I am very proud to have been one of the founders of Playday back in 1987. I must say I am as astonished as I am delighted that it has grown into the biggest celebration of children’s play with around 1 million children enjoying over 600 locally-organised Playdays last year. Not bad for something invented in a pub in Hackney after we called a meeting about cuts to play provision – and nobody came!
By sheer accident we came up with a simple idea. On the first Wednesday of August, celebrate what you do, where you are, with what you have, and call it Playday. It can be any size and any shape, from a children’s picnic with a few friends to thousands enjoying a huge event in a park. Over the years we gradually built an infrastructure.
My friend Ken Meharg persuaded us we needed printed posters. The first ever (left) was drawn by my 5-year-old daughter Bridie and Ken screen-printed 200 individually unique posters for the princely sum of £50. I wrote the legend around the outside – and forgot to include Islington! So I spent a weekend adding it to each and every poster with very expensive indelible white markers. An early lesson in proof reading!
Later there was a website and annual Playday polls of 3,000 children, parents and other adults.
The results of these polls, the fact that there were hundreds of events all over the country and August was the ‘silly season’ when the media were desperate for stories got us local and national headlines.
But for me the real story of Playday is the thousands of local people and the hundreds of thousands of children who make it happen every year.