Press Release

London must take action to tackle decline of play in the capital

A new collection of essays, published today by Centre for London, has highlighted the value of play in the capital, but raised concerns about declining play opportunities through the privatisation of play space as well as cuts to investment and funding.

The 12 essays, written by experts including Paul Hocker, Director of London Play, Rosemary Watt-Wyness, Chief Executive of London Youth and Holly Donagh, Partnerships Director, A New Direction, emphasise that play is essential to people’s wellbeing, development and happiness. But 300,000 children in the capital won’t play outside today, 1 in 7 won’t visit a local green space in a given year and 15.5% of 15 year olds in London reported poor life satisfaction in 2014/5.

Together, the contributors highlight a number of policies which could help to tackle the decline in play, including:

  • Fund free play opportunities to ensure every London child has a childhood fit to equip them for the future, from Paul Hocker, Director of London Play
  • Create spaces to encourage intergenerational play as Geraldine Bedell, Writer and Author of London Essays visits the first nursery within a care home in the UK at Nightingale Hammerson in Wandsworth
  • Invest in residential centres and youth clubs, so young people to develop through play outside of the formal setting of school as argued for by Rosemary Watt-Wyness, Chief Executive of London Youth
  • The Mayor of London should appoint a Young Mayor to approach to planning through the eyes of children, suggests Holly Donagh, Partnerships Director, A New Direction
  • Create permanent performance spaces to give visibility and stability to the growing community of improvisers in London highlights Jules Munns, Artistic Director of The Nursery Theatre and Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread

Ben Rogers, Director of Centre for London said:
“The decline of children’s play opportunities in the capital is a crisis for future Londoners.

“We should not just be worried about the disappearance of play for children. People are drawn to London, not just to work, but also to play – which forms an important part of the London economy.

“As the Mayor consults on his London Plan, we must make sure that the capital retains and enhances its character as a global and local playground.”

Dinah Bornat, Mayor of London Design Advocate and Director of ZCD Architects said:

“This is a rich and interesting set of essays, tackling both the opportunities as well as the lack of freedom to play within London. Nowhere are these freedoms more lacking than in childhood, where the very definition of play ‘freely chosen, self directed and intrinsically motivated’ is routinely overlooked and largely misunderstood.

“London owes children and young people their right to play and be safe outside; a concept that should be enshrined in policy at a macro level and delivered down to the very detail in our local neighbourhoods.

“I welcome these essays as part of a broad discourse and hope that by continuing a discussion we will start to define the need, adapt our policies and allow children and young people their freedoms in our city.”