Playday – and play every day
As a dad, a granddad, and now on the way to being a great granddad, children’s play has been a passion of mine as well as a career for over 40 years. A particular memory is of a day in 1986 when a few of us called a children’s play campaign meeting – and nobody turned up.
As you do, we went down the pub to drown our sorrows and try to work out what to do next. Somehow, and we can’t remember exactly how, we came up with the idea of having a day for play.
Back then was a very different world, but some things were much like where we find ourselves in 2019:
- years of austerity and massive cuts to funding for local services
- a surge in road traffic forcing children away from traditional street play
- ordinary families struggling to make ends meet; a loss of children’s freedom to play.
We had to make sure that Playday was something that anyone anywhere could be part of at little or no cost. We decided it should be a celebration of children’s play rather than a protest campaign, so that we could get people and organisations of all political persuasions behind it.
The message was simple: ‘Celebrate what you do, where you are, with what you have and call it Playday!’
From just a couple of events in 1987, Playday grew to around a dozen in London by 1989, went national in 1991 and is now the biggest celebration of children’s play in Europe. Playday celebrations range from family teddy bear picnics to huge events for thousands in parks every year on the first Wednesday in August.
But Playday is not just about one day. It is about play every day and everywhere that children live. As one parent said, ‘It's created a real feel good factor in an area that has a lot of deprivation and that hasn't had anything like this in living memory’.
Over the years it has grown into something the media pick up on because it is a very local as well as a national story. The Playday way of people making it happen for themselves, while being part of a national campaign, has also been a catalyst for local action to make year-round and lasting changes, for example helping to inspire the parent-led Playing Out street play movement.
I’m very proud of being a founder of Playday, and delighted it is still going strong after 32 years. I salute the thousands of people who have organised Playdays of all shapes and sizes for millions of children over the years. And I’ll be at a very important Playday 2019 in the grandchildren’s back garden. Or who knows, maybe with their friends and neighbours out on the street? You never know with Playday!
Written by Mick Conway, co-founder of Playday and playwork consultant
Wednesday 7 August
Playday is an annual UK celebration of children's right to play, that always happens on the first Wednesday in August.
Playday is as an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of children's play and the need for quality play provision every day of the year in all areas of Wales and the rest of the UK.
To find events happening in your area visit the Playday website – there’s also lots of tips and ideas if you decide to organise your own celebration.