By Andy Hinchcliffe

Andy is a member of Pop-Up Adventure Play’s wonderful board of directors. He has been working in the playwork field for many years and has many stories to tell. We are very pleased today to have him re-post his reflections on our blog about his adventures in Eastbourne.

Well, what a crazy, fun-filled week! I’ve been to Eastbourne and attended the 13th National Playwork Conference and what a privilege it was. I met so many interesting people, engaged in some fantastic, mind-boggling discussions and came away feeling revived, energised and ready to dive into some new playwork adventures!

Attending the National Playwork Conference

I attended the conference on behalf of Pop-Up Adventure Play (privileged director duties) as Suzanna and Morgan are currently play working alongside Malarkey around Southeast Australia.

National Playwork Conference 1

During the conference I attended several workshops, my first with Tim Gill discussing his latest piece of research ‘The Play Return’ – where the discussion focussed on whether evidence on play benefit is a ‘gateway or a trap’ in moving forward in the playwork sector – Professor Phil Jones followed Tim and offered a critique on Tim’s research. During Phil’s session, Tim was present which made the debate all the more interesting. We explored issues around play benefits and children’s rights and agreed that they are generally discussed as separate issues when, in fact, they are one.

I attended sessions with Adrian Voce discussing play policy at a government level and a humorous skype interview with Professor Peter Gray which involved several technical problems and a visit from his nurse!

During the hectic schedule, I still managed to have some time to reflect on some of the discussions I’d encountered. It was great to have some real thinking time and what a beautiful reflective backdrop I had!

National Playwork Conference 2

Tuesday evening saw the 6th National Playwork Awards and what a grand celebration it was! Pop-Up Adventure Play was shortlisted for two awards ‘Training Provider’ and ‘Playwork in Other Contexts’ – and although we didn’t win this year it was fantastic to see Pop-Up being given rank alongside some leading, well-established playwork organisations across the country in recognition of all their amazing work!

The awards commenced and we were greeted by entertainers and magicians and fed some wonderful food. The evening was filled with fun, laughter, drinks (and lots of it) and some invaluable discussions. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm and, as I have said previously, an amazing experience to be in a room with over 300 people, all there because of their love and dedication to the playwork sector!

National Playwork Conference 3

My favourite session of the conference was with Bob Hughes, the room was crammed with people waiting to hear his wisdom. He spoke for around 30 minutes and then handed the floor to the audience.

The discussion that emanated was fantastic – it jumped from quantum physics to modern art, dreams, ritual, and unconsciousness amongst other bizarre thoughts! The most thought-provoking item for me was a passing comment made by Wendy Russell about dreams. This played on my mind a lot – the uncontrollable, unexplainable, bizarre, personal, spontaneous nature of dreams, and it’s linked to children’s play. This discussion has sparked some serious thought and reflection for me as a playworker and something I plan to pursue further, so watch this space!

What a jam-packed few days! I’ve loved it – Thank you Pop-Up Adventure Play for sending me, Thank you Meynell for organising it and thank you to all the amazing playworkers I met along the way who have refuelled my playworking drive – I can’t wait for next year!

To read more about Andy, please visit his blog. To join in with more Pop-Up Adventure Play fun, find us on Facebook and twitter, or visit our website,