Tag Archives: hackney

The busy season for Playwork is here!

8 Jun

Now that the Spring is finally here (fingers crossed that it stays) things in the Play world are hotting up!

Hackney Playbus in Millfields Park, Hackney

Hackney Playbus, where I work, is expecting it’s busiest summer for years, with free play sessions around East London planned on 6 or 7 days of the week all through the summer holidays! Children under 5 are welcome during term time and under 8 in school holidays. If you have children and live in East London have a look at the timetable and come along. You can also stay up to date with new sessions as they are announced by following  the Playbus on Twitter and liking the Facebook Page. Can’t wait to come to play? The Playbus will the at the Well Street Common Festival, (near north side of Victoria Park) on Sunday 9th June from 12noon.


Shoreditch Adventure Playground, Hackney.

I’m also working at an Adventure Playground in Hackney which is suddenly looking very beautiful and wild with wild flowers blooming and finches chattering in the trees. Adventure Playgrounds are fantastic urban play spaces. They are designed to compensate urban children for their lack of access to adult-free wild play spaces. You will find trained and experiences Play staff who are there to support play and assess risk vs benefits in these adventurous spaces. If you live in East London you probably aren’t far from your local Adventure Playground. There are more than 80 across London. If you have children and you’ve never been in, you should go and explore. Click here to see what Adventure Playgrounds are near you. They are usually open after school, on Saturdays and during school holidays. They are free and open access, meaning children are welcome to come and go as they please. 6 -16 year olds are welcome, along with under 5s with a carer. Get out there and explore!

Along side all this playing, the book making and creative work is taking a back seat for now, but I will be making whenever I can.

I’ll also be moving…to my 10th house in 9 years.

I hope you all get out and enjoy the beautiful weather!


A week in the life of a Playworker/Maker: Tuesday

29 Feb

Tuesday morning I was up bright and early for the very indirect commute from Tower Hamlets to Walthamstow where the Playbus hosts a morning play session funded by the local children’s centre.

The parents and careers at this session are always there waiting for the bus, their children literally jumping up and down in excitment. This week was very busy with 15 under 5’s along to play. I was talking to one parent who lives the other side of Walthamstow where we used to have another session funded by another children’s centre. We haven’t got the funding to carry on there and as we finished up our work  they were under going some staffing cuts and reshuffles that really affected their brilliant outreach and family support workers. Walthamstow, they told me, has seen a massive number of centre closures and cuts.

No front line cuts they keep saying. Every now and then they blab on about bridging the opportunity gap between the rich and poor. As if. East London has a desperate shortage of nursary places and its the kids from the more deprived areas who always miss out, their parents not being able to afford private care. Children’s centres have done a fantastic job of giving all children access to play sessions where they can explore and socialise with other children and where parents can meet each other, support each other and access all kinds of other services that they might well have missed out on otherwise (speach and language advice, legal advice, language classes). The playbus is used by the children’s centres to reach families who are less likely to go to the centres or access any services, as we can park right on their street and are an easy first place to come. For these kids to have a good start they need the space and opportunity to play. This government aren’t just taking these opportunities away in a short term sense, they are undoing the infrastructure that was only just beginning to make a difference.

Tuesdays session was lots of fun. We blew up baloons and all the kids loved chasing them around. Kids who, at the start of the session were very shy and clingy to their parents, were running around independently by the end. As the bus drives off there’s always a few tears but we will be back next week.

After packing away from the busy session, I had some time to kill. On Tuesdays I work on the bus in the morning and then at an adventure playground after school. A big gap but not big enough to go home and come out again. Thats what comes of working several jobs where each are just a few hours at a time. I went for lunch and tried to come up with some fundraising plans for the playbus. I’ve got a few ideas. Then, as the weather was so warm I headed to the park. Absolutly beautiful scattered with spring flowers and ducks.

Come 3.15pm I arrived at the playground which is especially for children and young people with disabilities and special needs. I’ve not been working there long and am still getting to know the other staff and the children. minibuses bring the children straight from their schools or their homes to the playground. Each member of staff is designated to work 1:1 with one of the children, so once you arrive and help get the place set up, it’s a waiting game for when your 1:1 arrives. The last few times my 1:1 hasn’t arrived and so I am on general duties. This has proved a great way to get to know the other staff. For example, if there is a young person who is known to take all of their clothes off, then I’m able to support the member of staff working 1:1 with that young person to help get them sorted and back out playing. I also relieve people if they need a break. Yesterday, when I relieved one member of staff I was launched into some wonderful imaginative outdoor play. The young person and I layed back on the grass and gazed at the sky which was slowly turning pink. There were tigers hiding out there, bees in the ground and spiders everywhere! (of the imaginary type). Later I joined in with the musical genious who was enjoying playing the keyboard at maximum volume, holding one key at a time. His eyes were closed and he rocked his head just like all the old blues greats. With his other hand he grabed a brightly coloured underella and moved it hypnotically to the durge, breaking into a big smile.

