Parents in Islington look to Build first Crowd-funded Playground

Parents in Islington look to Build first Crowd-funded Playground
Female First Magazine
09.11.12

Crowdfunding is one of the year’s buzzwords, referring to websites that allow people to share the cost of their ideas online just like Wikipedia does with information gathering.

Here’s an insight into the first two crowdfunded playgrounds coming out of the ground in North and South London, using www.spacehive.com, a portal dedicated to civic projects.

It’s been in pilot stage since March and is now up and ready. Backers have ranged from unlikely folk such as Stephen Fry and David Suchet to Tesco and Asda, as corporates get behind fun, local ideas.

With growing spending cuts and in spite of child obesity problems, construction of new playgrounds has been massively hit, leaving youngsters with nowhere to play.

In 2010, Education Secretary Michael Gove froze grants to 132 councils for building and running up to 1,300 schemes, many designed by youngsters. But now parents in Islington, north London, are fighting back with a campaign to support healthy children built around crowd-funding, where you share the cost online.

Government cuts are hitting kids in some of the most deprived areas of the UK and it’s wonderful that parents in Islington are finding innovative ways to fight back and ensure youngsters still have…
Despite its perceived affluence, Islington is London’s fifth most deprived borough, according to the council website and England’s second worst for child poverty, according to the local MP.

However, web-savvy mums and dads are raising £14,000 for a play area at Hanover Primary School, next to Regents Canal. They already have £49,000 through a selection grants and money from the school budget.

Spacehive.com, a crowdfunding website dedicated to civic projects, will allow the parents to get friends, residents and local firms to chip in small and large amounts. Spacehive.com is a social enterprise, backed by Big Lottery, Deloitte and Business In The Community, which is growing in popularity as communities begin to take urban planning into their own hands.

And many believe the idea could catch on – allowing families around the UK to club together and fund much needed amenities for young people.

Jack Sloan, deputy head teacher at Hanover Primary School, said: “We are all really excited at the potential for creative and educational play that this space will offer children at Hanover. With help from our school community and the generosity of local businesses, we are confident that crowdfunding will make this project a reality."

Designed by local architects What-If, the scheme will give the school an outside play space for the first time. Containing a Gladiator-style fitness course, with tightropes, swinging rings, a loop traverse and climbing poles, the fun-filled set up has been created to encourage children to have fun with their friends while getting into shape.

As well as being hugely multicultural, Islington has a huge gap between kids from deprived and wealthy backgrounds. One of the school’s key aims is to promote inclusion, irrespective of background.

One of the other big issues is a lack of outdoor space, meaning play areas have to be well designed so that they are versatile enough to be used for different things.

Chris Gourlay, founder of Spacehive.com, said: “Keeping kids fit and healthy is challenging – particularly in urban areas such as Islington. But being able to share the cost online means crowdfunding is a great way to engage the community and raise finance in tough times. Nothing is more at the heart of a community than its schools and crowdfunding these kinds of projects make perfect sense at a time where cash for new playgrounds simply does not exist.”

Government figures show that in 2010/11, a third of children aged ten and 11 were either overweight or obese. Experts at Oxford University said last month that overweight young children have a 40 percent higher chance of having a stroke or heart attack than healthy kids.

The playground will do more than just tackle fitness: it will also include other distinct areas, including a natural planted ‘green island’; a small stage, area for the more creative children to showcase their talents; and two climbing towers overlooking the local canal and towpath.

Spacehive.com has been designed specifically for civic projects open financing platform allows any local person to contribute towards the costs of making community projects happen and improve their local area.

Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South, said: “Government cuts are hitting kids in some of the most deprived areas of the UK and it’s wonderful that parents in Islington are finding innovative ways to fight back and ensure youngsters still have places to play and get fit. Responsible citizenship is something that I have spoken about to the children of Hanover school many times and was something we spearheaded in government.”