We were invited by the wonderful folk at LeftCoast to run a couple of Fire and Den Building sessions in one of the residential areas in Blackpool, UK. On this occasion, Pop-Up’s Board Member, Andy, came to assist on the session as we playworkers never work alone, especially not when there are fires involved. It’s always good practice to work with another playworker, to protect yourself and the children, and to have someone to share your reflections with after the session.

Unfortunately, the first day was rained off. It’s particularly difficult to start a fire in the middle of a rainy waterlogged field. Fortunately for us, the second day was gloriously sunny. Here are some photos of our fire and den building session:

children around a fire

We did the fire stuff first. The children seemed very subdued around the fire.


planning playwork

They sat patiently watching the fire, and exchanging stories and discussing their plans.


child climbing trees

One of the young people liked to climb trees. So he did.

children outdoor cooking

We spent some time doing outdoor cooking. We made and ate a lot of food – jacket potatoes, toasties, toasted marshmallows, smores and….


homemade popcorn maker

…popcorn! That’s our homemade popcorn maker!


kids making dens

As the fire cooled down, we started making dens.


tree climbing, part of den building

The children said “we need a tree climber”, so the tree climber climbed trees as part of the den building.


giant den-building.

We used ropes, sheets, blankets and a parachute to make one giant den.


Children inside a den

The children spent some time inside, hanging out and enjoying each other’s company.

children drumming too

They did a little drumming too!

Drumming beyond the den

The drumming briefly travelled beyond the den…


…and rested near the slowly dying fire.

After several rounds of chase and a few games of hide and seek, we put out the fire safely and started to pack away. The children asked us if we would come back again. We couldn’t answer their question, but we definitely took it as a sign that this was a good session, enjoyed by everyone.


Collecting stripey caterpillars

Just before we left, we collected some stripey caterpillars stared at them for a little while.

This was the first time we have worked in this area, and the small group that came really seemed to enjoy themselves. We’re hoping that this will be the start of many play sessions in this area, and are leaving it in the capable hands of LeftCoast to promote more outdoor play.

I think there were only about 7 children at the most during the session, which is a small but good size. Sometimes I prefer working with a smaller group of children. The play is a little more intense, and as a playworker, I somehow have to be more alert. I have to rely on my playworker skills to negotiate play frames, and to respond to play cues when they present themselves. The secret and amazing side benefit of becoming hyper-aware of my own actions is that I then become a witness to many tiny play moments which might otherwise be missed if I didn’t have my playworker hat on. It’s the day after the session as I type this blogpost. I ache everywhere and I still smell vaguely of wood smoke. That to me is also a sign of a good session.

Andy looked like he had a great time too – a little sunburnt by the end, and happily tired. It was a great opportunity for both of us to step away from computers, paperwork and adults, and actually do a little bit of playwork. We look forward to more exciting adventures in Blackpool – watch this space!

For more photos of our session, please visit our Facebook page. For more from Pop-Ups Zan, please visit her personal blog

By Zan