Before we knew it it was time to pack up and get on the minibuses to go home. After being an escort on one of the buses, I was finished for the day; back on the bus to Tower Hamlets.

In the evening, we made the most of the mild weather and planned to walk along the river to a pub in Wapping. Off we went. Every few yeards the pathway was blocked with locked gates. The water front here has been well and truely privatised. Where not so long ago where wharehouses and dockers pubs there’s now luxury developments and gated communities all claiming their own private chunk of the public right of way. In a crack between two houses were were lucky enough to discover an accessible bit of beach. The Thames is so beautiful and should be accesible to all.

 Then, as if some ominous threat, floating past on the river goes a boat pulling some giant olympic rings…as if we needed reminding. As if most people’s lives in London, especially east, haven’t been affected in some annoying way or other since they announced we were to host them. The people of East London knew or have quickly come to learn that these games are not for them and actually, if their lives get in the way of the plans to woo the worlds dignitaries it’ll be no contest who will win. All those I’ve spoken to are dreading the summer. Money has a way of ruining everything.

A week in the life of a Playworker/Maker: Monday

27 Feb

Being a Playworker and making stuff for a living is a precarious way to live. I’ve got 3 jobs plus the self-employed making. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m going to give you an insight into my week of job juggling in East London. Who else can say their week is like this…every week!

I spent my Sunday sewing new lined notebooks and taking a short trip on the DLR to Greenwich Observatory Park to do some drawing. I love that park, and what an amazing view of the city.

From up there you can see the whole skyline of the city which is currently littered with cranes as the pre-Olympics building work goes underway. You can’t escape it. Greenwich Park itself is planned to host the Equestrian events with a strong local campaign brewing against the plans.

This morning I kicked off my week with the all too familiar travel from Tower Hamlets to Hackney where I went to the house of the family where I work 1:1 with a young person with Aspergers Syndrome. I’ve worked supporting this young person since June 2010 and we get on brilliantly. Spending time together is most of the time a total pleasure. In the past I’ve worked as much as 20 hours a week with this young person but currently we have a once weekly catch up.

Today our task was to tidy a typical teenage bomb site of a bedroom. While we sorted the clothes I become agony aunt, acting as a sounding board for interactions with peers. This kind of coaching is crucial for a young person with Aspergers for whom implicit social boundaries and rules must be explicitly learned.

After we had cleaned the bedroom until the sense of achievement was strongly felt we were off on the bus to Madame Tussauds! What an exciting and fantastic time we had. There was even chance for some impromptu history lessons prompted by Nelson Mandela, Hitler, Margret Thatcher amongst many many more.

I was happy to have the chance to vent some anger at a man both me and the young person I work with know as the man taking all the money away from communities…

After meeting all the celebrities and international figures there were to meet we then went on an adventure to find this famed new Routemaster bus that Boris keeps banging on about. We went to Tottenham Court Road to catch the 38. After all the hype surprise surprise it is literally just 1 new bus which wasn’t in the area when we were waiting. The ‘Vanity Bus’ some people call it…hmm…whatever could they mean by that?!

And then home I came.

Tomorrow morning bright and early I’m on the Playbus in Walthamstow. Looking forward to telling you all about it.

Making lines and breaking rules

22 Feb

I’ve fallen a bit behind with the blogging.

The life of a Playworker and maker is a busy one if you are hoping to actually be able to sustain it. I’ve now got three different Playwork jobs each with unpredictable sessional hours. As well as working on Hackney Playbus and 1:1 with a young teenager with Aspergers Syndrome, both of which I have done for nearly 2 years, I have just started working on an Adventure Playground of children with disabilities and special needs based in Hackney. It’s a fantastic and crazy place to work. I certainly can’t say I am ever bored at work.

I am really enjoying being around some amazing people with a brilliant playwork ethos; child-led, rule breaking, boundary pushing, based on the personality of the child not their diagnosis. It’s fantastic seeing the creative ways playworkers use to interact with the kids. For example, there is one child who enjoys going into a particular part of the soft-play area which makes it impossible to get them out and then taking all their cloths off. A team of staff are on hand to initiate all kinds of games that might possibly lead to this child deciding they are going to put their clothes on and come out. Some have included one staff member putting the clothes on and all other staff complementing them loudly on their excellent fashion sense, continuing a previous game of running from a tiger…which obviously requires getting dressed(!) and bursting into renditions of ABBA songs and inviting her to dance. Brilliant. Can you imagine how differently a school (for example) would deal with this kind of behaviour. I LOVE Playwork.

