Interest grows in a new vehicle for playwork

25 Mar
Following a successful stint at the Playwork Conference in Eastbourne earlier this month, the momentum towards establishing a new playwork body continues to grow.

Around 150 people have now broadly agreed on the purpose and nature of the kind of vehicle that the field wants to create.  A new playwork body could, for example:

  • Represent playworkers UK-wide, giving them a collective voice.
  • Be a focus for good practice: supporting research and other areas that develop playwork.
  • Promote playwork nationally and support local campaigns.
  • Lobby for policy change to create a legal and regulatory framework conducive to playwork services.
  • Provide support and benefits for playworkers, such as networking, information, skills sharing, events and resources.
  • Be outward looking, building links with other professions and sectors.

The discussions have also led to a broad consensus on what kind of vehicle the playwork community needs, with some general principles giving us a clear direction of travel: –

  1. Based on a cohesive narrative of playwork
    A new vehicle should be founded on clear and up-to-date knowledge, skills and understandings of playwork.
  2. Principled
    It should develop its aims and activities in a way that is fully consistent with playwork principles, regardless of market forces or policy trends.
  3. Pioneering
    It should be an agent for change, unafraid to challenge the status quo.
  4. Independent
    It should be independent of other agencies, owned by and accountable only to its members, however it may be funded and administered.
  5. Collaborative
    It should work with other organisations in the sector, aiming to complement existing activities that support playwork, rather than competing with them.
  6. Non-directive
    It should aim to mirror the values and ethos of the playwork approach: including, supporting and responding to the field rather than seeking to control or direct it.
  7. Inclusive
    It should work always to make playwork as available and as accessible as possible to the widest range of children, from the fullest diversity of their communities, whatever the barriers.
  8. Representative
    It should act only with a clear mandate from its members, through transparent, representative structures and processes.
  9. A champion for play
    It should be an advocate for playwork and the value of playing in general, working with and supporting play champions everywhere.
  10. Credible and united
    It should build unity and consensus within the playwork field, so as to speak with a credible and authoritative voice.
  11. Not-for-profit
    It must be non-commercial, securing only such funds as it needs to further its aims for playwork.

This is an organic process: nothing is carved in stone and these aspirations will, no doubt, continue to evolve as a new organisation starts to take shape.

Karen Benjamin and I are both very keen to stress that, whilst we have, up until now, led this process from a practical point of view, it has been a collective initiative from the start. We intend to continue to organise open meetings to involve as many people as possible in building this thing, and we have also proposed a steering group to share more of the tasks ahead.

In the meantime, we would like to see the numbers expressing an interest in the initiative, continue to grow. If you can broadly endorse the approach outlined here, would like to see a new body established on this basis, and might, in principle, be interested in joining it once it is formed, please e-mail with “playwork vehicle” as the subject. We will then add you to the mailing list.

Thank you!


Adrian Voce

8 Responses to “Interest grows in a new vehicle for playwork”

  1. SkillsActive 25 March 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Register of Playwork Professionals.


  2. Jan Cosgrove 18 December 2014 at 11:01 pm #

    Oh no, not another one. (Marvin the paranoid playworker)

    So, you want to form (yet) (another) play(work) body that holds to the truth. How many playworkers can stand on a pinhead? More fractionation. Fair Play – Bishop Trevor got cross, it formed and it’s still here. So why not just take it over and build on its A31 credentials and its distinct non=profit, campaigning credentials. We have survived: NPFA sell-out, PlayBoard empire-building, NCPRU in the Sports Council, Play England getting a sort-of come-uppance, and all the various institutes and bodger-wodgery we’ve seen/heard talk of – networks et al.

    My challenge – you are not inclusive, it’s another round of ‘proper playwork’ and I know I’m not invited. Yet I’ll tell you for sure that for its 28 years there was no more play-value play project in this country than the Bognor Fun Bus – called a rust-bucket by both proper playworkers and hostile local Tory Councillors at Arun. So I might have some ideas about ‘pure’ playwork.

