Monday, 21 August 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017 - Winnipeg, MB

By Andy

Since we started our Canadian tour just over a month ago, we have started each day full of curiosity as to what the next location will bring. Our only disappointments have been in not yet seeing a moose, and hearing that our chances get slimmer the further west we drive. We have seen a handful of deer, a snake and one llama, but it was in Argyle, outside Winnipeg, that this game got much more interesting.

As we approached the venue for our presentation, we drove past what appeared to be a team of horses facilitating a camp-fire. A group of risk-averse cows watched on from a safe distance (and no, we hadn’t overdosed on maple syrup). It was truly amazing. We found out later that this was 'smudging', a slow burning and smoky fire to help disperse the mosquitoes, but have held onto our first interpretation.

We were invited to Winnipeg by the great folks from the Manitoba Nature Summit, who skillfully gathered interested groups, professionals and individuals from far and wide to attend our workshop in the most beautiful of settings, the Brant-Argyle School. People came, listened, nodded and questioned, and hopefully left with new ideas and supportive encouragement to start making change, however small, right away.

The following day we all held a Pop-Up Adventure Playground on the same school grounds.  We met children from “the end of the road” (which could easily have been 30 miles away, we weren’t sure) and folk from as far as Kenora. Forts were built, glue was smeared and battles were had with sticks and stones – nobody got hurt either, except for a child on the ‘purpose-built’ play structure of course!

It was interesting and endearing to watch families engaging and interacting together in this protected environment. Dedicated family time is rare and unquestionably necessary, but as a playworker it was fascinating to be able to witness those moments were it ‘clicked’ and the adults realised that they were actually supernumerary in their children’s play. Adults became burdens, their children were just entertaining them out of politeness. They had been excluded, and to the perimeter they shuffled. Some took longer than others, but eventually they all gave in and accepted their place.

Children are pretty good at this play stuff. Research has shown that it’s preloaded into them, although sometimes they need a little time and space to re-accustom themselves when they are out of practice. Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds are the perfect environment for children to re-align themselves in what they do best. They are also fantastic opportunities for bringing adults who support this together, sparking the conversations needed to create a sustainable community around play for the future.

To find out more about our Canadian adventure check out our dedicated tour page. For daily thoughts, readings and memes, check out our facebook and twitter. And of course, don't forget to visit our website

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017 - Kenora, ON

By Morgan

We were told to park at the Rec Center opposite Safeway supermarket, and wait for the boat to come.

The Lake in the Woods - aka Kenora ON - is a vast aquatic wilderness of densely wooded islands, navigated by small boats with outboard motors, silent canoes and the occasional tourist cruiser. We were headed for Town Island, and the B’nai Brith campsite where a small group of children from Youth Agencies Alliance were staying for the week. Beneath our metal bench seats on the boat, we’d stuffed a collection of materials. Cardboard, held together with duct tape. A milk crate filled with gifts from Englehart, ON.

When we arrived they showed us to our cabin, and the field where we’d be popping up in the morning. This group was older than our usual crowd - aged between 11 to 16 - and came from different locations within the Winnipeg region. Lise has invited us to come, and told everyone that “some people from far away are coming, and we’re going to play”.

They didn’t seem to be entirely sure what that might mean.

The next day, we dragged out our small collection of loose parts and scavenged lots more from the various storage sheds. A bag of empty plastic bottles, some rope and about a million milk crates. People began arriving, drifting in as their other scheduled activities finished.

“Is this the adventure?”

“Is this the playground?”

“Yes,” we said. “You can do whatever you like here, with anything you can find.”

The first group built a table from milk crates and dealt out the card game Hearts.

“That table’s too small,” a member of staff said quietly. I assured her that they would figure it out and, sure enough, when their group grew they added an extension. More children arrived and started making places to sit and hang out, while others dug out a soccer ball and started a pick-up game that eventually stretched from 7 participants to about 30, and back again.

“Are there really no rules?” one girl asked me. I recalled Penny Wilson’s line, and said “try not to hurt yourself or anyone else, but that’s it.” She nodded, and went to join a clapping game that kept collapsing into laughter. Rain began to fall, and one group huddled under an umbrella. Others dragged a tarp over poles made of milk crates and laughed every time it fell over.

