Reblogified from https://www.facebook.com/playacrossthewater
Look for October 31st 2013 under this title: “Police and Fire Services called out to cardboard challenge event.“
When a small mountain of strong cardboard boxes appeared in the carpark of the new school opposite the community centre over the summer, we knew exactly what we were going to do. The caretakers helped us that about 100 of them and store them ready for a Cardboard challenge event in the half term holiday. We made posters and publicised the challenge though social media. Invitations were extended to our usual Wednesday play families from the Cow Garden, to young guys from the youth club, who had been volunteering with us to make the grass arm chair this week, to a peer parenting group who are meeting in the centre and to our new volunteer placements from the local college.
A good crowd met on the yellow brick road and almost at once the boxes started to morph into the most elaborate and wonderful creations. The age group was very mixed with babies and toddlers and older teens playing beautifully together. Mums and Dads joined in, or sat back watching their children lost in play.
Suddenly we heard angry shouting coming from an upper balcony. A group of older residents stood looking down on us. One lady was screaming about us making a mess on their grass. She said that they pay for this grass and we had no right to mess it up or play on it. The children should go back to the places where they live and play there. The strength of their fury was obvious and the fact that the children did live here, that we had put up posters three weeks earlier advertising the event and had the permission of the landlord, didn’t matter a jot. Nothing could assuage their wrath. They called the police.
They called the police.
Many of the children parents and volunteers were frightened. We were all shocked and ashamed of the behaviour of the residents.They asked, should we tidy up and pack away? They are so cross. What if the police come?
I asked them to look at the children and the parents. They had never met before. They were all playing so beautifully together, so happy. Having such an amazing time.
They would remember this day for years and I wanted us all to make sure that they remembered it as an extraordinary and happy experience, not to have memories of a banshee chorus shrieking from the balcony. They were in the wrong. We were doing the right thing. We were having a great time, and when the playing finished, we would make sure it was all tidied up beautifully.
Eventually, just as each group of children was reassured and calmed, a woman approached me. She told me that she was from the fire brigade and that a member of the public had seen posters about a Cardboard Challenge and a Halloween Party ( the following day) and had jumped to the conclusion that we would obviously be setting fire to cardboard boxes.
There was a stunned silence, then the children, the fire officer and myself all started laughing to the point of tears. When I could speak again I was able to assure her that we would not be setting fire to anything today. I also mentioned that as Playworkers we do work with fire, so that children know how to use it properly. I said how wonderful it would be if, the next time we used fire, we could call her and she could come and join us. She agreed that that would be delightful, had another fit of laughter and went in her way saying ‘happy days’ to herself, chuckling and shaking her head.
Despite the urgent phone call from the residents, the police never showed up.I was quite disappointed. And… No litter was left. Not a scrap.Mums and dads and kids helped us recycle the cardboard and bin all the rest of it.
A cardboard challenge eh?
Thank you to the wondeful Penny Wilson for this wonderful yet worrying story.
Because, hold on…
Things might be much worse in a years time: IPNA – the new asbo
New Anti- Social Behaviour Bill to criminalise children playing outdoors
Click the link below to listen to a rather rude IPNA apologist (Angela Epstein, who fears petunia-trampling hoodie hordes. It could happen.) being a bit of a bully, as Cath Prisk of Play England does a not unreasonable job of defending children’s rights: 6/10. Could do better.
The audio link, which features microwave pinging and a Mr Angry shouting at the radio:
“We are deeply concerned by the proposed changes to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill which aim to radically alter the definition of anti-social behaviour to ‘conduct capable of causing nuisance and annoyance’, posing a real threat to the quality of life for children across England and Wales. The new injunction will be enforceable from age 10 upwards and will require significantly less proof to enforce than with the previous ‘ASBOs’, yet can be punishable with imprisonment if broken. The Association of Police Officers, who have suggested that the new threshold is too subjective and could unnecessarily criminalise children for simply being children, share this concern.
Not only does this legislation directly contradict the United Nations call to support children’s right to play, but rather than tackling the root issue of anti-social behaviour, this will merely serve as another barrier stopping children from playing outdoors with their friends in the street, the park or other public spaces, further jeopardising the physical and mental health of children.
We urge government to rethink their proposals. Efforts to genuinely tackle anti-social behaviour must be reasonable, proportionate and effective. These are not.”
(from the open letter to the Times)