Let Us Play

The History of the Birmingham Adventure Playground Movement: Call-Out / Interviewees wanted

Do you have memories of playing at adventure playgrounds in
Birmingham between the 1960s & 1980s?

Maybe you played at Balsall Heath, Sparkbrook, Handsworth or Selly Oak
(Coronation Road) Adventure Playground? Or perhaps at Hockley Port Youth Centre?

We have secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Foundation to explore the history of the Adventure Playground movement in Birmingham, specifically to explore two lost or ‘ghost’ adventure playground sites that emerged in the post-war period (Balsall Heath & Sparkbrook) and one contemporary site (Meriden, Chelmsley Wood).* We will be working with young people in close proximity to the playground sites to set up three ‘junior researcher’ groups (who would undertake oral history training & conduct interviews to go into an exhibition, website & publication. They will undertake oral history training, conduct interviews with people connected to the playgrounds & find historic images & information. In addition, they will interview their own families about memories of ‘play’ and help to promote a call out for archive material relating to the wider adventure playground movement in Birmingham. The research undertaken by young people will be presented as exhibitions in public libraries within the same geographical area. It will also be captured in a publication & website.

Do you have any photos of playing at adventure playgrounds in Birmingham? Would you be interested in been interviewed about your memories of playing at adventure playgrounds in Birmingham? Please email us at generalpublicprojects@gmail.com or phone 07792736125

*Balsall Heath & Sparkbrook Adventure Playgrounds are historical sites that emerged in the late 1960s. These were temporary ‘junk playgrounds’ set-up on patches of urban waste-land designed to offer city children access to outdoor play. Set-up by local playworkers and local people, these sites were stocked with ‘loose parts’ of discarded wood, abandoned building materials and other detritus as children were encouraged to construct their own play environments. Although these sites have now disappeared their legacy lives on locally in terms of play provision. The former Balsall Heath Adventure Playground became Balsall Heath Children’s Centre & City Farm whilst the permanent Farm Park playground today owes its origins to the Sparkbrook Adventure Playground. Meriden Adventure Playground in Chelmsley Wood is the last remaining ‘real’ adventure playground in Birmingham (in that it embraces ‘risky play & a junk aesthetic) but it was only set-up in 2008. Its origins though, particularly the determination of local people to create a ‘risky’ play space for their children, represents a significant contemporary heritage that needs capturing.

‘Let Us Play’

The History of the Birmingham Adventure Playground Movement is part of ‘Let Us Play’, a larger public art project by General Public exploring the state of play today. This project – live in 2019 – also includes a proposed alternative forest school programme, a 3 sided Marxist football tournament, straw bale sculpture, a play symposium & collaborations with academics at the University of Birmingham where we’re currently artists in residence.