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About PLAYLINK

PLAYLINK is a multi-faceted independent play and informal leisure consultancy working in the areas of design, planning, policy, strategy, local engagement, fundraising and organisational development.

PLAYLINK has worked with numerous authorities and play providers in the areas of design, policy, Planning, and the knotty issue of risk and play.

PLAYLINK aims both to create 'playable spaces' with its Designs for Play service; and to address the policy and practice issues that affect the planning and delivery of best possible play opportunities for children and – of massive importance – young people.

'Playable spaces' are spaces and places - whether shared public space, or designated play grounds - that offer children and young people access to as wide a range of play opportunities as possible having due regard to the particularities of each site or area.

Our 'independence' means that PLAYLINK addresses each individual brief in terms appropriate to it – PLAYLINK has no standard, fixed response tied to a particular product or approach.

What We Believe

We believe that delivering sustainable benefits to children, young people and their communities rests on informed, value-based practice 'on the ground' supported by strong organisations able to operate in conditions of uncertainty. The role of informed and self-critical judgement is critical.

We believe that sustainable outcomes for children, young people and their communities are based on the understandings that:

  1. policy, strategy and action plans derive their force and coherence from the values and principles that underpin them - these must be explicit and publicly stated.
  2. children and young people are part of, and contributors to, wider communities - that is why providing for play is necessarily an integral part of many strategies and initiatives.
  3. a quality play environment is one that meets the quality play environment criteria - play equipment is neither necessary nor sufficient to create a quality play environment, though it can have its place
  4. there is a necessary and positive relationship between risk and play
  5. institutional and parental anxiety about children and young people, childhood and adolescence, can dilute, distort or obscure fundamental, value-based objectives aimed at benefiting children, young people and their communities.

Who we are

Each of those below is a practitioner in their own right. All, however, work with PLAYLINK on specific projects and act as a source of advice and specialist support.

Bernard Spiegal, Principal

Bernard works with local authorities assisting with the formulation and adoption of local authority play policies and strategies. He developed and runs PLAYLINK's risk assessment workshops, which are designed specifically for play providers. He designed and delivered the projects that resulted in his authorship of Play at School, Play as Culture and Portsmouth's Cultural Strategy, 'From the Hill to the Sea'. His experience includes work in regeneration areas, the development of shared open space and play environments.

Work on organisational reviews and development include Citizens Advice (formally NACAB), Colchester Women's Aid, local Citizens' Advice Bureaux, Brent MIND, Student Volunteering UK and local and community groups.

He leads on all projects undertaken by PLAYLINK and Common Knowledge.

Sarah Cheverton, Associate

Sarah has a Masters degree in Social Research from the University of Southampton. She is researcher and writer for the Culture Group of Portsmouth City Council and is currently under commission from the Royal Naval Museum on a project on the slave trade, 'Chasing Freedom'.

Karen Newell, Associate

Poacher turned gamekeeper, Karen is now Director of the Ragdoll Foundation dispensing grants to organisations across sectors. She takes an active role in assisting would-be applicants think through their proposed projects and supports and monitors successful applicants. She was Co-ordinator of the Barnet Play Association, responsible for fundraising. She is an MA in Childhood and in her role as Director of the Ragdoll Foundation, a member of the Association of Charitable Foundations.

Deepa Patel, Associate

Deepa's approach is not easily summarised. But creative, surprising, challenging, acute and warmly empathetic at least skirt the surface of apt description.

Deepa's work includes: Portsmouth Healthcare Trust on the needs of black and minority ethnic communities, the Terrence Higgins Trust and Action Aid on sexual health and HIV/AIDS; co-devised the award winning cultural diversity workshops for Serious music producers which was delivered to staff at EDF Energy and BBC Radio 3; BBC music learning programme managing a range of diverse projects for the BBC Radio networks, including Radio 1 and 2. For Radio 3 she delivered the World on Your Street project. She was also Co-Managing Director for Creative Partnerships.

Carolyn Starr, Associate

Coming from a career in housing, Carolyn grew a community-based organisation with two staff to a thriving charity and social enterprise employing some 20 paid staff and 50 volunteers. Carolyn was responsible for devising all the organisation's funding applications. She secured nearly £3m to develop a landmark new centre and revitalised public open space, along with a wide range of revenue funds.

To our bemusement, she actually enjoys filling in forms, and dealing with the irritating complexities of business plans, cash flow forecasts, monitoring, evaluation and much else.

Anne Louise Wirgman, Associate

Anne Louise has and does work with the Almeida Theatre, Young Vic, Tamasha Theatre, Intrinsica Films, Portsmouth City Council, Red Pepper Magazine, BBC Radio 2 and Creative Partnerships - and ourselves, PLAYLINK. Work areas include: financing and organising national tours for theatre companies, raising capital and revenue funds, general project management, and teambuilding. One of her current commissions is running away days for a newly merged team of project managers and administrators.

Anne Louise has significant fundraising experience. She worked on Ocean Music Trust's successful £8.5m lottery bid, and the Almeida Theatre's successful £1.5m lottery bid. She was responsible for the Almeida's Arts Council England applications for the touring company.

Landscape and Design Associates

Sue Gutteridge

Sue's work on Stirling's public play areas is commonly described as “groundbreaking”. Over a 20 year period – and continuing – Sue has promoted an innovative approach that sees public play areas as part of a spectrum of provision and opportunities for children, families and communities. The design and re-design of Stirling Council's new and existing play areas and their continuing “developmental maintenance” is a dynamic process that creates dynamic spaces, involves many people and groups and is light years away from the world of equipment catalogue play areas.

