Saturday, 7 March 2015

National Playwork Conference

Well……. What a crazy, fun-filled week! I’ve been to Eastbourne and attended the 13th National Playwork Conference and what a privilege it was! I met so many interesting people, engaged in some fantastic, mind-boggling discussions and came away feeling revived, energised and ready to dive into some new playwork adventures!

I attended the conference on behalf of Pop-Up Adventure Play (privileged director duties) as Suzanna and Morgan are currently playworking alongside Malarkey around the south east of Australia.
During the conference I attended several workshops, my first with Tim Gill discussing his latest piece of research 'The Play Return' – where the discussion focussed on whether evidence on play benefit is a 'gateway or a trap' in moving forward in the playwork sector - Professor Phil Grey followed Tim and offered a critique on Tim’s research. During Phil's session Tim was present which made the debate all the more interesting. We explored issues around play benefits and children's rights and agreed that they are generally discussed as separate issues, when in fact, they are one!

I attended sessions with Adrian Voce discussing play policy at a government level and a humorous skype interview with Professor Peter Gray which involved several technical problems and a visit from his nurse!!!  

During the hectic schedule I still managed to have some time to reflect on some of the discussions i'd encountered. It was great to have some real thinking time and what a beautiful reflective backdrop  I had!

Tuesday evening saw the 6th National Playwork Awards and what a grand celebration it was! Pop-Up Adventure Play was shortlisted for two awards 'Training Provider' and 'Playwork in Other Contexts' - Although we didn't win this year it was fantastic to see Pop-Up being given rank alongside some leading, well established playwork organisations across the country in recognition of all their amazing work!

The awards commenced and we were greeted by entertainers and magicians and fed some wonderful food! The evening was filled with fun, laughter, drinks (and lots of it) and some invaluable discussions! The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm and, as I have said previously, an amazing experience to be in a room with over 300 people, all there because of their love and dedication to the playwork sector!

My favourite session of the conference was with Bob Hughes, the room was crammed with people waiting to hear his wisdom. He spoke for around 30 minutes and then handed the floor to the audience.  The discussion that emanated was fantastic – it jumped from quantum physics to modern art, dreams, ritual, and unconsciousness amongst other bizarre thoughts! The most thought provoking item for me was a passing comment made by Wendy Russell about dreams….. This played on my mind a lot… the uncontrollable, unexplainable, bizarre, personal, spontaneous nature of dreams........ and it's link to children's play! This discussion has sparked some serious thought and reflection for me as a playworker and something I plan to pursue further, so watch this space!

What a jam-packed few days! I've loved it - Thank you Pop-Up Adventure Play for sending me, Thank you Meynell for organising it and thank you to all the amazing playworkers I met along the way who have refuelled my playworking drive! I can't wait for next year!!!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Taking the plunge........

So here goes....... My very first blog post! I created this blog back in 2012 and have found every which way possible to procrastinate to the highest order! Anyway, here we are and away we go!

How it all began.....

I started my career in the children's workforce back in 2004, an eager sixth form student at the start of my journey to become a primary school teacher. In preparation for this I decided that some practical experience with children was a good place to start. I became involved with a local out-of-school scheme working with children aged 4 to 12 years old. I quickly became engrossed and was provided with my work badge, and career long dedication. I was duly entitled 'Playworker'.

I quickly realised that 'this is me' and a Playworker I was. After deciding to put university on-hold while I pursued something I thoroughly enjoyed, two years had passed but an opportunity had arisen! 'Out-of-School Coordinator'. At 18 years old this was a daunting proposition but one in which I never hesitated upon and have loved every minute of it!

A parent asked “when are you going to get a proper job?” this made me think, I entered the room to find ‘absolute mayhem’- faces, hands, arms, legs and feet covered in paint, a group of boys hysterically laughing as they danced around in girls clothes, and my desk, redesigned into a “secret steath ship”……… In all seriousness who would want a “proper job?”

I pursued this venture for a further 7 years and in this time graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with First-Class Honours after studying a BA in Playwork under Professor Fraser Brown.
Everything I had learnt in the practical field was now supported with an academic and theoretical underpinning which has helped me develop into a well-rounded, reflective Playworker.

In 2010 I was given the opportunity to playwork in Romania with a community of Roma-Gypsy children, working with Aid for Romanian Children. These children are some of the most deprived and impoverished children in Europe. For me, this experience was life changing, and a fundamental necessity for both my career development and also for me as a human being (Romania blog to follow!)

Having gained all this knowledge and experience in the Playwork field it enabled me, in my position of 'Coordinator' to create a rich play environment, in-keeping with the Playwork Principles and controversially differing in what society would expect from a child-care establishment. Our centre is well recognised as a centre for playwork excellence, something we are all proud of!

In more recent times I hold the title of Children's Centre Manager, working under the Sure Start agenda. I have been in this role for just over a year. I have steered it through some tough times, battled with Ofsted and currently driving it through a district wide restructure, which, more than likely will result in my redundancy.  I have enjoyed the challenge (and the salary) but ultimately I know where my passion lies, in Playwork and to be honest, I cant wait to get back to it!

I am a director for Pop-Up Adventure Play, an organisation which promotes the child's right to play and the importance of Playwork on an international scale - In early 2014 I was able to support their USA Tour, presenting to audiences in San Diego and Seattle. I hope to become more involved with this fantastic organisation during 2015 and beyond!

Watch this space.......