Let Us Play

Let Us Play: Information

Let Us Play

We are pleased to launch part #1 of a new project ‘Let Us Play’, an investigation of the ‘state of play’ today. Initially this involves the collation of an archive of material to capture the Birmingham adventure playground movement of the 1960-1980’s (funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund). This will be followed by a wider ‘live period’ of events and exhibitions in 2021/22. This has been initiated through an Arts Council R&D grant. This has seen the development of a new piece of moving image work, a Sparkbrook adventure playground digital trail / app, mapping of play in the city from the 1960’s through to the present day, collaborations with academics at UoB and developing a series of creative play weeks / exhibitions in close proximity to the old playground sites.

The History of the Adventure Playground Movement in Birmingham

The National Lottery Heritage Fund are funding our project exploring the history of the Adventure Playground movement in Birmingham, specifically to look at three lost or ‘ghost’ adventure playground sites that emerged in the post-war period (Balsall Heath, Sparkbrook & Handsworth) and one contemporary site (Meriden, Chelmsley Wood).* We have been working with young people in close proximity to the playground sites at three schools (Ark Tindal Balsall Heath, Christchurch Sparkbrook, St Annes Chelmsley Wood) to set up three ‘junior researcher’ groups who undertook oral history training and conducted interviews with people connected to the playgrounds. We have also been collecting archive material relating to the wider adventure playground movement in Birmingham. The oral histories and archive material will be presented in 2021 as part of a series of exhibitions and a publication.  

In the meantime, the first 13 of these interviews are now available online on this website:

Val Hart & Haqi Ali (Balsall Heath Adventure Playground late 1960s – 80s)
Ray Wills (Balsall Heath Adventure Playground late 1960s)
Geoff Gaisford (Sparkbrook Adventure Playground early 1960s)
Dave Swingle (Handsworth Adventure Playground early 1970s)
Haki Kapasi, Deby Morgan & Jo Bowen (Playtrain, Playwork & Coronation Road playground in the 1980s)
Ali Wood, Ellen Delaney (Meriden Adventure Playground 2008 onwards)
Simon Rix, Sharon Dunbar, Sarah Hulbert (Meriden Adventure Playground 2008 onwards)

Archive / Interviewee Call-out:

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

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.