It’s been 2 weeks since the Playwork Campference 2019 ended and I am surrounded by snotty tissues. No, I am not emotional that it is all over, this is just my compulsory post-project cold. I’ve got to say, this is the worst one I’ve had for a while so this project must have been big.

And I think it was. With 101 people joining us at this 4-day, 3-night event from 9 different countries, I think that this is one of the biggest projects I’ve ever had my hand in!

While I am forced to slow down, I have had thoughts on the event reflections. I have decided to take this opportunity to say thank you, on multiple fronts:

First, I would like to thank Jill of Bayou City Play and my wonderful work wife, Morgan. These two ladies formed the tidy and presentable part of the Campference 2019 Team, and I thank them for staying strong throughout the process of organising this event, for trusting me with the paperwork unquestioningly, and for their reassuring voices of reason during moments of stress and doubt. Thanks to both of them for making this process fun, for staying true to playwork and for occasionally playworking me. I am genuinely excited about any future projects we may do together!

Next on the event reflections, I would like to thank The Parish School, the wonderful staff there – especially Nancy Bewley – and I want to applaud Adventure Play at The Parish School – to Wes in particular – and the lovely children of AP. Thank you for opening up your site to be our home for 4 days. Thank you for letting us roam around your home turf for a few days and for being so welcoming too. Without your grounds, we won’t have been able to accommodate our campers. Without your kitchens we wouldn’t have been able to feed our delegates. Without your school we wouldn’t have been able to run our workshops or understand the significance of history on an adventurous play space. Thank you so much for saying “yes”.

Now I would like to thank all those who volunteered their time at Campference –

~ To our keynotes, Jill and Ali for their constant and knowledgeable presence throughout the event, and to every single one of you to presented too. Sorry about the time-keeping and technological mishaps – you are patient and kind people. Thank you for your wisdom, your stories, and your willingness to share.

~ A big thank you to those of you who flew along with our ever changing rota of responsibilities, who washed dishes, prepared food, washed pots, wrestled vegetables into foil, tracked down lost potatoes and took part in the biggest chilli party any Campference has ever seen. Thanks too to those who hung out with the children, who helped to ensure that parents who attended the Campference were able to find time to participate, who ran, who chased, who danced, climbed, hammered, and who ended up having a water fight. Thank you for using your playwork skills during this time.

~ Thank you for your fluidity and flexibility in the scheduling confusion, and for having the children’s best interest at the forefront of this gathering. A huge thank you to those who put up and took down tents that may not even have belonged to you, for those who created the outdoor shower and for those to braved it, and for those who snapped beautiful photos for yourself and for others. Thanks for spotting the armadillo, for checking out the baby frog, and for not running away screaming when the fire alarm sounded.

~ Thanks to the folks who mucked in at a moment’s notice, who helped to locate lost kitchen items, or had to pop out unexpectedly to get emergency supplies. Thanks to those who stepped out of their comfort zone to meet a new friend, who may have been scheduled with new faces to work in a strange task, and those who we called upon for advice and gave it honestly and freely.

~ Thanks to those who helped to clean toilets, who vacuumed endlessly, and whoever it was that kept skillfully disposing of the Unmarked Beverage Recycling. Particular mention too, to the person who helped us remove the (ahem) Disguarded Unmentionable from the middle of the campsite at the end of the Campference. You know who you are and you are awesome. You know who you all are, and you are all awesome. Thank you so much.

I know that I am rambling with these event reflections but I think it is important to continue this train of thought. My brain might be fuzzy with this dreadful cold, but my heart is still full. Bear with me as I carry on:

I want to thank all 88 adults and 13 children that came to this 4-day, 3-night event. Thank you for trusting us to create a schedule (sked-du-el / shed-du-el) that would be of interest to you. Thank you for making the journey to Houston from all over the world and believing in our promises that we will take care of your needs in terms of accommodation, food and workshops. We hope that we met all those needs and that you enjoyed your time with us. Thank you for making Campference 2019 the spectacular event that it was.

Lastly and importantly, I want to give my final thank you to Playwork. This is a field that embraces the uniqueness of all, and the playfulness of everyone: a lifestyle that so many of us have chosen to identify with, and tell the world about. I want to thank playwork for being the reason that 101 people got together on a cooler-than-usual February in Houston. I want to thank playwork for being the word that we have all discovered that describes that passion for children’s play advocacy, that love of children’s rights, and that fire in our bellies to do something more for children, for humanity. It is in the name of playwork that we get together and talk about intricacies in practice, we discuss our barriers and successes, and we share our dramatic and hilarious stories. It is because of playwork that we will continue to work, to gather like-minded folk together, and spend far too much time on social media. No matter how much hard work it is, we are thankful that is field exists, and we are doing our part to make it grow.

Here we all are, delegates from Campference 2019 on Adventure Play at The Parish School.

Here we all are, delegates from Campference 2019 on Adventure Play at The Parish School.

Playwork Campference 2019 was a spectacular event. If you want to be part of the next Playwork Campference or want to learn more about this one, throw us an email, or get in touch using Facebook or Twitter. We’re looking forward to even more amazing playwork moments.

By Zan