We watched with pleasure as the teenagers navigated the space in their own time. Some members of staff had expressed concern that ‘these kids’ wouldn’t be able to handle freedom, that there would be fights or strife, but it was an incredibly laid-back session. The staff began to relax too, stepping further back and watching the young people ease into their bodies and the landscape.

Towards the end, a tall staircase of milk crates developed. Friends dared one another to climb higher on the wobbly towers, which others held upright. They discussed whether 6 was too high, or if they could make it to 8. One wobbled the tower he held deliberately, and his friend told him off from above. Lise was beside us, and possibly beside herself with pleasure. She pointed out which young people usually didn’t engage in activities and here were shining, which ones had laughed today more often than she’d seen all week. Another member of staff was starting to panic at the risk he saw the children engage in, and Lise talked him through their process. I handed him a football-shaped stress toy I’d found, and he smiled a little wryly but stood squeezing it for the next 15 minutes.

“This is exactly what we wanted,” she said. Every pop-up is what the children need it to be, and this one was relaxed and convivial. Sometimes, they’re coincidentally what we need them to be as well.

To read more from Pop-Ups Morgan, check out her personal blog and her moonlighting page. To find out more about our Canadian tour, please visit our tour page. You can also find out more about our daily play thoughts on facebook and twitter

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017 - Englehart ON

By Andy

After a long drive from Vaughan, we made it to Englehart, with just minutes to spare. We quickly shuffled into our ‘fancy’ clothes, wiped the sweat from our foreheads and jumped on stage before a packed-out room of friendly parents and professionals, many local and a few from afar. The crowd, which was brought together through the hard-work and dedication of Onita Knight, listened intently to our messages and engaged in some great discussion.

As the session came to a close people fed-back, telling us that in such a short session we had provided them with a totally different perspective on play. Many enjoyed the new language, some started to recognise similarities in their own practices whilst others still seemed a little apprehensive.

The following day started with a storm. Literally. We pulled up at the site of the Pop-Up with our hoods pulled up but our spirits high and we continued as we always do, albeit a little soggy.

The children arrived. Some watched and wondered, while others dived straight in. Many of the adults watched on with apprehension but were open and supportive of the concept. The children were immersed. Forts were built, swings were tied, 5 of them in fact! Fun and freedom was enjoyed by all.

Whilst wandering the site I spotted a group of boys teetering on the edge of mischief. Their mysterious over-the-shoulder glances gave it away that they were ‘up to no-good’. As I honed in closer to get an idea of what was going on, I spotted Morgan, who was also hovering with similar intentions. We telepathically exchanged “You got this?” - “Cool, It’s all yours” and I proceeded to get a closer insight as to what was going on.

Despite my best efforts, I was spotted and approached by one of the boys “Can we smash this?” he asked holding a plastic tray in one hand and a section of a bike rack in the other. “What do you think?” I replied, but before I knew it, the tray had been obliterated. The boys passed the tool around, laughing and grinning with joy and excitement, reviling in their new-found freedom.

Discussions took place with a handful of adults who had observed this process. Some felt that allowing children to play in this way could encourage them to be disrespectful, some agreed with the freedom but felt that children should be involved in the clear-up to understand that “actions have consequences” whilst others thought it was wholly “liberating”.

During some follow up discussion we talked through how children, through their play, need to work through many different stages, at their own pace and for their own reasons. Smashing plastic into hundreds of pieces is satisfying and fun, and if not here, where? Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds are a space where children can be provided with the space, resources and permission to interact or not, in any way they desire. Keeping a space tidy, or clearing up 'mess' is an adult agenda which children have to contend with on a daily basis. Here, in this space, for a few glorious hours, children can stop engaging with adult agendas and freely make their own.