I’ve also been making notebooks and you can see my collection so far here in my Online Shop. Hopefully you’ll see a dramatic improvement in the picture quality of the books as I am learning more and more about how best to present things as well as getting to grips with my camera. I was chuffed recently to recieve a book order from Australia(!!) and wrapped it up like a present to post it. I got some really lovely feedback;

I received the notebook safe and sound. Thank you so much for asking. Its tucked away in a draw waiting for an upcoming trip to Thailand.. I always keep a journal when I am away somewhere. Kinda nice too look back on. Fill it with memories and what not. You did a really good job with it. Will be buying for you again.

Very exciting! I then got a lovely message from someone else on Etsy;

Hello, I absolutely LOVE your a5 notebooks. I’m wondering if you are able to do some with lined pages? I would use them as university books.  I’ve looked everywhere for good quality paper notebooks with interesting cover designs and these are the only ones I’ve found without going “status” moleskine. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Ooooo, how exciting is that! I’ve put off making lined books previously for the simple reason that…I don’t know where to get the lines from. Sounds stupid  I know, but to make an A5 lined notebook you need horizontally lined landscape A4 paper. Haveing looked before I knew I couldn’t buy it anywhere so I drew then lines myself. Here is my first lined notebook (click on the picture to see the inside);

The lines inside are a bit too dark so I’m working on making them more faint before I make more but whatch out for this space if you’re more into lines.

Right. I’m off to enjoy my first proper day off for 14 days after an action packed half term.


Novermber 30th and the fight of our lives

4 Dec

On Novermber 30th I was out on strike as a member of Unison. I have no idea if Unison is the right union for the work I do. In the work I do (other than the printing and book making) I either have no colleagues or they don’t see the point of being in a union because they work for a community charity. The strike was about pensions. I work 3 different jobs, none of which have a contract so none have sick pay…let alone a pension. But I went on strike. Like a lot of other precarious workers.

Why did I go on strike?

I went on strike because it’s precarious work or no work at all, because at some point I hope to be able to rely on being secure in old age and because I’ve really had enough of having no foreseeable security at all. I worked it out the other day. In the last 7 years I’ve worked 15 different jobs and lived in 8 different houses. Things aren’t getting any better. And I know it’s not just me, it’s not even a chunk of us. It’s all of us. It’s everything we hoped for ourselves. Gone.

I went on strike because at least it’s a start, despite the fact that the unions are well behind where they need to be and that their hands are tied by all the laws that broke the unions after the last big disputes. I’m doubtfull of their power and I’m doubtful that they wont just make a deal at some point that falls painfully short…but even then it’d just be a pensions deal…

At the Hackney Town Hall picket and rally I made placades with the kids

And in central london, where a march was held you saw old Red Ken speaking at the trade union rally at Embankment while at the same time hundreds of young workers, students and unemployed (people mostly not in unions) gathered at Picadilly Circus to see what the Occupy lot had planed because the mainstream march and rally falls so short, and there were more pockets of young un-unionised protest, college age students having a street party on The Strand, local support for picket lines (including in Hackney where 37 people were arrested while showing support) for example.

Occupy protesters on hang a banner from the roof of Panton House, offices of the highest paid CEO in the FTSE 100

And after one day of strike action the response from Cameron is pure and outright class war as if he thinks it’s all a big game. I’m sure that is how it feels to him. I doubt he’s ever even known someone who knows someone who struggled to get by or who uses the NHS.

I’ve heard teachers talking about possible plans for further strike action, not just a day here and there but I’m hearing weekly and then increasing from there- and thats still just on the issue of pensions. We’ve got the fight of our lives on our hands we really have. And we are going to have less and less to loose as those things that we hoped for for ourselves, our friends, family and community are stripped away and in their place we are left with…unpaid labour and nowhere to live. The kids involved in the summer riots knew it.

We need to get angry because they are coming to take our futures. And this was always going to happen. We’re only worth anything while we are making someone else some money. Now they don’t want us they act like we are robbing them. Thats the way this shitty system works. Thats the way it’ll always work, no matter how much we fiddle with the edges.

It’s now or never…

Sometimes life gets in the way of printing

23 Oct

What a crazy few months it’s been.

