Nottingham Play Forum

Nottingham Play Forum is an independent organisation owned by its members and operates under the name Playworks to support children’s play in Nottingham. Playworks provides a range of training, education, resources, support, advice and information to individuals, groups and organisations. Membership is open to local voluntary groups, families, schools, students and private organisations. Full members in the voluntary sector have voting rights at general meetings and elect a board of trustees who manage the organisation.

The organisation has several funding streams. Core funding is from Nottingham City Council under the Voluntary Sector Investment Programme. Their training schemes are funded through Early Years Child Care 0-7. They get additional funding from the Big Lottery Fund, to carry out a street play project targeting areas of deprivation characterised by high crime rates, drug misuse and gang culture. The organisation believes that the play schemes have a massive impact in helping to reduce crime in the local area. Older children, who had previously been involved in anti-social behaviour, have started running the play schemes which gives them a sense of belonging and ownership in the community.  The Street Play project worked with 1,486 children and has been instrumental in creating and supporting independent play champions in the community – local residents taking ownership of play projects.

These play schemes have been met with enthusiasm by the whole community. Parents have taken an active role volunteering, such as facilitating a ‘walking bus’ so children can get to the play provision safety, or opening and locking the park before and after the sessions. Base level funding has allowed community members to be trained as playworkers, providing them the basis to take on responsibility of the play sessions themselves.

The organisation offers training for members of the community, many of whom have been out of work for long periods of time and lack self esteem, and support them to do voluntary work. This helps to build their confidence, learn skills such as first aid and arts and crafts, and to find paid employment. In 2009, 620 people received playwork training and a further 471 people were involved in community roadshows.

They also support local playschemes by offering them training in fundraising and funding application.

Playworks has developed a range of services to support voluntary and community involvement in play. The Play Development and Information Service provides advice and information through a play library, publications and newsletter.

The scrapstore, providing for community groups using recycled materials donated by local businesses, was used by over 1,100 visitors. They currently have 370 members, who can pay a small fee (around £5) in exchange for a trolley full of materials. They have partnerships with retailers John Lewis, who donate unwanted Christmas decorations, which are then sold to playschemes at a cheap price and Boots who donate boxes of products, which are sold for fundraising purposes.