For more information on our Canadian Tour check out the tour page where we have linked up all our blogposts. To find out more about what we do on a daily basis, check out our facebook and twitter. Please also check out our website too 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017 - Vaughan, ON

By Morgan

We drove along a paved path that curved up through the Kortright Centre for Conservation. We parked and walked in, past a grove of tall slender trees. Boxes and saucepans had been set up between them, a length of string and squares of fabric. There was enough of a clearing that the air was brighter there, illuminating a patch of recently abandoned reordering.  To our right, more loose parts were scattered like leaves beneath the trees. Adults moved through the space carefully, some taking pictures, others speaking quietly. Some were there for the workshop in an hour, others part of EarthDay Canada who were hosting the pop-up adventure playground.

We’d spent the morning with EarthDay Canada, talking about the programs that they’ve been running and the connections between play and a love of nature. We talked about working with schools and communities, scaling up and the specifics of practice specific to playwork and its implementation. And eating croissants. It was a meeting about possibility, about what’s been done so far and what might come next. A lovely start to a day of play.

That evening, we spoke for about an hour on rethinking risk and play. Diane Kashin had invited us in, and helped spread the word through the York Region Nature Collaborative. People shared their play memories and we told playwork stories. Then we watched The Land, and reconvened for a Q&A.

There are some questions that come up every time we show this short film. It’s an extraordinary way of reaching people, opening them up to rich conversations about freedom, rights, what a duty of care to children might really mean. There are a couple of scenes that inspire questions about gender and exclusion, whether children are replicating the sexism they’ve seen or processing it, and whether that’s ours to say. When it seemed like that was where conversation was headed, I referenced one of the key scenes that often made people uncomfortable.

Suzanna put her hand out and said, 'No, Morgan. This time they laughed."

I looked out across the auditorium full of people who'd seen the humor in that moment, the humor the child had felt. They grinned at my surprise. One woman put up her hand and said that she'd also seen the film in Ithaca, where the audience reaction was very different. She explained that the room's response had colored her own perception each time and I wondered what a difference framing a film like this can make, and how we go about changing opinions one room full of people at a time.

I swung around and stared at the audience, who then laughed good-naturedly at me.  As soon as we think we know how something will go, play has a way of twisting out of our expectations.  It reminds us not to fall into the complacency of thinking we know what will come next, and lets us be delighted by surprises - and then, to keep learning together.

To find out more about our tour, visit our posts about Halifax NS, Montreal QC, London ON and Blenheim ON. For daily thoughts on play come join us on Facebook and Twitter, and check out our website

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017 - Blenheim, ON

By Morgan

Blenheim, ON has a population of 4,563.  Between the pop-up adventure playground and workshop afterwards, we saw about 200 - a significant proportion of the local residents. They welcomed us into the Growing Together Family Resource Centre and talked about efforts over recent years to move towards an emergent, more child-led curriculum.

The space they’d opened for the pop-up was really large and generous-feeling, a vast green expanse of grass with a spectacular tree just waiting for hammocks. The people we met, educators and local families, were new to playwork but familiar to one another. In the workshop we had a sense of the crowd as nervous but excited, and ready to learn more about supporting children’s play.

We showed some pictures, told a few jokes, and started telling stories that illuminate key terms in playwork such as cues, frames and adulteration. We used examples from the pop-up and our own practice, to show how easy it is for adults to interrupt or co-opt children’s play.  Together we laughed at ourselves, at the times we’ve got it wrong, and reminded one another that play support, like play itself, is a process.

Afterwards they gave us each a gift bag, fully stocked with Canadian snacks. With the car filled up with ketchup potato chips, coffee crisps other delights, we set off again for Vaughan ON and the open road. Thank you Blenheim, ON!

For more on our Canadian adventure, check out the blogposts from Halifax NS, Montreal QC and London ON. More coming soon! wwwpopupadventureplay,org

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Pop-Ups Canada Tour 2017 - London, ON

By Andy

After a series of unfortunate mechanical happenings, were arrived in London ON from Ottawa ON, just before midnight. We were kindly greeted by Alan, our local contact and play advocate who had started a conversation about this very visit many months ago.

Our landing in London, Ontario didn’t just come about by chance, it was through the combined efforts of community partners from 7 organisations including London Children's Museum, London Public Library, City of London Recreation, Childreach, London Children's Connection and The Makerbus and carefully pulled together by Alan in his continued pursuit to incorporate more adventurous opportunities for children across London.

