As a kid I loved to play. I spent all my free time out in the streets, fields and playgrounds with my friends simply exploring, playing and having fun. I hark back to those days and feel that children today are missing out on those experiences. I think society as a whole would be a lot better if we could get back some of the freedoms and opportunities to play that I had as a kid.
You know the old adage – you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone? The API’s Nowhere to Play report has uncovered an alarming decline in playground provision in England. This downward trend is happening fast and let’s not forget that once you lose a park the chances are it’s gone forever. These spaces – vital for our mental and physical health and for community cohesion – have perhaps been taken for granted and if we lose them we will regret it.
We had unprecedented national press coverage for our Nowhere to Play campaign when it first launched in April. It seemed to resonate and people engaged with it. It’s the first time an API campaign has managed to get into the mainstream press and the fact the campaign was covered so extensively was a great achievement for the whole team.
Then the campaign was interrupted by the general election which meant we didn’t get chance to follow it up. We are therefore looking forward to re-engaging and driving the campaign forward in October.
We’re at a pivotal moment in the ongoing national drive to protect our parks, playgrounds and green spaces. Fields in Trust will be publishing research soon showing, for the first time at national level, a direct link between public parks and green spaces and health and wellbeing. And the government has formed the Parks Action Group to explore options to ensure parks can be enjoyed for generations to come. I believe we now have a real chance to make a significant impact.
My ideal outcome is simple; increased funding for play areas across the country. Access to safe and free areas to play is essential for a healthy and happy childhood, as fundamental as getting enough sleep and having a good diet. Playgrounds are especially important in deprived areas where, for many children, they represent their only opportunities to be active and socialise with peers. Without them we are driving children indoors, onto their screens and away from each other.
If we fail to provide these spaces we are fuelling the childhood obesity epidemic and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Playgrounds are a vital tool in tackling inactivity. More and more research shows that children are generally moving much less than they used to, establishing unhealthy behaviours which endure into adulthood.
Aside from Nowhere to Play, the expansion of our Executive Committee has been a very positive development. We’ve added more representation from smaller companies and play companies, not just manufacturers, and we now have more women on the committee. It’s a much more diverse and representative team for our members.
I think seeing us engage with the members, hearing what they want us to do and then delivering on that is the most satisfying aspect of what the API has been doing.
We have a very committed and passionate executive committee which is what we need. But the flip side of this is that trying to get this very diverse team to agree can, at times, be a bit like herding cats! However, despite this and other challenges we’ve worked collaboratively, prioritising our resources in the best interests of our members.
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