The Indigos Go Wild project is an environmental play project created by a group of local parents in Brixham, Devon. The group was established by four mums who identified a need for play opportunities for their children. Indigos started as a small after school club, which became more popular by word of mouth. The founder of Indigos ran a community centre and negotiated a free room to carry out the play sessions. Parents took responsibility for ensuring the maintenance of the after school club by using any materials and equipment that they had at home.
The group identified a derelict wooded site adjacent to a local school and thought it would be a good space to carry out play sessions with local children. Indigos approached the head teacher of the school and asked permission to use the wasteland for the play project in return for clearing and maintaining the wasteland. With the head teacher’s support, a letter was drafted to the LEA who owned the land. The council at first refused, but Indigos persisted until the council sent an officer to come out and examine the land. The officer was supportive of Indigos vision and wrote to DfE to ask permission. Indigos eventually gained permission to lease the land, but the council asked for a large fee of around £10,000. Indigos argued that they would be helping the community by clearing the wasteland and negotiated the price down to £100 per year on a 25-year lease. Parents drew on their own knowledge to fill out forms and learned as they went through the process. The lease was only achievable with the support of local people and council officers.
This was the start of the Indigos Go Wild project, which offers children the experience of challenging and exciting play opportunities in a natural environment. The project is staffed and managed by local parents. Parents are encouraged to volunteer in community-based projects and develop new skills. On-site this includes general land management, building and maintaining paths and structures used by children. Off-site this includes participation in creating floats for local carnivals and events. The parents have sustained the project since 2003 through successful fundraising and have worked with other agencies including children’s services and other voluntary and community groups.
Indigos worked with adult volunteers as well as children and young people to create a ‘magical’ play space where children and young people can build dens, make fires, cook, grow plants and climb trees. The place space is ‘magical’ because it is not structured; swings are made out of ropes by the children and the environment is kept natural. The project works on three principles; respect yourself, respect others and respect the land. No other rules are necessary. The land – as it is known to children – is open during the school holidays, some evenings and weekends. Indigos became the 2005 Regional Winner of the Government Home Office award “Picture of Change” for the most innovative transformation of a piece of land.
The play space has been beneficial to the wider community. Children who had been diagnosed with ADHD played on the land and their diagnosis is now being questioned as their behaviour has greatly improved; it may be the case that these children simply lacked opportunities to let off steam. The project also won a Government Respect Award, because the project had initiated a cultural change of promoting respect amongst children and other local people. The local area had a problem with drug users and Indigos challenged some parents for using drugs on the premises. This led to the drug users setting fire to some of the wasteland and causing hundreds of pounds of damage. The community had to pull together to rebuild the play space, eventually driving the drug users out of the area.