1st June ‘10
Today was a rainy day and the session was quiet, with about 8 children. 2 new boys came along who got really over-excited to discover the materials the playworkers had brought, they wanted to use the paint, fabric, glue, bracelet kits, etc straight away and all at once!

Some older boys got involved in a water fight, playfully aiming for the playworkers and were happy when Habiba’s umbrella broke and she had no protection from them!

The session ended when the rain got heavy and all the children headed home.

3rd June ‘10
Today was hot and fairly busy. The session began with 2 boys and ‘Bee’- the girl who is always there first! She seized Rainer as usual and made him into a superstar- Michael Jackson! With tape, she made an ‘M’ on his back and became his stylist, hairdresser, photographer, manager… She began some more serious, darker, dramatic play by acting out Michael Jackson’s death, getting Habiba, Inga and the other children around to discover the body and pretend to cry. She covered the dead body (Rainer!) in fabric and pretended to take photos to sell to the press for lots of money. It was good to see her include other children in her play.

The session ended with race games, the kids paired up and taped themselves together around their torsos and upper legs so they could only run making little footsteps, then playfully pushing each other onto the grass.

4th June ‘10
Today was the launch of the new playground, it went well. As well as playworkers, there were other adults, including youth workers, there doing organised games and circus skills with the kids. PATH playworkers did lots of arts and crafts. As a promotion, we brought cotton bags for children to decorate themselves and then we put leaflets and badges in them for them to take home. One girl created a fantastic story for the drawing she did on her bag. She drew a mushroom with white spots and pinned a ‘PLAY’ badge on it too. She told that the mushroom was an injured army soldier who had lost his memories of play and that the badge was there to replace these memories.

5th June ‘10
We did our first play session on a new area of the estate today- it was excellent, the kids were so happy to be able to come out and play and one said it was the best day of his life! 12 kids came to play out, it was a mixed age range from a 1 year old with his mum to some 14 year olds, the majority were aged between 7-9.

We did chalking on the floor in bright colours, the kids made a game of chalking around each other’s bodies lying on the floor. We also made tissue paper flowers and did some dressing up which turned into just wrapping each other up in fabric and masking tape. The kids made a list of things they would like for their square, including a sandpit, swings, a hammock, a see-saw, planting boxes and 2 dens- 1 for girls and 1 for boys! 2 of the children from this square followed us onto the next, 2 boys stayed with us the whole day round all the areas of the estate and were so proud of themselves at the end of the day!

At our regular square we had lots of swing games. The children created a language for the movements where the swing jolts roughly at the top before swinging back down- “bam bam” and when it gets shaken from side to side- “brang brang”. The kids requested how they wanted the swing to be moved by each other with these words- “I want bam bam”! When we moved onto play in the next area, this continued on the next set of swings.

We also played today at the newly opened play area created by the side of the community hall on the estate. This area felt quite self-sufficient today- groups of children were already there, some with parents. They played football, games on the swings and had a water fight too.

10th June ’10
Today’s session was made up mostly of running games, Inga played ‘It’ with 1 girl for the entire session! We brought along a plastic sheet which was used to make a tent. Some boys had a play fight. One of them had dressed up as a woman for the fight- it was the freest we have ever seen him behave in front of his older brother who’s presence often seemed to restrict his play.

12th June ‘10
In addition to playing in the usual squares on the estate, we had our 2nd play session in the courtyard of an enclosed housing area today. It was busy- the same kids from last week came back and brought new kids along too to play skipping games and draw with the chalk. Inga began some origami with a boy who wanted to make a boat. A dad came over to show us how to make origami football t-shirts too, then the children decorated them as England flags for the football- the estate was plastered in England flags today with world cup fever taking hold!

In another square we built a shelter over the climbing frame for the kids to chat in. One of our regular boys, aged 4, brought a bag of books out with him to ask the playworkers to read with him. Another boy made himself a cape from the fabric and followed us to the next square to play too because he wanted to keep it for as long as possible!

15th June ‘10
We ran a busy session with about 50 kids coming to play out. The wind created a wild atmosphere, the kids ran with a large plastic sheet (4x4m), chasing each other with it and watching it fly behind them. 1 boy with special needs who comes to these sessions was fascinated by the sheet and got immersed in playing with it for a long time where normally he flits quickly between activities.

The chalks were popular again today- children, older teenagers and parents used them together. 1 girl sat learning to knit with Inga for a long time and picked it up quickly.

There was some difficulty again this week with a boy of 9 who often winds up getting violent in his play, he hit Habiba hard in the face. He has done this other weeks too, he seems to have anger issues and not know when to stop. However, he gets upset when other children he has provoked retaliate. When we try to talk to him about his behaviour he puts his chin down and won’t communicate, nor apologise when asked. We’ve decided to try to talk to him as soon as he arrives in next week’s session and let him know it isn’t on before it happens, and to set up a game where he has a non-human target to aim his aggression towards!

17th June ‘10
Today’s session began well, the plastic sheet was used again- 1 boy used it to make a home for a cricket by placing mud and grass on it. Later, some kids played in the wind with the plastic sheet in a similar way the children from the other estate had done on Tuesday- running and chasing each other. However, the feeling of the play changed when a Bengali boy, with whom a group of white children playing with the sheet have an on-going rivalry (which appears racially motivated), joined in the game. 1 of the white girls accused the Bengali boy of trying to suffocate her friend with the sheet. The playworkers on the session did not see this happen, if it did, but the situation escalated into a big verbal argument. The white children left and then returned with their angry grandmother who shouted at the playworkers for 10 minutes, mainly expressing that the plastic sheet wasn’t appropriate for play. She made xenophobic comments to Rainer and Inga (from Germany and Poland)- “Maybe in your country you play with plastic, in England we have toys”! She asked about the playworkers’ CRB checks and threatened to call the police but backed down when they said it was fine for her to call them. The children stayed through this scene and supported the playworkers, 1 boy gestured crazy signs about the lady. The session continued after she left, for a while with a poisoned atmosphere and without the plastic sheet but by the end the session the atmosphere felt lighter and the kids initiated playing with the sheet again.

