The headline stats remind us how busy this summer has been – 99 play days in 27 urban and rural communities over six weeks. That equates to 594 hours of free play for more than 1,000 players making 4,044 play visits.
Behind these numbers there are stories of friendships, fallouts and fun. Community-based play can be exhilarating and exasperating in the blink of an eye, and by September, totally exhausting for our wonderful team of Play Rangers and Young Volunteers.
This is a county of contrasts, and nobody sees this more than Team PG as we deliver play in the heart of both disadvantaged and more affluent communities. For low-income families, our free outdoor play is a lifeline throughout the long summer holidays. Assured of a welcome by Team PG, hundreds of children co-create extraordinary play adventures using the play resources that we transport around the county. For more affluent families and communities, our self-directed and ‘edge of chaos’ play can at first be a challenge. Some children spend most of their out of school time in structured activities, and need encouragement to direct their own play. We give them plenty of that!
Parents and grandparents have been out in force, and our community play gatherings have turned into wonderful sociable gatherings for them, as their children and grandchildren get stuck into some proper outdoor play! We’ve also noticed families following us around the county, bringing picnics and enjoying some really good days out.
Our Play Rangers extend friendship and support to residents of all ages, and our kindness has been reciprocated this summer in bucket loads. Cakes, cups of tea and toilets are the best way to make a Play Ranger happy. Six hours of play every day for six weeks is physically demanding and these social actions really help us to keep going. One lovely neighbour even let us use their hosepipe to make a fabulous water slide on a very hot day!
We have lots of animal visitors to our play sessions, and in Mickleton a young person arrived on Merlin the Pony. Not to be outdone, Jude the Cat came to every play session in Barton, Gloucester, and in Hempstead, Gloucester, children and Play Rangers found a very hungry and thirsty hedgehog who after rest and recuperation in a little cardboard hotel with room service of slugs and water, went on its way.
It’s not just hedgehogs that have been hungry. Low-income families have found the six-week holiday tough without free school meals. Rangers were often spotted bringing a bit extra in their lunch boxes to share, and in some communities we have provided healthy lunches to fill the hunger gap. Free fruit and water are provided by us everywhere, and are always much appreciated.
Through community-based play we meet lots of young people facing difficulties who develop strong attachments with Rangers and Young Volunteers. Throughout the summer we have been there for them, coping with some very upset and angry children, and helping them make sense of things through outdoor play. Our understanding of this vital aspect of our work has led us to pilot a new project, funded by Gloucestershire County Council’s Targeted Support Team, providing Early Help through therapeutic outdoor playwork (report coming soon).
This summer has shown why Play Gloucestershire is ‘Playwork Team of the Year’. Throughout, the Play Rangers have been playful, energetic, engaged and totally committed to providing some great outdoor play and support for children. Our Young Volunteers have brought friendship and fun with them on a daily basis, showing kindness and compassion that is truly wonderful. Team PG, I salute you all on a great summer of play – Gloucestershire is a better place to live and play in with you lot around!
Director of Play
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