    As I say, why form a new body when there’s one here for you – maybe a playworkers standing conference within Fair Play, but promoting it to become a large scale membership project – I gather we have more than PE anyway.

    Ideally, such a set up, Fair Play campaigning on A31 especially A31.2, and PE as a body which runs model projects, all working in partnership.

    The offer is there.

    But as ever, I am almost sure it’s on deaf ears. Oh, it’s Jan again. Well, so it is …

    Happy playworking ahead!


    • adrianvoce 19 December 2014 at 2:01 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, and your invitation, Jan.

      You say it is not inclusive, but this group, which came together at Bob and Perry’s Sheffield meeting, has issued several open invitations to attend meetings. There will be more of these and you are more than welcome to attend. Similarly, nominations to the steering group were open to all.

      One of the principles that the wider group (which now stands at around 150) has adopted, though, is to be fully independent of other agencies and organisations. Being collaborative is another. So, whilst I think we will decline your invitation to operate within Fair Play, I’m sure, when (if) it is eventually formed, there will be plenty of dialogue and engagement with other bodies in the field, including yours.

      In the meantime, do look out for the dates of future meetings and try to come. We could use the benefit of your experience, and, as you rightly imply, the field needs collaboration, not competition, between different bodies.


      • plexity 19 December 2014 at 2:23 pm #

        Jan Cosgrove and Adrian Voce, imagine how powerful an alliance of the two could be!?!

        Especially if we could manage to comment on the right page!!

        – Ed


      • FPFC News (@FPFCNews) 26 December 2014 at 11:41 am #

        Much as I expected, another play organisation based around personalities where we read many assurances re ‘working together’, and a profusion of orgs and no single Voice for Play. The politicos and advisers seize on this as confirmation we lack unity – and they are right. Whom should they heed? Never mind your invitation, here`s a call from FP to join this A31 org founded by Trevor Huddleston 42 years back, outlasting the others, democratic and still ‘on target’, I don’t have to remain National Secretary, it’s free to join. Oh, trips to Sheffield no can afford, we’re still all in this austerity together. We use tel conf, takes up too 100, local call rates. Time to unite, not more fractionation…..


      • Jan Cosgrove 13 January 2015 at 10:24 am #

        Why attend a new body when I have enough to do running this one and also being Chair of a local youth project now the only open-access one left in a town of 63,000? I’m wondering why I’m bothering to hold the flag for FP and A31. Maybe time to say to members, time for me to quit.


      • Jan Cosgrove 13 January 2015 at 10:27 am #


        and Arthur and lots of the rest of you. But you know, if your face doesn’t fit with the gurus ….. Just order more pin heads. Oh, do read Fair Play for Children Daily. via our web site. Probably not pure enough.



  1. Knitting and weaving | PLAYFILE - 29 March 2014

    […] I can’t knit or weave with real wool warp and weft, but I do want to spend what time is left to me (many years I hope!)  doing something similar with the playwork world. Not to try make of it what I think it should be, but to see what can be made of the arguments  and agreements and new understandings that constantly appear and disappear. That come into fashion and go out and come back in again – like flared trousers. Not fair to talk about fashions when talking about playwork? Well, when I started on Bermondsey adventure playground in 1978 the rhetoric that we used to get and justify our funding was that we were keeping kids off the streets. And now many projects are trying to encourage children to play in streets as their doorstep right to play domain. Or more accurately, persuade their parents and neighbours that this is a good thing in a country where there are about four vehicles on the roads for each child. That’s about 40 million motors and about 11 million children and young people. So here I think we have an existential playworker problem.  Should we be making and holding special spaces where children can play according to the theory and science that we know nowadays. Or should we be thinking about how children can playfully inhabit the whole world they find themselves in? Working well beyond the traditional space and time boundaries of playwork? The liminal spaces that Penny Wilson discovers with children? The benign neglect that Tim Gill reminds us that most of us remember? So back to knitting and weaving. I will leave that to the experts old and new. But I do want to be part of a new swirl about what playwork is and might become. Look here for starters […]


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