We kicked off our time with a workshop for almost 70 enthusiastic practitioners, professionals and parents from all over the city.  They willfully engaged on a warm Monday evening. They shared their stories, laughed at our terrible jokes and engaged in some energetic, slightly competitive playful scrambling.

Once again, it was amazing to hear about the initiatives people were trying, the barriers they had faced and the mischievous tactics they had employed to get around them. People everywhere are keen to reap the benefits and instinctively work towards making it happen.

The following day, we slotted into a highly ordered operation to provide a pop-up adventure playground for almost 500 summer camp children which was later followed by a public event for children and their families in the late afternoon.

The children came, some charged, others observed in bewilderment, but each and every one of them found their place and did their thing. Camp leaders toyed with their usual practices and took a step-back while others engaged in their own play, creating moving vehicles and livable spaces. During the evening session, families were engaged, some more so than others, but eventually most adults worked out their place. This often meant taking a step back, with less hands and words and more eyes and listening.

Children dangled from trees while some adults winced in their shadows. These adults observed our reactions as playworkers, and logged our every move! Many made time to follow up to ask why we did, or didn’t intervene. They shared their emotions and reflected on their reservations. Mostly agreeing that their own anxieties and fears were not a good enough reason to instruct or intervene.

During the pop-up session I was engaged in a conversation with Sally, the Community Centre leader of many decades and she kindly shared her stories as a camp leader and community organiser. In-spite of her extensive background and her wealth of knowledge, she was still genuinely, taken aback and surprised at how effective these events were. The simple idea of giving children the time, space and permission to just do whatever they wanted, and being there to help guide that process further was like a breath of fresh air.

Our time in London concluded with a small gathering of like-minded playful folk around a BBQ. We chatted Playwork, PhD's and Mounties. We talked about our adventures and others shared their own. We exchanged email addresses and deer whistles before a departing conversation about how, in just a few days, they felt we were already part of them, part of their small playful family, which was both heart-warming and mutual.

To hear more from our Canadian tour, check out our blogposts from stops 1 and 2. For more about our work check out facebook and twitter, and our website

Monday, 31 July 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017 - Montreal QC

By Morgan

The good people of The Lion and The Mouse run a summer camp in public green space that runs behind their building. It’s filled with tall grass, with little paths curling through and train tracks behind a border fence. Margaret and Gabby led us through to the Maples, a grove of two trees where children were playing. One sat among the dandelions, while another calmly pressed band-aids to her knee. The rest were moving through the trees, talking to one another in French and English.

One of the trees is tall and slender, while the other has low splayed branches. They seemed ideal for climbing on, offering gradations of height and challenge in the cool shade. I sat for awhile watching the children reach for their next handholds, their movements smooth and capable. One held the branch above his head and slowly stretched both legs into the open air. It struck me how much confidence he must have had, in the tree and his own body, all those slowly reaching limbs swaying together in a gentle breeze. I had no sense of rush or difficulty, only the strangest feeling of trees and children taking pleasure in each other.

In this sweet little location, the Lion and the Mouse are delivering beautiful practice. What’s more, their work is deeply rooted in their community. Staff reach out and talk with everyone - musicians, local residents, friends and family members, passersby, characters on the street. We saw this at the screening of The Land, where our usual post-film Q&A became instead a rich and rambling conversation.

This team should feel proud of the work they’re doing, and the experiences they’re making possible for children. We want to help highlight their gorgeous project, and encourage them to share their stories and pictures! Inspired by adventure playgrounds and forest schools, their work will grow in its own unique direction, organically from the soil of Mile End.

Follow us on our Canadian adventure using our Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017: An Awesome Start in Canada

By Morgan

Well, we’ve had an awesome start to the tour.

First, you marvelous individuals brought us over the line of our crowdfunding goal.  One person was a particular friend to Pop-Ups, and we’d like to thank Queenie for her incredible generosity.  Now we can sleep indoors and eat in cafes, instead of the car-camping, dumpster-diving trip we’d feared (mostly joking).

