Play England’s staff and trustees are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague Dr Stuart Lester.
Stuart was a huge inspiration and support to all of us in the play sector in England and internationally, delivering many workshops, talks and lectures. Play England was honoured to publish his work co-authored with Wendy Russell on Play for a Change: Play, Policy and Practice. This remains the go to source for research and literature for making the case for play in England.
Stuart was a key contributor to development of Quality in Play, the quality assurance system for play provision in England. It is based on the Manchester Circles model, developed by Stuart and Wendy, putting the playing child at the centre, a principle that remains fundamental to quality play provision. Stuart supported us with publication of the latest edition of Quality in Play, quietly but persuasively promoting the importance of a play-centred approach to quality assurance with local commissioners and play providers.
Supporting local play providers to use playwork artefacts to evidence the value and quality of their provision was also at the heart of Stuart’s work on Thinking About Playwork, a continuous professional development programme. Stuart’s unique delivery of this programme combined in-depth exploration of the meaning of play and playwork with such provocations as goblins, eggs, wiggly lines and a mischievous sense of humour. In a playful way, he encouraged us to test the boundaries and limitations of our own thinking and always to explore the possibilities – what if?
Stuart’s work with Wendy on the Welsh Government’s Play Sufficiency Duty, Leopard Skin Wellies, a Top Hat and a Vacuum Cleaner Hose, published by Play Wales is a beacon to everyone involved in promoting the child’s right to play.
Here at Play England we will miss the sense of magic and enjoyment that Stuart brought to play and playwork – his ability to take apart everything that we thought we knew about play and to enable us to put it back together again in new and thought-provoking combinations. Our thoughts are with Stuart’s family and friends at this time.