'ferencing!

Play advocates, we will be visiting Eureka Villa, a fledgling adventure play space in Santa Clarita, California. It is a beautiful space, filled with trees, natural loose parts and the wonderful potential for play. This is a space that we absolutely adore and is being nurtured lovingly by two amazing people who genuinely care about play, and adventurously embrace the playfulness that is the foundation of adventure play.

We can tell you all day long about this amazing couple and their amazing space, but what could be better than seeing it for yourself? We would like to invite you to our Playwork Campference in February 2017 so that you can meet Erica and Jeremiah, and experience the space for yourself.

We look forward to welcoming you there.

To find out more about Santa Clarita Adventure Play, visit their facebook page. To hear the campference news first hand, register your interest here. To find out more about us, visit our Facebook page or check out our website

Monday, 23 May 2016

Campference 2017 - Theory into practice (and practice into theory!)

By Morgan

Years ago, I visited an adventure playground. It was a place that once was rich and thriving, but in recent years something had shifted. The children were bored, the site seniors were raising funds to have builders come in and create some new equipment… It had lost that tinkering, evolving quality. The children who attended no longer had permission to use hammers and ropes, to build fires, because the adults didn’t have the abilities or confidence to support them.

Playwork, wherever you do it, requires a diverse skill set. Quiet observation and monster roaring, communication and advocacy, climbing and running, fundraising and planning… there’s so much to do! Each day, we also need to reflect, talk, and prepare for tomorrow. This process helps us recognise the skills that we don’t have, whether they’re interpersonal or eminently practical.  Without this, our playwork abilities and these sites have a way of falling apart, or losing that quality that makes them unique.

This is why the upcoming Playwork Campference has a strong focus on practice, and is a fantastic opportunity to share those skills with one another. We know that there are things that you’re amazing at, whether that’s colour-coding spreadsheets or a wielding hammer like a pro. You could be skilled at knots or great at starting fires. We are all great at something. Similarly, every one has something that they’re curious about. You might want to learn more about cooking with children over an open fire, using ropes to create hammocks and rope swings, or ways to test the safety of children’s constructions. All of this is part of great playwork, and needs to be understood alongside the theory.

When you’re deciding whether to attend an event of any kind, you have hopes of what the experience will be like. When it comes to the Playwork Campference, here are mine:

I want to see someone use a hand tool for the first time, to do something that scares them a little bit and feel proud afterwards.  I want to see someone scrape their knee and laugh about it, to stir sparks up from the fire and not feel afraid.  I want people to leave with the feeling that I remember vaguely from summer camp, of "this is the place where I took risks and made friends, and I hope we all come again next year".

Is there something specific that you want to learn and practice? Let us know! We want to make sure that this gathering gives everyone the chance to make the connections they need, to experiment with ideas through their own skin and muscles.  I hope we will all be leaving afterwards with more friends, more confidence, and even more passionate curiosity than when we arrived.

Want to find out more about the Campference? Register your interest using our form here. To find out more about the folks we are working with at Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play, visit their site here. Want to find out more about Pop-Up Adventure Play, like us on Facebook or visit

Monday, 16 May 2016

Campference 2017 - Practical Playwork

By Morgan

So, Suzanna and I have been to about 3,412 conferences over the years, mostly on the subject of play. It's always good to meet with friends, and be introduced to new ideas and new advocates for children's freedom. Plus, there's usually pastries.

Most conferences follow a common pattern. There are rooms, kitted out with projectors faced by tables and chairs. Inside those rooms, groups sit for either 45 minutes or 1.5 hours to listen carefully to one or two people standing at the front and then put their hands up with questions at the end. At lunch, people take plates of food to tables where they introduce themselves to new people, or sit with their friends. Presenters discuss the importance of self-directed, open-ended experiences. They talk about the importance of being outside and free, reconnecting to a sense of wildness.

Given all of that, it's always surprised us that conferences on play are structured just like school, and hosted in shiny hotels.

So what's a campference?
The short answer is, something entirely different! Instead of classrooms and powerpoint, we'll be spending time living within a new adventure playground. Instead of looking at pictures of children enjoying hammocks and forts, we'll be building our skills of knot-tying and tool use. Instead of talking about play, we'll be actually playing - with ideas and information, mentors and colleagues, friends new and old. Instead of a hospitality suite, we'll have a bonfire where we'll stay up late telling one another stories of what we have seen, and what we can dream into being together.

Most importantly, it's all about playwork practice. We'll spend time together on an adventure playground, looking at what it means to be embedded in a community. We'll talk about the importance of building relationships with children that are based upon trust, respect and empathy. Playwork is different from all other approaches towards working with children, but participants will learn how to bring these skills into their homes, schools, hospitals, parks, children’s museums... Together, we'll be looking both at the elements of playwork that have been there from the beginning, and figuring out what children need here, today.

Does this sound like something you want to be a part of? We're still developing the details, so let us know what you need. Fill in our expression of interest form to get all the new campference information first, and then send us any thoughts, questions or concerns you might have so we can address them.

This is the first of a series of blogposts in the run up to Campference registration. To find out more about what we do, check out our facebook page and our website. To find out more about our co-hosting campference friends at Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play, check out their website here.