Sunday, 5 March 2017

Reflections from the Playwork Campference: Part 3

By Zan

The five of us sat smiling at one another as we reaffirmed for the umptheenth time that organising our first ever conference would be a fabulous idea. It was a year before the proposed date and our many play connections combined with our passion for play could only means that this was going to be an amazing event. Shortly after we coined the phrase "Playwork Campference" (all credit to Jeremiah!) I had a rush of affection for the other four organisers: this would be our Campference, and we were going to do the best job we possibly could.

And here are the Campference organisers (left to right):
Suzanna Law, Andy Hinchcliffe, Morgan Leichter-Saxby, Erica Larsen-Dockray and Jeremiah Dockray. Team Pop-Up Adventure Play meets Team Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play!

Having had email correspondence with at least 90% of the folks who attended our Campference, welcoming everyone on the first day felt simply like I was greeting a whole bunch of friends. Every warm hug that gave was reciprocated in earnest, and felt like a genuine moment of connection rather than the frivolous greeting we often give to people without much meaning. Though I had never personally met at least 50 of the 90 people who came to our Campference, I definitely felt like I was welcoming them home - to both an amazing adventure play space, and to the community of play advocates who were just as eager to connect.

The rest of the Campference seems like joyous blur: there was fireside play where the children discovered and came to respect the fire pit; there was the meeting of minds and collision of amazing ideas; there was torrential rainfall and people dancing in rivers where there were once streets; there were revelations, and stories of transformation, discovery and joy; there was a palpable feeling of hope and passion within our camp site that no amount of literal stormy weather could shake. 

At the end of the Campference, I stood still for a moment to take in some of my own feelings. This may have started up as a conference - a convergence of 5 minds - eventually became was the meeting of 90 minds, all open and willing to experience more about the flexibility of playwork. I have never met a group of people who were so willing to roll with the changes that we had to make throughout the Campference because of adverse weather.  

This Campference may have started with just 5 of us, but by the end, we could feel a shift towards all the folks who were present. It was an event that all 90 of us could take ownership of. It was our Campference, and I must thank every single person who came, and everyone who helped because these were the people who made it what it was.

Here we all are - our group photo at our Playwork Campference.

This is the final reflective piece about the Playwork Campference from Team Pop-Ups - part 1 and part 2 can be found here. Follow our adventures on facebook and twitter, and check out our website for more

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Reflections from the Playwork Campference: Part 2

By Andy

I can't quite believe that it's been over a week already since the Playwork Campference came to an end! What an amazing whirlwind it has been. As I get ready to depart the US and head back to Europe, I spent a moment to reflect on my experiences of our maiden conference voyage.

It's been more than a year since the discussions about the Campference began. I remember the excitement and enthusiasm about the schedule, workshops, food and the people and stories it would gather.

Despite the 'touch' of bad weather, the schedule and workshops prevailed. The food was amazing and the people with their stories glued the whole thing together.

When the rain came down, the children played.

Our amazing chef, Megan Dickerson, cooking "fire-jacks" (fire-top flap-jacks) for breakfast!

I was surrounded by such a diverse group of wonderful and knowledgeable people. Friends I'd know for years, Colleagues I'd only ever met on Skype, amazing and inspirational people I had met on my travels with Pop-Up Adventure Play and my University professor, all mixed in with a group of passionate play advocates from around the globe.

The conversation and stories throughout the weekend were exhilarating, motivating and inspirational. They fueled me to take this contagious passion back across the Atlantic with an aim of unpacking it and sharing it in a way that could help to re-ignite the increasingly suffering playwork profession in the UK.

The Campference achieved many things for me, both personally and professionally. The main point I took from it was that dwelling on the past and the 'good old days' are great but unproductive. It's time to accept that Playwork in the 21st century is a different beast, but the need is still the there, if not greater. We need to step off the playwork soap box and move forward - If we don't, who will?

If anybody wants to get involved in this discussion, throw some thoughts our way!

This is part 2 of 3 reflective pieces from Team Pop-Up Adventure Play about the Playwork Campference 2017 - part 1 is available here. If you want to find out more about us, check out our Facebook, Twitter and website

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Reflections from the Playwork Campference: Part 1

By Morgan

So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we hosted a Campference with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play in Val Verde, CA.

It went pretty well.

Welcoming folks at the Pacific Oak.

Children played as we talked about playwork.

Learning about ropes and knots.

Playwork professionals, students and enthusiasts came from all over to swap stories, learn from one another, and spend time on a beautiful new adventure playground site. Our fondest hope was that people would make new friends, find mentors, and confess some of their own fears or longings.

It seems like that part was a success.
“So many takeaways, but while I process those, I will just share 3 words that were repeated roughly 642 times: Fun, Freedom, Flexibility.”~ Kelsey Langley
Also not sure if you were paying attention at the time, but there was a *little* bit of a storm happening.  The worst storm in 22 years, dropping 5 inches overnight on our site and tents and carefully laid plans.  We sought refuge in a church, and then a school.  Content went ahead, if a little bit reshuffled.

Most gloriously, people rallied.  Across the whole four days, they transported baked potatoes in wheelbarrows, cut wood for the fire, raised tarps into the trees (and cut them down, when the wind gained strength).  Children scurried around the site, playing all day long.  Participants circled to discuss the politics of play and details of practice, breaking off into smaller groups to keep the conversation flowing.  People who feel isolated at home made community together, and for a short time we made a village.
"An incredible site, wonderful people....a bunch of weirdo's in the most magnificent felt like I was home."~ Justine Walsh
This is part 1 of 3 reflections about our Playwork Campference 2017. If you'd like to find out more about us, check out our facebook, twitter or visit

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Press Release: Local and International Adventure Play Organizations Holding Two Free and Exclusive Family Events in Castaic

By Andy

Team Pop-Up's have just arrived on the shores of California. It's the first time the three of us have been together, in-person in over 15 months. We are so excited to work on the final preparations for the first ever Playwork Campference in the USA! 

In addition to our extensive programme of talks and practical workshops we are also running two, free public events for children, families and interested individuals: a pop-up adventure playground and a film screening! The full press release for these events can be accessed here.

We are delighted to be part of this and hope to see many of you there! 

These events are part of our Playwork Campference. For more about what we do on a daily basis, check out our facebook and twitter, or visit our website

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

A Workshop in Evanston, IL

By Zan

We are very pleased and excited to be hanging out very briefly with our friend and PDC student Yulia in Evanston. It's going to be a short stop where Pop-Ups Morgan and I will be presenting an interactive talk entitled "Let The Children Play: workshop on the amazing benefits of play". We happened to be in the area for a keynote in Springfield, IL so this was an wonderful opportunity to get together.

With thanks to Pop-Ups friends Buffalo Pop-Up Play for the original design of this poster, and to Yulia's friend Vladimir Kleiman for this lovely version.

If you are in the Evanston area and would like to join our workshop there, please check out this facebook event. We welcome anyone who has an interest in play and are pleased also to let you know that there will be childcare available.

It's so great to be meeting more of our Playworker Development Course students and also to take the opportunity to meet more folks around the world who are passionate about play. Before that though, we will focus on the Campference! More from us soon!

For more about Pop-Up Adventure Play, check out our facebook, twitter and our website