We’ve also completed our first tour stop of Halifax, Nova Scotia, which included two workshops and one pop-up adventure playground.  In Halifax Central Library and The Pavilion on Halifax South Common, we met local parks and recreation staff, parents, pediatricians and other play advocates, to talk about play, risk and adventure.  The pop-up had a fantastic turnout - we estimated 300 people - and people stayed for ages to construct cars from cable reels, capes from yellow silk and, of course, forts from cardboard boxes.

"By far the best event I have attended with a group in 25 years of early childhood education"

All of this is thanks to the tireless and extraordinary efforts of Alex Smith, aka Mr Playgroundology and now the founder of CanadaPlays. He worked with local organizations, promoted these events on blogs and even appeared on TV! Since 2010, he’s been sharing images of inspirational places to play, and we couldn’t be happier that his neighborhood was the first stop on our cross-country map.

Plus, he makes the most amazing scallops.

There was a moment in the risk workshop that has stayed with us in the days since.  We always try to include time for participants to play, but when we tell them to get up, a look of fear crosses many faces.  As soon as we utter the words "audience participation", we can see them think, "oh no". But after a few minutes they act as children do. Some take time to warm up, while others throw themselves in. There’s a rising buzz of activity as some hang swings from the rafters and develop complex games, while others gather handfuls of materials and find a quiet corner all their own.

When we all come back together they seem refreshed, laughing with their neighbors and swaggering back to their seats. They seem relaxed in their bodies and sprawl across the plastic chairs. Often, they’re holding hats made of bottle caps or mobiles held together with zip ties.

“This is for my daughter,” one might say.  Or “my husband will laugh to see this”. But we know who it’s really for, and that’s what makes it beautiful.

Seeing their joy, hearing Alex’s raucous laughter, watching the faces of children absolutely absorbed in their play - all this has fueled us, for the next stages of our own journey.

Next stop, Montreal! We will be hosting an informal screening of The Land and popping up too! If you're in the area - come join us!

More information about our Canadian Tour can be found here, and our press release here. Follow us on facebook and twitter too if you'd like more playfulness!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Press Release: Pop-Up Adventure Play empowers play programmes across Canada ahead of 20th IPA Triennial World Conference


Pop-Up Adventure Play empowers play programmes across Canada ahead of 20th IPA Triennial World Conference

Pop-Up Adventure Play have confirmed workshops and hands-on practical sessions with organisations and play enthusiasts across eight Provinces of Canada.

Following the huge success of their 2014 US Tour and 2015 World Tour, UK-based charity Pop-Up Adventure Play are heading to Canada to support and inspire play enthusiasts and organisations countrywide. The team will be on the road from July 20th to September 19th inclusive, travelling east to west in one summer-long adventure!

The Pop-Ups Canada Tour 2017 will showcase inspiring play provision from around the world, providing a range of training, workshops, pop-up adventure playgrounds alongside screenings of ‘The Land’, a documentary of unique, raw footage from an adventure playground in Wales, UK.

UK-born Suzanna Law who is studying for a PhD in the field, co-founded the organisation to train and support communities everywhere to make room for child-directed play. "Children everywhere need time and space to play in their own way, but they are not getting enough of those opportunities," says Law. "We at Pop-Up Adventure Play want to support people and organisations everywhere to help broaden its understanding and its importance in a much wider context"

The tour currently has 10 confirmed locations, commencing in Halifax NS, before passing through Montreal QC, then onto London ON, Toronto ON, Winnipeg MB, Edmonton AB, Vancouver BC, and concluding in Calgary AB for the IPA Triennial world conference, which will host some of world’s leading academics and thinkers of children’s play.

Pop-Up Adventure Play have been advocating for children's play since 2010 through the support, kindness  and generosity of likeminded individuals, organisations and the wider community. In a bid to reach out to some of the hard-to-reach and low-income communities across Canada, the team have launched their crowdfunder page where they aim to raise £5000 in 30 days to bring isolated advocates together. 

Press release PDF available here.

