The London Borough of Islington is one of the most densely populated urban areas of the UK, with amongst the lowest green space provision per 1,000 population. So, for the children of Islington and their families, carers and friends, ensuring that there will always be somewhere for play, sport and the appreciation of nature is vital.
In 2010 a successful community campaign coordinated by Islington Play Association was begun, calling for local children to have somewhere secure to play. A postcard exhibition at the town hall and "March for Play" demonstrated the level of community concern.
So, in May 2012, the local authority agreed to legally protect Islington's Adventure Playgrounds and by September all twelve spaces were dedicated through the Fields in Trust Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge. Each protected space will remain so in perpetuity for future generations to enjoy. For the children and young people of Islington, their twelve Adventure Playgrounds give them the chance to explore, play, develop and connect with other children.
Established in 1925, Fields in Trust believes green spaces are good, they do good and they need to be protected for good, and the work done at the Islington Adventure Playgrounds highlights the importance of green spaces to children and the wider local community.
Christine Lehmann, Commissioning and Quality Manager - Play and Youth at Islington Borough Council, explains more about these special spaces: "Our adventure playgrounds are places where children and young people can really indulge their imaginations. They play freely, make new friends, express themselves creatively, explore and have fun. And they can do this safely and securely – because they’re staffed by playworkers, so children feel more able to test themselves physically. They get opportunities to explore the natural elements that make up our world. They build dens, treehouses and campfires, climb trees and search for insects". Crucially, all these adventure playgrounds are free at the point of access.
Christine continues, "Play is such an inclusive activity, and a great opportunity for us to empower young people so that they can be adventurous, take risks and develop independence - all skills that will benefit them and their communities now and in the future".
"It really was a key mission for us to ensure that children and communities in the future have the same access to nature and to these green spaces."
Christine Lehmann, Islington Borough Council
Christine acknowledges the key role that the adventure playgrounds have in the local communities. "They're well used, particularly after school and during the school holidays, and being close to estates where people don't tend to have their own green space, they provide invaluable access to nature". The playgrounds also host family days and community events, giving more people access to all the fun activities on offer and helping to reinforce their position as community hubs. In fact, these spaces are visited by over 3,000 children a total of almost 110,000 times each year.
So, the team knew these multiple sites, which contribute so much to so many, had to be protected for everyone and for all time. The council team were already aware of Fields in Trust's national programmes. Christine explains, "We knew that Fields in Trust had the skills and expertise to enable us to protect the land and safeguard it forever". And so, all twelve Islington Adventure Playgrounds were protected in 2012 as part of the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge, which dedicated green spaces in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Christine says they found working with Fields in Trust "really brilliant". "The whole process was informative and supportive – they took the time to visit the spaces and see the benefits and feel the difference they make. And I can't emphasise enough how incredible it is that these spaces have been protected. It's a national concern that green spaces are going, and we’re in the fortunate position of having twelve protected spaces".
To any other landowners thinking about applying to protect their parks and green spaces, Christine says "definitely do it - speak to Fields in Trust. It's more straightforward than you’d imagine, and the process can also open doors and conversations with people about funding, access and ideas for the future".
"Play is such a vital part of childhood, and we're proud and delighted that our adventure playgrounds are protected with Fields in Trust so that children can continue to have access to play spaces".