19th June ‘10
The first square we played at today was especially lively with 3 boys of about 6 wanting to play a dramatic chase game, kids versus playworkers aka humans versus aliens. We chased them to wrap them in fabric, the slide became our spaceship, the bench their base. We were captured and eaten and head-butted into the jail they created for us. As they left, we heard them excitedly tell their mother “we played with adults today”! Meanwhile some quiet games continued round the edges with girls drawing chalk flowers and grinning over at us as the small boys commanded us about.

The enclosed square was also full of chaos with chasing games, children and playworkers dressed up in fabric saris ran across the space. We also made hammocks and taped each other up with coloured duck tape. We covered one end of the area in the tape, trailing it from fences to drainpipes, and hanging tissue paper shapes from it. Eventually the tape was run through and got trampled into messy balls to throw at each other, ‘the naughty tape’. I had a long game of football with a shy 5 year old boy, we didn’t have a ball so we kicked a cardboard tub to each other until we lost in on a roof. One girl told Inga she was so glad we came now as she never went out except to go to school because “there are lots of people out there who want to kill Muslims”. She said they had to keep the square tidy, pointing at the cameras and saying “we’re being watched”. We tidied the tape from the square into a plastic bag which was used for another long game of football at the next square. The rain came down heavily at the end of the session and some boys used our fabric to cover a picnic bench to shelter under for the final half hour.

22nd June ‘10
This session was busy yet somehow quiet, there seemed to be a strange atmosphere with hot, airless weather. Some girls made hats and dresses from the fabric. There was a minor incident- a group of children were on the roundabout- a 6 year old boy, his older brother and some others. They were calling to be pushed faster by the playworkers but as this happened the younger boy slipped off and bit on his lip which started bleeding. His mum was there and the playworkers gave her some sterilised water and an anti-bacterial wipe from the 1st Aid kit and it wasn’t too serious but the mother was upset and left with her children.

24th June ‘10
Today was great with lots of creative games. One boy used the red coloured tape to decorate Rainer with many red crosses, inspired by the England flag, calling it his ‘design’. There was a jumping off the swing game with kids doing this solo or in pairs. It became a competition among the boys to see who could jump off furthest and they got very excited celebrating their victories like sports stars, running round cheering and blowing kisses to an imaginary crowd! The 3 brothers who regularly come were climbing the trees. The older boys could do it very safely but then the younger ones wanted to join in and asked the playworkers for helping getting up but we were unsure if to do this incase they got hurt after we had got them there. Habiba had a black eye today having slipped and fallen against some railings a couple of days ago. Hearing this story made the day of 2 boys who spent the rest of the session re-enacting her fall and laughing their heads off. The same boys later disappeared ‘for a fight’ but we think it was playful as they came back round the corner afterwards grinning.

26th June ‘10
When we arrived at the 1st square, just 1 boy was playing out on his bike, waiting for us. Due to difficulties getting our play materials from their storage today, we just had a box of 20 latex gloves and 3 rolls of coloured tape with us. The boy joined us to blow up the gloves, we drew faces on them making them into monsters. A group of 4 girls joined in and used the tape to mark faces on the gloves, which turned into our putting tape on our own faces like Native-American style war paint. Gradually more kids crept over till we had the most children playing out at this square I’ve seen yet- nearing 20. One girl disappeared to fill her glove with water making a water balloon she aimed successfully at me and suddenly everyone wanted to untie the gloves that were faces and turn them into water balloons. Some boys remembered they had water balloons at home too and suddenly all the kids had them to chuck at us, filling them at a handy outside tap just off from the square.

Having been unarmed for the last water fight, we decided to turn up at the next square with our own water balloons purchased from the local shop! We shared them out with the kids there and this session turned into one massive water fight. The water balloons didn’t last too long and we were only wet in patches until a group of about 8 boys from 9- 13ish came out their houses with big bottles! They filled these at an outside tap, we managed to get some bottles too and everyone ended up totally drenched to the skin. It was great that the water fight brought out more of the older boys who hadn’t joined our sessions yet. Younger children came to watch, hovering at the edges a bit intimidated by the roughness of the play yet mesmerised by it, along with those trying not to get wet. The square was also the busiest it’s been yet with about 30 children coming out.

The final squares were quieter with just a few of our regular kids. Passing through the square at points was a water fight between 2 gangs. This felt uncomfortable- a gang of white kids versus a group of Asian lads. One girl threw water bombs at 2 play workers, trying to provoke an angry reaction which she didn’t get and some younger girls whispered to me she bullies them on the swing if they’re on it when she comes by.

During today’s session, an upset, elderly resident of the estate came to complain about chalk graffiti on the walls. He believed we were responsible for having inspired it by giving the kids coloured chalks to draw on the ground with and angrily demanded who we thought would clean it up. (The graffiti was football related- ‘Portugal Rules’!) Whilst he left saying he knew he had done worse as a kid himself the situation didn’t feel resolved and it was difficult for us to find the balance between trying to get him onside and yet not accept we were responsible to scrub the walls.