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The Play Association Tower Hamlets

The (PATH) hosted a celebration of play on February 18 to recognise the work that they have done over the last few years to bring people together. PATH has been a past recipient of grants from the London Marathon Charitable Trust (LMCT), and they were most recently awarded £22,325 in December 2014 towards the refurbishment of a playground at Ada Place, near Hoxton.

PATH was first set up in 2001 because there wasn’t a play service in the borough of Tower Hamlets. While there was provision for youths and under fives, there was nothing for the large five to 13 age group so the charity was established to support adventure playgrounds before branching out to do more work in the community.

Eleanor Image, Play Outreach Worker at PATH, says: “It’s almost 10 years since we had funding for communities with the big estate regeneration. We started designing play spaces and working with designers and various partners to look at how a space could be improved, mainly for children but also for adults who may want a nice space to sit in. In the last four years since I’ve applied for LMCT money we’ve been working with landlords to look at how their estates are set out and the use of space.”

The first grant PATH received from the LMCT went towards projects at Dinmont Estate and Gascoigne Estate, both of which were completed in 2013. At Dinmont Estate, the LMCT funds paid for new goals and markings in the ball games area while flat-seated swings were added to the play area in response to children's requests at earlier consultations. At Gascoigne Estate, the Hut, a small community centre, was put back into use. Previously, the one piece of play equipment behind the Hut was locked away, whilst the surrounding green space was used as a dog toilet. Residents wanted to improve the area and worked with PATH’s Keep Playing team to raise funds to change it.

The funds came from the LMCT and others so enough was raised to transform the space into a playful and social environment for all, including a sand area with a sink and tap, a fallen tree which is a good climbing challenge for some and a place to lounge in a branch for others. There is also a hammock (pictured above) that can seat six children.

Image explains: “Our Keep Playing project was about improving play. I know that’s a very wide-reaching aim but it included play workers going out to estates and running play sessions. The LMCT funded two of the biggest changes we’ve made. Some have been very small but the LMCT projects were lovely because we had the money come directly to PATH and I managed them.“

Around 550 children and over 180 adults have benefitted from the grants made to PATH by LMCT for the Dinmont and Gascoigne Estate projects.

Now the project at Ada Place is taking shape. A consultation takes place this month and PATH aim to have it finished by July in time for the school summer holidays. Image says: “There’s an existing space on the estate that’s not fit for purpose –it’s only got one tiny piece of equipment. Most of the kids on the estate are over five so none of them use it and it’s not very appealing to look at. A lot of the residents said they want somewhere to sit, more greenery and something more suitable for the older kids. We did a consultation last year to let the residents know we’ve got the money. We sort of know what we want to do, but of course the people who live there are going to be involved.”

PATH’s work in the borough of Tower Hamlets embodies what the LMCT stands for – ensuring there are facilities for young people to be active. As Image says: “Play is still important. We can work together to keep making improvements. That doesn’t necessarily need to cost any money. We will keep applying for funding but if we don’t get any we hope to work off the positive attitude that we’ve developed in the last few years.”