Toffee Park is located in a densely populated area of south Islington, London. One of London’s smaller adventure playground sites, it is surrounded by a mixture of medium and high rise estates on the edge of the City.
The majority of funding for the adventure playground is achieved through volunteering from local people, business and institutions. Toffee Park holds local fundraising events where children sell their artwork and help out on the stands. The children raised £200 at the last local event and these are usually held once or twice a term. Parents are encouraged to help out at community events, such as fundraising or helping on trips out with the children. Funding is also sought through applications for grants, such as BBC Children in Need, Big Lottery Fund and New Deal Regeneration programme.
The adventure playground has developed corporate volunteering relationships with a number of businesses through Business Link, including Colt Telecom, John Lewis Partnership and Santander. The Colt volunteers, many of which are local residents, helped installation of a large tube slide, while volunteers from Santander installed the zip wire, saving the playground several hundreds of pounds.
Corporate companies have helped with the general maintenance of the adventure playground, including gardening and wood-proofing the building, saving Toffee Park over £10,000 per year. This support was developed through a local voluntary time bank who organise corporate days where businesses can offer their time and a financial support to voluntary organisations. Other corporate funding is obtained through children’s parents who work at businesses (such as John Lewis) and nominate Toffee Park for sponsorship when fundraising opportunities arise. Many of the local businesses wish to keep in touch after the partnership, often dropping by to see the staff and offer further support for fundraising
Toffee Park has also developed a mutually beneficial relationship with Middlesex University where design degree students have designed and installed an innovative water play feature as part of their coursework. The water feature was partly paid for by the savings made through business support, and will use collected rainwater from the building’s roof for both children’s play and to irrigate a newly-developed garden and children’s allotment area. Islington Play Association made contact with local universities to ask if they were interested in creating a partnership with the playground, and Middlesex University expressed interest to be involved. The students and the lecturers visited the adventure playground and undertook the project as part of their university qualification. The manager estimates that if Toffee Park had commissioned the water feature via a private company, the cost would have been around £10,000.
The adventure playground also has connections with the local colleges, who put on student fundraising days. This is beneficial to the local students who enjoy engaging with the community and feel as though they are contributing to improving the local area
A website design company based in nearby Clerkenwell has developed a website for the playground at no charge as part of a corporate social responsibility programme
Toffee Park attempts to ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are integrated into community life. They have good links with local family centres and offer free places for families in need of support. They are part of the local health service’s short breaks scheme where disabled children attend the adventure playground, allowing rest bite for their families. This is partly funded by the health service.
The staff team are comprised of local people who attended Toffee Park as children. An apprenticeship and training scheme is also available to young people who used to attend the playground. The council funds these young people to complete an introduction to playwork course. Many of the local people have an emotional attachment to the adventure playground and help to make corporate days a success and volunteer when is needed.