Pop-Up Adventure Play is a UK registered charity #1148987
For more information, please contact Suzanna Law, Co-Founder and Head of Communications using

Friday, 2 June 2017

Geronimo 2017

By Zan

After much organising and some epic geometrical loose parts stuffing into our cars, Pop-Ups Andy and I found ourselves in the middle of a field and under a giant tent. This would be the site of our 3-day pop-up adventure playground at the Geronimo Festival, this year held at Arley Hall, Cheshire. With our two trusty recruits, Joanne and David, we emptied our cars, staged some boxes and were away! Here are some photos of our playful long weekend:

Some tiny people came to type on the computer, and stayed for a long time to explore our loose parts.

Some bigger people made some big things. Sometimes we don't know what these things are, but it is the process that matters.

The biggest people did some playing too - this is a giraffe that was almost as tall as the tent! The children participated, but even the adults admitted that this was their giraffe and not the kid's.

This little player spent ages in this box, putting things here and there and everywhere, dressed perfectly for the occasion.

"This is a car and I am driving". Of course it is, and for a good few minutes too.

This is a set of brother, sister robots. Their parents helped a little bit but this was their idea. They may have spent a long long time dressed like this.

This is our box wall created at the end of the festival for children to run into and push over. It was quite a hit, with the children and the adults. It's not often you get invited into destruction.

This our tape ball, so big that you could sit on it. It just goes to show that from waste things you can still make play things!

These brothers were hilarious. They were clearly tired, but really wanted to keep on playing, so they just bashed every box they could find into pulp. It must have been their way of signifying the end of the festival - their "end game" as it were. And then red one went home as a robot.

I'll admit that when I agreed to host a Pop-Up at a children's festival - a festival that had circus people, sheep shearers, harp players and jousters - that we would lose out and noone would come to our tent to play. It seems like I had nothing to worry about. The conversations that we overheard between parent and child always seemed to be some sort of negotiation based loosely around the fact that the children didn't want to go anywhere else. It was wonderful to know that child-led play was so appealing that our tent was always busy and buzzing with activity. There were so many great moments, and so many glorious opportunities for children to assert their right to play that on a few occasions, I felt a little emotional. I'm really glad we went to Geronimo, and I hope that I'll get to pop-up there again in the future.

To see more photos from Geronimo, check out the facebook photos here. To follow the adventures of Pop-Ups Zan, visit her personal blog. To visit our website, please visit

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Our First Award...... With gratitude

By Andy

Sadly I wasn't able to attend the National Playwork Conference this year having only just arrived back home from our Playwork Campference in Los Angeles. Luckily there was a live stream available allowing me to watch the awards whilst unpacking my rucksack at home. As I eagerly sat watching, my phone tentatively in my hand ready to message the team, there was a clash of glasses, a wobble of the screen and the camera ended up on the floor. There was a mad scramble to stabilize the stream with familiar faces and voices flashing on and off the screen. Hilarious! It was an amazing feeling knowing that, even though I wasn't there, I was one of them.

The winner was announced.... Pop-Up Adventure Play - Playwork in Other Contexts Award. Wow! I couldn't believe it. There were some fantastic organisations in the run for the award which made this announcement so overwhelming! Ali Wood accepted the award on our behalf as one of our free-lance tutors. Ali said some really nice words on our behalf and about us too, with a great response from the crowd, which was really heartwarming.

I quickly typed out a message to the team who were, at the time, commuting to a workshop in Evanston, Illinois providing the keynote address to the Illinois Youth Services Institute on the amazing benefits of play. Playwork in Other Contexts, in action!

I had message back from the team. They had just pulled up on the banks of Lake Michigan and celebrated with a happy dance in the sun. Gathering together pebbles from the beach, Morgan and Zan instantly thanked the world for their support with a rocky thank you.

Advocating for children's play can be a lonely battle and at Pop-Up we have long been seeking to spread the Playwork message to the loneliest parts of the world. This award means a lot to us. For us it provides the supportive encouragement that our efforts are worthwhile, but it also reminds us that however hard and lonely it is out there, the playwork family is just a wobbly video feed away.

Thank you.

