Places of Play, Health and Wellbeing
We were at Saracen House in Possil Park after being kindly invited to attend a conference on 'Places & Spaces for Health and Wellbeing' run by Impact Engagement. The conference hosted 9 speakers from various sectors presenting ideas and findings on the importance of integrating play, sport and active travel within our communities.
We were particularly interested in hearing from speakers such as Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive of Play Scotland and Yvonne Kucuk, Scottish Labour Councillor at Glasgow City Council, and a keen adventure play enthusiast.
Firstly, we would like to thank Margaret Layden at NG Homes who kindly gave us a mention during her presentation for the community consultation we carried out at Carron on their behalf. Let's hope we can progress this project further for the good folks of Carron!
"Close your eyes, and think...Where was your favourite place to play?"
Marguerite Hunter Blair representing Play Scotland began her presentation by engaging her audience in reminiscence; asking them a question to which she already knew the answer; surrounded by nature, plants, trees, green and water with no adult supervision or instructed play, but yet we continue to churn out these traditional playgrounds, similar to that of a prison yard, according to Marguerite. As we know, Play is for everyone and everywhere and is the means by which we learn about ourselves, others and the world around us. So why should it be localised to an enclosed destination?
We were encouraged to hear thinking, in line with our own, that looked to promote play in places beyond the playground. Marguerite claims that she is asked "So, what do you want? 200 more playgrounds?"
No! We want a return of old fashioned creative, risky play fraught with discovery and free from restriction. We want everyday playable, engaging, exciting and challenging spaces. We want play...outside of the home and beyond the playground.
Marguerite strengthened the argument for an outdoor, active childhood by providing us with a compelling info-graphic detailing 5 alarming consequences of a childhood spent indoors. Today’s children are living increasingly static and sedate lifestyles, relying heavily on mobile technology such as smart-phones and tablets to satisfy their imaginations. As such, Marguerite explains that during this change, we have seen an increase in conditions such as obesity, depression, myopia, osteoporosis and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
Efforts must be made to tackle the prevention of the problem rather than waiting on the problem to arise. Not only would it save the NHS millions every year (depression/mental illness alone cost the NHS £14billion in 2010/11) but we would begin to see an improvement on stats such as; 1 in 7 five year olds in Scotland are either overweight or clinically obese, and 40% of Britons suffer from myopia or short-sightedness (Telegraph, 2015).
Furthermore, as described by Rona Gibb at Paths for All, if 1% of the population moved from an unhealthy to a healthy pathway, it could save society £2,423 per person per year.
Risk in play was a strong theme of the mornings talks. Risk benefit is a well known concept to us involved in play provision yet it is still not a consideration for most parents with Yvonne Kucuk admitting that before she got involved in play she was in fact "doing her child a disservice" by making every effort to ensure he was as safe as possible as opposed to as safe as necessary.
Yvonne Kucuk of Glasgow City Council delivered a passionate presentation providing the sound-bite "Rather break a bone than break a spirit", epitomising the ambitious ethos of the case study presented. A keen advocate of adventure play, Yvonne described the benefits of "risky play", talking us through the newly built Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock.
Taking inspiration from her time in London, learning of the post-war adventure play movement, Baltic Street Adventure Play Park addresses a pressing need by providing a facility for kids to play, as there were no parks, playgrounds or children's services within walking distance of Dalmarnock's residential area at this time.
We heard from others throughout the day such as Rory Mitchell from NHS Scotland who discussed the impact of the environment on health and wellbeing, and an insight into the research of how people experience a place. He also shared with us the ongoing work of the NHS and Architecture and Design Scotland in developing the new 'Place Standard'.
We also heard from Euan Hall, Chief Executive of The Land Trust who provided a stark breakdown of the costs associated to inactivity, as well as depicting how to encourage and design safe, social, community spaces. Euan highlighted some shocking statistics on health in relation to inactivity as opposed to obesity. Inactivity actually costs the NHS £91m per annum - we need a proactive solution to negate these reactive measures and costs. We need to promote a new culture of active play through the design of place.
Euan was also very keen to stress the sustainability and maintenance considerations of design, the lack of which will ultimately lead to future failures.
All in all, the event was very informative and the passion and knowledge shared really helped to strengthen the argument for Play in the city! Play is an essential part of everyone’s life. The impulse to play is innate, and is a biological, psychological and social necessity. Play is known to enhance cognitive development, improve mental and physical health, reduce anti-social behaviour, and increase the perceptions and value of the areas which provide for it. We could all do with a little more play in our lives!