We’re very pleased to announce that we are co-hosting the Playwork Virtual Campference 2022 on 15th October 2022 @12pm-4pm EST. Cost: $10-$50. Financial Assistance available. Registration form here.

It’s good to ask yourself every so often, why are we doing this? Why are we doing it this way? Of course, these days I’m also often asking myself ‘why did I come in here for’ but hey! We’re all doing the best we can.

Campference is just about the biggest thing we do, and this year it’s virtual. Staying online again isn’t going to meet everyone’s expectations, and we are also very sad not to be in person, sitting around a fire together and eating wheelbarrow potatoes! It wasn’t an easy choice to make, but we believe it is the right choice to make.

Why Campference?

A key aspect of our original idea with Campference was to help welcome playworkers from all over to visit an amazing site. Folks in the UK and other countries might take it for granted, but so many playwork practitioners and students have never (likely will never) be able to see a great adventure playground for themselves, or hang out casually with highly experienced playwork mentors. That had been true in the USA for decades, and bouncing Campference regionally helped change that for about 100 people. Eureka Villa in Val Verde, CA (2017) and Adventure Playground at The Parish School (2019) were fantastic co-hosts and helped showcase some of the many ways that good adventure playgrounds look and feel.

Folks travelled from far further afield than we’d imagined, including Iceland, Portugal, and Australia. Together we camped, laughed, made food together, made new friends and really talked. We did it both times on an absolute unfunded shoestring, turned no one way for inability to pay, and fed everyone brilliantly because people just kept on pitching in. It was magic. We promise that it will happen again!

Why Virtual?

At the same time, barriers of travel costs and visa paperwork were always enormous, and we were troubled to see how many people they kept out. The privileges of such an event became infinitely more stark during COVID, and that’s still true. What’s also true is that going online has offered an unparalleled opportunity for the most international and accessible playwork conference ever. We were so proud to work with Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest last year, even if at arm’s length, and highlight the great work they’re doing in the city and arboretum. Always, we want to be building community around playwork and children’s play.

The Internationality of Playwork

Folks often complain that resources on playwork theory and practice are hard to find online, as websites crash and documents disappear. Imagine how true that is, if you need that information in any language other than English. Last year, thanks to Superpool, we were able to provide simultaneous translation in 5 languages. We worked with the translators (as best we could) to identify metaphors and idioms which suit the spirit of playwork. We know that translation is a far more nuanced issue, but this made crucial playwork concepts available to so many more practitioners who had never had access before.

This year, we want to step a little further back ourselves, and highlight great projects in Costa Rica, Hong Kong and Turkey. This Campference is different because it demonstrates the incredible reach of playwork, and richness of its application. Its theme is the ‘Internationality of Playwork’. Our keynote presenters will speak in any language they prefer, and simultaneous translation provided in English, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese and Cantonese.

We’re also co-hosting this event with the Black River Innovation Campus, a dazzling resource in Springfield, Vermont that welcomed us into their Actuator program. To hear Suzanna’s theory on how this organization is like an adventure playground for the internet, stay tuned!

More than ever, we want people to participate and help us build the playwork community we all need! Accessibility and collaboration are central to that process, because unless we’re all here it isn’t nearly as much fun. All together is way better!


By Morgan Leichter-Saxby