Sue's work is rooted in experience developed and honed within the public sector, thus demonstrating convincingly that courage, conviction and knowledge are not qualities automatically stifled within the local state. Sue has a wealth of experience of how to make things happen in the real world of local authority regulations and restricted budgets, how to work effectively with communities, and how to involve children meaningfully in the design and construction of play areas.

Sue managed Stirling Play Services, which includes both staffed work with children and the direct operational management of all the council's public play areas.

Sue is interested in the wider questions of what makes child friendly places, how they relate to broad issues of planning, housing, transport and urban regeneration and how these can be related to local and implementable practice.

Many of the areas for play were designed by Judi Legg, now also a PLAYLINK Associate.

Judi Legg, Landscape Designer MA (Arts), MA, PGCE

Judi has for some nine years worked closely with Sue Gutteridge at Stirling Council to design new and refurbished public play areas. With Sue, she is responsible for creating much admired groundbreaking play areas. Judi believes that play areas must be sensitively designed and not simply accumulated heaps of equipment, or automatic responses to what people – adults, children, teenagers – say they want.

Judi is committed to providing spaces for children which are non-prescriptive, which invite children to play compellingly and imaginatively and which support engagement with the authentic materials and landscapes of the natural environment. Her clients have included Forestry Commission Wales, Scotland Yard Adventure Centre (special needs) and 8 new school Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives.

Having worn many “hats” in many “fields”, the unifying thread in Judi's professional career/s has been working with children and design/landscape. This has included: children's environmental theatre (Theatre in Education) including theatre design; work for community conservation organisations; primary teaching (particularly outdoor teaching of children with special needs); and co-ordinating services for Grounds for Learning projects in schools including delivery of landscape design.

Judi is particularly interested in play space evaluation techniques, as well as the development of meaningful ways to involve children in design and implementation.

Aileen Shackell BA (Hons) Dip LA, MLI, Associate Landscape Architecture

Aileen has over 15 years experience as a Landscape Architect. Aileen began her career as a Landscape Architect at Land Use Consultants. Between 1997 and 2002 Aileen was Principal Landscape Architect for a Groundwork Trust in south-west London where she acquired new skills in community-led urban regeneration schemes. Working for Groundwork enabled Aileen to develop strong skills in designing schemes to meet the needs of the local community, whether young or old, always on very tight budgets.

Aileen is a sensitive designer with considerable experience of implementing both large and small-scale landscape schemes. She has undertaken detailed design of both hard and soft landscape, prepared contract documentation, and administered contracts on site, and also has a particular interest in working with artists and craft-workers, which she has done successfully on a number of projects. She is used to working in multi-disciplinary design teams.

In delivering this brief PLAYLINK would deploy, as required, associates in the areas of landscape design, planning and play facility development and management.

Paul Shaw MLA MSGD, Associate Landscape Architecture

Paul has a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Greenwich and a Bachelors degree in Theatre Design from Wimbledon School of Art. He has worked extensively in theatre design and community arts projects both here and in America.

He has designed many gardens for private clients ranging from small urban courtyards to 5 acre country estates. He has taught at the Inchbald School of Design. From 2005 to 2007 he was employed by Landscape Architects Whitelaw Turkington on a number of high profile public realm schemes including Millennium Square, Caledonian Park and Belmayne Square, Dublin.

He is especially interested in the community consultation process as a way of arriving at inclusive design solutions and in projects that contribute to urban biodiversity.

Rachel Mooney BA (Hons) Dip LA, MLI

Rachel has a degree in Geography from Sheffield University (1987) and a Diploma in Landscape Architecture from Greenwich University (1991). Rachel brings to PLAYLINK a broad understanding of landscape, people, places and environments.

Rachel worked on the community led design of Mile End Park Millennium Project. She worked with Kathryn Gustafson on the Crystal Palace Park Competition, involving research into the historic park, and presenting contemporary interpretations of an historic site. She later joined Gustafson Porter to work on the Great Glass House, at the Botanic Garden of Wales, and Westergasfabriek Park in Amsterdam, as senior landscape architect. For Whitelaw Turkington, she developed the concept and detail design of Balcurris Park in Dublin, and Caledonian Park in London, involving extensive community consultation. She has worked on a wide range of environmental improvements for housing regeneration schemes.

More recently Rachel designed two pocket parks in London Borough of Waltham Forest, which included creating imaginative spaces for play.

Planning Associate

Jacqueline Boulter, Associate Planning

Jacqueline has always been interested in cities and how they function, how they are shaped by people, and how people in turn are influenced by their environment. This led her to take a degree in urban studies and planning at Sheffield University, including studying abroad for a year at the University of Illinois. She is Principal Planning Officer in the planning policy team of her local authority and is involved in developing a 20 year strategy through the Local Development Framework. She has just completed work for PLAYLINK on an inner London boroughs planning policy as it relates to play and the creation of playable space.

Play consultant

Phil Doyle, Associate

Phil is a PLAYLINK Associate. He has over 30 years experience working in the statutory and voluntary sectors. He has been responsible for developing play opportunities for children and young people in both public realm spaces and in supervised play environments.

Phil has initiated and project managed the development and design of play spaces in parks and open spaces, housing developments, regeneration areas. His experience covers the range of provision including, children’s centres, nurseries, play centres and adventure playgrounds. He has also been involved in developing new spaces including wheel parks, ball games areas, and seating/shelter areas.

He has extensive experience of the practicalities of bringing projects to completion, and a real appreciation of the maintenance implications of schemes.

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