Since May 2020, a group of Wandsworth creative organisations and Wandsworth Council have worked together to make and distribute just under 3500 kits of creative materials and activities to children aged 6-10 years old in most need via 42 Primary Schools and 16 Community groups and Summer Schemes.
These kits contained a booklet of creative activities and art materials. Creativity can feel like magic, but during lockdown families required digital access and materials at home to take part. The kits were created in response to the raising concerns around digital poverty and children not having access to basic materials like scissors, glue, crayons etc. With these kits, we wanted to bring creativity into the heart of the families across Wandsworth, and ensure that children had activities to inspire them and the materials to be able to be creative with.
A consortium of partners was formed for the project, made up of: Agora Arts Circle, Battersea Arts Centre, Creative Wandsworth, Nine Elms Arts Ministry, Roehampton R.O.C.K.S, Royal College of Art, SenTalk, Tara Arts, Wandsworth Council, 575 Wandsworth Road (National Trust).
Following conversations with headteachers, the decision was made to focus the PlayKits on children from the age of 6 to 10 years old, finding that children of this age, although in the process of getting more independent from their parents, do not yet have the capacity to seek entertainment or development on their own. Conversations with Headteachers also helped to identify materials that would both cover basic need and also offer the children something exciting and inspiring to use. The recipient families were identified working side by side with the local schools in order to ensure these kits reached children most in need.
The project has included work by many local artists who created activities for the PlayKits. In addition, the kits have been the chance to reclaim the use of cultural buildings as civic spaces as over 50 local volunteers have come together over the summer to assemble the kits, at Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) first and then at the Civic Suite, Wandsworth Council.
Described by a headteacher as a “god send”, the PlayKits offered local children from lower-income families the tools to be creative; a chance to escape their current situation and let their imagination run free.
Besides the clear impact on local children, this project re-enforced the bond Wandsworth Council’s Arts Service has with its community. It allowed partners to work in a different way and broaden their reach in the local area, strengthening their presence in the community and learning new skills.
Direct, impactful creativity delivered straight to the young minds who will have charge of our culture in the future. The view that this was done with an eye on digital poverty is a massive bonus. This kind of project isn’t a one off experience or tied to a certain location. The impact of the work done here goes home with the kids. I am very happy to hear they want to continue the project and work with artists and more schools in 2021."
It was lovely to read about how many different sectors of community came together to offer such an invaluable service at what was such a difficult time for so many deprived families with young children. The simplicity of the project is brilliant, and enabling so many kids to access the joys of creativity is hugely worthwhile. I grew up in a house where both my parents were artists, so it was normal for me to be surrounded by books and art supplies. But, for so many children, these aren’t a feature in their lives, meaning they’re often unable to develop their skills or experience the joys that creativity brings. Without access to these, I imagine I would have not gone into the arts (same for my brother – who is now a renowned portrait painter!), so it’s crucial that as many children as possible are given the chance to develop their imaginations and artistic talents!"
This project is such a great example of the whole being more than the sum of the parts. It’s great to see so many smaller local organisations pooling their interests and expertise to create a bigger project that fulfils many different needs. It’s really important to have practical support for creativity for under-served groups, and this community collaboration will hopefully continue to build on this foundation to give this access to everyone."
It’s so heartening to see local communities band to gather to hold the most vulnerable in our communities. Having all seen the Marcus Rashford campaign that forced the government to u-turn on feeding kids in poverty, and then who they contracted the objective to and the paltry result, it is heartening to see local communities, schools and councils identify these areas and step in to provide not just nourishment for the bodies but, very importantly, soul food. We will not know the full ramifications of the pandemic’s damage especially on kids in the heart of their developmental stage- so this is not only a wonderful, but a very important thing."
A wonderful example of a community responding to specific need and bringing art and creativity into the homes and lives of the children involved. Particularly important during the lockdown to facilitate access to self expression. A really heartwarming and simple example of what a big impact small targeted local initiative can achieve."
At a time where art seems to be sadly getting lost in our school system, it has been in danger of getting entirely forgotten during the home schooling months of the lock down. This is an amazing, selfless, show of dedication to hand back the facilities to children in this time of need. We take it for granted that while in school the supplies are there on hand, unfortunately for some there is a lack of materials readily available at home."
A wonderful project to address the needs of children and their families during lockdown. It’s great also that the play kits attracted local sponsorship, linking with food banks, schools and community groups, and that so many partners gave their time in-kind to make it happen."
This is a simple idea, beautifully executed. Putting affordable creativity into the hands of children allows them to set their own bar and not worry about clearing other people's. At a time of great tension and sadness, projects like PlayKits remind children that they're here and the marks they make matter."
A great project formed from a strong collaborative partnership between local organisations and with real reach to children across the borough. The PlayKits have provided creativity and inspiration for children and families throughout a very difficult time and it is fantastic that the programme is likely to continue and to influence the way the team operates in future."
This is a much-needed project aimed at the children of families that need it the most. Until the pandemic hit no one really knew about the digital poverty that some families faced or the fact that some families lack even the basic supplies for children to be creative. This project really tackles this issue."