Supporting play design in Dudley

"The role that MADE has taken in this national agenda is commendable.  In Dudley, MADE has helped us to promote excellence in design and placemaking across all our children's play areas by promoting and facilitating strong urban design through working together and making better places for children and young people, particularly for our vulnerable children and those with disabilities." Lindsay Newton, Director of Development Childrens Services, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.

Through expert panel member Alison Davies and MADE's head of cultural programmes Jane Puzey, we worked with Dudley Play Pathfinder to develop a comprehensive design brief to ensure a shared understanding of priorities across all internal teams.  We identified ways of optimising space and overcame barriers to make sure the new adventure play centre is pioneering in offering overnight camping-style breaks for disabled children.

We supported young people to become informed clients and helped them challenge the design team's assumptions and perceptions about ability and disability. There is now a greater understanding that inclusion is not about providing a piece of wheelchair-accessible play equipment in every playground. Instead, it is about enabling children of all abilities to enjoy a full range of play experiences, and understanding that both disabled children and non-disabled children will enjoy making daisy chains, rolling down slopes, playing with sand, peering through holes, and seeing things from different heights. We used research from Dudley showing that bullied children are often excluded from play, to develop a set of national design guidelines to encourage vulnerable or tentative children to join in with play activities. Play Together: a design manifesto is the first instance of an architect using the findings of research into bullying to develop design criteria for play spaces.

“Simple measures like designing playable routes to play spaces give children a taster of what lies ahead. Tentative children may welcome the opportunity to play on the periphery before finding the confidence to join in with their peers,” said Alison. “Replacing fences with less formal boundaries which contain more exits gives children the opportunity to slide in and out of the area without ‘threshold fear’. And creating beautiful places encourages parents and carers to stay longer allowing the children to play with confidence due to the adult presence,” added Alison.

"Local authorities and Children's Trusts could do no better than commission MADE and their enablers to address these fundamental issues and make sure their plans and operational strategies make the most of the government's play strategy investment so that more children and familes can have more fun, be more active more often." Lindsay Newton, Director of Development Childrens Services, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council