The National Playwork Conference on 4-5 March could be a pivotal moment for the field.
A rolling discussion, initiated by Professor Perry Else of Sheffield Hallam University and Bob Hughes of Play Education last summer, about how the playwork field can remake the case for staffed play provision in the face of mounting cuts and a hugely unsympathetic policy landscape, moves to Eastbourne next week.
Since that Argument for Playwork gathering in July, subsequent meetings in Gloucester and Birmingham have developed the beginnings of a consensus within the field, that the time is right to create and establish our own vehicle: an independent playwork practitioner body, owned by and accountable to its members.
Nobody is underestimating the scale of such a task, but one major hurdle – finding a broad initial agreement within the sector about what kind of body we want – may be in reach. The National Playwork Conference, held in Eastbourne on 4th and 5th March will either confirm or confound that hope.
The group driving this process has produced a short statement setting out the proposed direction of travel and some broad principles for a potential new body. It is asking the playwork community to endorse it by expressing an interest in possibly joining such an organisation when and if the project achieves its aim.
This invitation makes Eastbourne a pivotal moment. Without a strong mandate from the field, it will be difficult to sustain any credible momentum for such an ambitious project. If, on the other hand, the playwork community decides to organise itself; work together; adopt some structures and processes, reconciling our differences to the purpose of re-establishing our common ground and amplifying our collective voice and influence, there’s absolutely nothing to stop us. Like the Spirt of Adventure Play conference in Cardiff, every year Eastbourne demonstrates that there is far more uniting UK playwork than there is dividing it.
Perhaps this year we can harness that spirit to take playwork to the next level.
If you are part of the UK playwork community and want to endorse this process but are not attending Eastbourne, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and she will happily add you to the list. Thanks.
The statement can be read here.