Battersea Adventure Playground
I had a great time this afternoon visiting Battersea Adventure Playground. I met Paul, one of the playworkers, at the entrance when he stopped me upon seeing my camera and mentioned that I could not take photographs of the playground. I explained to him that I was visiting from the States to research playwork and adventure playgrounds, and after assuring him that I would not take photographs of any children, as well as telling him that I was accompanied by my own son, he gave me the go-ahead to take photos. This turned out to be a trickier proposition than I at first considered, as the playground was full of children running back and forth, and I found myself having to wait, and wait, and sometimes wait some more to get a clear photo with no children in the frame. But it was time well spent, as you can see from the pictures below.
I had the opportunity to have a few nice chats with Paul during the time I spent at Battersea, he was very happy to tell me about the playground, a bit about its history, and he mentioned the very unfortunate fact that Battersea Adventure Playground will cease to exist in its current form in September of this year. As is the case in many areas, the local government of Wandsworth, where Battersea is located, is pressed for money, and has decided that one way to save money is to get rid of the playworkers, make Battersea an unstaffed playground, and eliminate many of the risky and challenging opportunities for play that make the playground such a phenomenal place for children.
I asked Paul about a sign that I saw posted on a couple structures on the playground, reading “Warning- Children must not be lifted onto this equipment”. He confirmed my initial assumption that the idea behind the sign was to prevent parents from offering too much assistance and interfering with children trying to negotiate some of the more challenging climbs and play opportunities on their own. Paul echoed a theme that I have heard consistently in my conversations with playworkers over the past several days- the absolute importance of children having opportunities to experience risk and challenge, and to meet these situations on their own, without undue interference from adults.
Paul spent some time lamenting the impending demise of Battersea Adventure Playground, largely because he was concerned that with the end of Battersea there would be one less place where children in the community could experience types of play that are often inaccessible to children in urban, socio-economically challenged environments. He mentioned that there is a mixed demographic of children who use the playground, as the surrounding community consists of very wealthy families almost directly next to families who are much lower on the economic scale.
If I were to summarize some of the big themes that I have been hearing in all of my visits to playgrounds and with playworkers over the past few days, I would highlight the following as being of key significance and importance:
1) providing children with opportunities to play in ways that they would otherwise be very unlikely to experience
2) viewing children as strong, capable, autonomous individuals
3) allowing children the responsibility to sort things out for themselves
4) play as an experience that is vital for its own sake
5) the necessity for children to experience risk and challenge in their play
Anyways, enough chit-chat, let’s take a look at Battersea Adventure Playground, shall we? Enjoy the photographs below.