To follow our daily adventures, join us over on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. To get in touch with us, we are available by email here, or you can leave us a message on our website

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Popping Up in Cleveland - Guest writer

By Mischelle Brown

Mischelle reached out to us in 2016, telling us of her passions for play and in 2017, we met her at the Playwork Campference! It was wonderful to hear her perspective and learn of her passion. She has big plans for her community, and some big adventures ahead! Here are some of her thoughts:

What started out as a weekend exploration at the first ever Playwork Campference. February 16-19, 2017, on how to build my own one acre adventure playground by myself turned into life lessons on the importance of community, starting small and diversity. Landing in Val Verde, California I would meet some of the worlds greatest playworkers, play advocates, enthusiasts and researchers to ever commune in the United States. Boy what a sight to behold!

The nuggets of wisdom from the veterans of play I received straight away were build an adventure play community, start with small one day pop-up play schemes or play spaces, add additional community partners like museums, schools, non profits or recreation departments to co-create with and like ideas.

My big question was where's all the play people of color? How come I'm the only one here? The veterans of play exclaimed, “Exactly”?! On that day one I decided going forward I'd have to do my Mahatma Ghandi thing and “be the change I wanted to see in the world” to bring adventure play equity to black and brown kids.

So with that on March 27, 2017 my nonprofit, Humans2nature inc., together with the city of Cleveland’s Division of Recreation’s 18 recreation centers, Cleveland State University, Home Depot and Cultured Bazaar 60 black and brown babies played in/on/around their first ever and the city of Cleveland’s first ever “loose parts” pop-up adventure playground on the grounds of Camp George Forbes.

Water Experiment pond – Camp George Forbes, Cleveland, Ohio

Using tools - Camp Georges Forbes, Cleveland, Ohio

Fishing Kids with handcrafted fishing tools

The Playwork Campference was the confirmation that my purpose, adventure play for life, is real and that there is world is full of other players committed to the motto, "play is for everyone". Thank you, Playwork Campference!

To host your own pop-up adventure playground, register with us here for some free resources. To read more about the Campference, check out these three blogposts. To follow the activities of us at Pop-Up Adventure Play, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter and check out our website

Sunday, 2 April 2017

A Playworker's Junkyard

By Zan

Sitting in my seat next to Andy, I felt really excited. I hadn't thought about the set for Junkyard the Musical and now that I was looking at the silhouette of it on the stage before the show. It had real pallets, and barrels, and planks and rope... everything you'd find on a real adventure playground. Whatever would happen in the next 2 hours wouldn't matter too much - it was already awesome.

Before the show - we were sat front and center and I was so pleased!

As the stage went dark and we journeyed with the characters through the ups and downs of adventure playground development, I was really swept up in the energy of the whole thing. Everything was done simply but effectively with junk materials or loose parts - even some of the instruments used to accompany the sometimes moving, sometimes hilarious songs were also made out of junk! I loved particularly that characters weren't too precious about the set, but at the same time loved it, just like the children at any AP would be too. With there being multi-level movable platforms, the space was always filled with interest throughout the show, and used very thoughtfully too for musical numbers and emotive scenes.

I was particularly amused to find that they had managed to work a whole lot of adventure playground history into this musical, doing a little bit of gentle AP promo for the field. I wondered aloud to Andy half way through the show if the actors knew what the term "playworker" was. It wasn't mentioned in the show - being set in the 70s, the term wasn't properly used yet - but I wonder how much they would have translated some of these thoughts for the audience of today. I was really glad to hear the parting thoughts from the cast which spoke loudly of adventure playgrounds in the UK - even a nod to Plas Madoc, the closest AP to the theatre - and I was buoyed by the enthusiasm they had brought to the auditorium. There was a palpable feeling of possibility, and the last time I felt that was when I was sat under a canopy of advertisements in the middle of California.

I truly enjoyed Junkyard to the very core of my playworker being. There was enough humour in there to keep it light, but all the emotions necessary for folks to understand just how serious adventure playgrounds are with a good sprinkling of song. Now we just need everyone everywhere to watch this show and then visit an adventure playground in action. Hoorah for Junkyard!

To find out more about Pop-Ups Zan, visit her personal blog here. If you'd like to see more of what Team Pop-Up Adventure Play in general, check out Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

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