Personally I have helped support the young person with Aspergers Syndrome that I work 1-2-1 with to start settling into a new school. It’s a real challenge for people with very complex needs to be understood and included in mainstream settings. Staff in schools are all working at capacity and taking the time out to get to grips with a particular young persons needs too often falls to the bottom of the priorities. In the mean time, a fantastic young person it made to feel like they are the one failing. There’s lots to be done. I hope that soon the school will get to grips with her needs and she will flourish there.

I’ve been working on the Hackney Playbus. We’ve been thinking of ways to loby to try to secure funding for spring. We are currently commissioned by Sure Start Children’s Centres and no matter what you have heard about Hackney’s Children’s Centres not being hit by cuts, they certainly are on a much tighter budget. To find out more about Hackney Playbus check out their website  and if you know anyone you might like to support us please pass it on.

I’ve also moved house but still based in Hackney. They say it’s one of the most stressful things you can do and they really aren’t exagerating. Especially when London is facing a massive housing crisis. There just isn’t anywhere coming up for rent and the places that are around seem to be about £100 more expensive a month than they were a year ago. So I find myself in an unusually precarious housing position at the moment, which has led to there being less printing. I’m hoping to get back to it asap.

Things are getting tough and people are fighting back. The Ocupy movement is springing up all over the world, and London has it’s very own occupations at St Pauls and now Finsbury Square. I went to St Pauls the day it started but haven’t been back. What do people make of it?

And we’ve witnessed a serious fight over the eviction of Dale Farm traveller’s site in Essex. I was lucky enough to hear some of the residents speak about what happened at a meeting yesterday. They are going to carry on fighting and the supporters are going to be setting up a Travellers’ Solidarity Network. I hope to get involved. I’ll post more news as I find out more.

The days are getting shorter but the weather is still beautifully mild. It’s been a beautiful Autumn that almost let me believe that it was still summer. With Autumn comes new beginnings. Not so far for me at them moment but I’m seeking them out.

Well, just a quick message to restart the regular posting. Hope everyone is well.

The Riots

28 Aug

I live in Hackney and I work in my local community. On the afternoon of Monday 8th August, I left my house and went outside. I’d heard there were loads of police around and that things were looking tense. I thought, I could either stay at home and wait for second hand news of what was happening, or I could go out and see for myself. I felt like I understood what the riots were about, and I knew I wouldn’t be at risk.

A little after 4pm I steped out into a thick atmosphere and made my way to Mare Street. I got as far as St Johns church yard garden before seeing a big group of police surrounded by a big group of people. Someone else in the park said that the police had got all the shops to shut and were stopping and searching people. Tensions grew. One person didn’t cooperate and they may have tried to arrest them. The riot police then pushed everyone out of the church yard and away from the Narrow Way. Luckily I’d bumped into a friend and we ended up being pushed out towards Clarence Road. Everyone in the park was mocking the police, shouting over exagerated comedy orders and refering to them as storm troopers. Not many people have got much time for them round here, and that’s not for no reason.

From the top of the Narrow Way we looked up Clarence Road and could see a street filled with young people in hoods and with face masks. Police pushed us away as rocked started flying in their direction. Me and a few others went to Clapton Square and cut onto Clarence Road further up. People were building barricades, the atmosphere was electric but not threatening at all. They were scaring away people with cameras but appart from that, there were loads of people just milling about, watching what was happening.

Some shops in Hackney did get looted or got their wondows smashed. A JD sport, a phone shop, an off license, several bookies, several banks. The focus, however was here on Clarence Road. The aim was a fight with the police.

Terrible things happened over those few days. People got killed, houses and small shops burned. Anger is an ugly thing.

Since the Tottenham riots a few days before, I could feel the tension in myself. The phrase ‘mindless thuggery’ kept going round and round in my head. And the backlash in the media and in the opinions of people who seemed to know little and care even less about finding out about the areas affected. I knew where the anger came from. I’ve watched as the police stop and search young people time and time again. I’ve seen the dispersal zone notifications that prevent young people from being on the streets in greater numbers than pairs, including in parks. On the way to work I go past the site of the death of  Godwin Lawson, stabbed to death in gang violence in March 2010. 1 of 19 teenagers murdered in 2010. I’ve heard young teenagers refuse to leave their neighbourhood for fear of walking down the wrong street. I’ve spoken to youth workers in Hackney fighting to save their own jobs from being cut. I’ve talked to mums about cuts in children’s services. I’ve lost work from cuts to school holiday playschemes. I’ve been on JSA and been treated like scum by job centre staff. I struggle to get and keep work despite good a-levels, a good university degree, 2 NVQs and my best efforts and I certainly struggle to pay rent.

