Below is an email from Ian at Glamis, outlining some questions and concerns about the project. 

From: Glamis Adventure
Sent: 12 November 2008 15:53
To: Penny Wilson
Subject: Play q / rant from Ian

Hi Penny,

I welcome and support the Play Memories project.

It is a terrible inditment of society and the playwork profession that
the last place that we can imagine the Playwork Principles working is in

I agree that reclaiming the streets and other public areas to make
playable spaces is a far more valuable task for playwork than the
current focus on contained ghettos.  Ghettos where the needs of adults
especially employed playworkers will always prevail.

But whilst play memories can be a very powerful tool for promoting play
there are other reality’s:

*         memory is wonderfully subjective.  Ask about a play memory and
like a memory of school it’s the exciting, naughty rather than the dull
or conformist that we feel like promoting.  A lot of children were not
having such a good time, (what are they doing in the Osborn Street
window?).  A lot of children were excluded A lot of things are not
remembered or wont be told. Photos like memories are chosen.

I hope we don’t spend to much time revering a mythical arcadia.  Like
any missionaries the key is to insure that the message fits the local
reality. Tower Hamlets suffers from many things including misty eyed
missionaries and a view of the good-old-days. Check the jacket cover of
Family and Kinship in East London by Michael Young
and  Co. for a lovely image of play AND their latter book The “New East
End” for a blistering critic of the disruptive effect of interfering

*         There are still children who can’t play out. I like to think
of GAP being like a seed bank keeping an alternative alive in hostile
environment.  Yes I had a smile of recognition at the tribe of free
playing boys / tooled up rebel fighters roaming the estate on Bonfire
Night. But I also know that some of the reasons that this tiny minority
were out and other children were indoors are linked to fear of crime,
drugs and violence. These fears are legitimate.  And there was more
space, less cars and a more homogenous community. Childhood has as Sue
Parmer describes become a toxic mix of fear and consumerism.

*         What went wrong with the dream of the social engineers,
philanthropists, playworkers? (see “The New East End-“). Some of the
reasons for this lie in a miss understanding of the realities of power.
We are where we are architecturally and socially – there are very real
deep roots that effect the current state of play.  In our current
climate this means making subtle professional judgments. Playworkers
need to recognise where power lies it we are to affect change in a real
word owned, segregated and controlled by powerful interest groups.

*         For playworkers in our little ghettos papering over the chasms
in provision and trying to compensate for the sad lack of playable
spaces we can see our projects as oasis’s in a hostile environment so
children can experiment with things like digging holes, playing with
fire, having arguments and ‘just’ hanging out. This might sound easy but
this is not:

o        playworkers are badly paid, terribly managed and often totally
confused as to what thir role is as they attempt to deal with the
effects of a society that places so little value on children. Some
playworkers are faced with really aggressive behaviour  from children
and adults.

o        Who’s  needs? Real play opportunities for children need to be
bases on a thorough understanding of the Play Principles current
fixation with the new and innovative and following funding that is not
holistically play based has not helped). But we are were we are lets be
carful not to throw the baby out with the bath water –

Am I jaded or naive to worry about the play that would go on with the
fairy lights after Tinkerbelle has left?  No the Play Memories project
is managed by idealists with their feet on the ground and a real
understanding of the where we have come from, where we are now and where
we want to be.

Childhood memories can be an incredibly motivating force – I loved you
description of the eureka moment with the planning officer. I hope that
Play Memories stirs the imagination and pulls the heart and financial
strings of people in power so that playground eventually become

Lets make the future playful for the children of Sylhet farmers, labours
from Eastern Europe and cockneys.


Glamis Adventure Playground

And here is Penny’s response.  Feel free to contribute your own thoughts on this, and any questions you might have.  Like Obama, we will listen, especially when we disagree.

From: Penny Wilson

Sent: 12 November 2008 18:05
To: Penny Wilson
Subject: RE: Play q / rant from Ian

Ian. I agree with every word you say. These thoughts were an important
part of my thinking when the project was in its very long gestation

A playworker who I really value and respect made similar clear
criticisms of the project when I discussed it with her. She said that
play memories can be very ‘misty coloured’ and encourage ux to remember
not the way were actually were, but the sepia tinted version of a world
edited right through selective publication-the telling process.  I have
shared memories of play with folks from all over the world. Many times,
in each group, one becomes accutely aware that there are deep, hurting,
private memories which are not for publication. These unspoken thoughts
also feed the memory of the sentieny child. The thinking person, whole,
because of scale, is easier to treat as without emmotional
intelligence-as so often happens with childrenbwith disabilities. What I
never do is probe this moment. Not appropriate that. What I do do is
mention annecdotes about children working out their problems through
their play.. Using it as a self analytical tool, a way to understand the
harshness of their world/life experience. Play as a philosphical
language of childhood. If there were eureka moments before, they appear
again at this point.. Yes, playing does/did do that!
Add to this the traumatic interventions of war and architecture
splitting that cohesive community….