The day after the Hackney riots I went to Clarence Road again and spoke to some people who were out and about there. Loads of people were around. Neighbours talking together. The message was pretty much universal. This wasn’t a supprise. The government had to start listening to young people who now have no future. People pointing to the scrapping of EMA, the closure of youth centres, the cutting of youth workers, the rise in uni fees and police harassment. Lots thought the police had it coming. All of them said that they understood why young people were angry, but that they couldn’t burn up their own communities.

I dug around online to try to get to grips with how the media were reporting it. I found some but few useful, meaningful things. Things from before the riots that gave an indication of what was to come:

In the aftermath of Tottenham:

In the aftermath of Crydon:

In the aftermath of Hackney:

That last video says a lot. A bit that particularly strikes me:

I’ll tell you a quick story. Two dogs dies in a car that was owned by the police. They started an enquiry there and then, it was announced that was what they were going to do. They suspended the officers that was involved. That’s what they did. This guy that got shot, for whatever reason it was, nothing got said. They didn’t even go and see the family. And that told everybody in this environment that we’re nobody. The youngsters are the ones really that are more braver than the people of my age, because they reacted. Because they’ve got nothing to lose. And you know what, that’s a sad indictment on the society that we live in at the moment.

And for every piece of media that talked to anyone involved, that asked questions and that took a minute to think, there’s been a million ignorant, racist thoughtless and useless articles, discussions and interviews. At the end of the day, it’s happening, there are reasons and whether or not someone in Surrey or Westminster thinks they are reason enough is completely irrelevent.

We had the mainstream media giving David Starkey plenty of broadcasting time to tell everyone that he thinks Enoch Powel was right and that ‘the whites are turning black’.

I’ve watched that clip and was pretty disturbed. I recomend watching these rap remixes for some light relief:

But it’s not just Starkey that’s stuck in the dark ages. We’ve had journalists asking why weren’t the police “clubbing these looters like baby seals, which is what they deserved”? which sounds bad enough but try reading the whole article…

There was also anti-Europe Tory Member of the European Union, Roger Helmer who Tweeted “Time to get tough. Bring in the army. Shoot the rioters.”

And don’t forget Mr Cameron, Prime Minister with a grand total of 23% of people in the country supporting him at the polls (that calculation is including those that did not vote) with his speechs outside number 10 and in parliamant which both mearly nod towards his plans for law changes, removal of civil liberties and further attacks on communities that have been bearing the brunt of someone elses bad choices for years
And while you’re watching Dave talk about responsibile youth, take a minute to reflect upon how responsible he was in his younger days

In the wake of the riots we’ve seen councils threaten to evict whole families off the back of 1 individuals involvement in the riots. The first council to announce their plans and serve the notice was Wandsworth. It looks like other councils are set to follow. Westminster, for example, has made the pledge but as yet not served the notices. A group of 20-30 people went along to a protest outside the house of the leader of Wandswoth Council. It was a calm but vocal protest until officers decided it was all a bit too calm for them. They intimidated the crowd and then arrested 1 person for swearing.

People have been handed down extreme sentences for minor crimes, or things that previously weren’t crimes at all. Nicholas Robinson will be in prison for 6 months for stealing water costing £3.50. Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan were given 4 years each for posting stuff on Facebook. Ursula Nevin was given 6 months in prison for just acceptng a pair of looted shorts. At appeal this got revised to 75 hours community service.

Police and courts have also refused bail to a lot of people. People that have not been found guilty of anything and many who are only charged with minor crimes may be held in prison for months before they’ve even had a trial. It seems now, after the leak of the Met Police’s ‘Prisoner Processing Strategy’ this was planned. A friend of mine happens to be one of those being held. We have no idea when he might be bailed. Some suggestions it might not be until December.

And, since the riots, there have been a spate of people dying in police custody or operations, 3 in 1 week.

So here we are. Many are cheering on the government’s moves to further kurb civil liberties and have little interest in admititng that it might not be mindless and that there are causes other than ‘lack of responsibility’ and ‘bad parenting’. As I said before, at the end of the day it doesn’t much matter how many people condem what happened. While the underlying issues are still there, there will be more riots.

To finish, while rap is one of the many things being wrongly pointed to as a cause of riots, it’s musicians continue to tell it like it is on the streets. This is Lethal Bizzle’s Babylon’s Burning the Ghetto, released in 2007. This is the way the streets have felt since before then.