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100 Years of Play – Wicksteed

Historic photographs fascinate me; they are one of the best ways to get an introduction to a story when we weren’t around to experience it first-hand. So when I came across pages of black and white photographs depicting old style play equipment I was instantly draw in and began reminiscing about playing the super-fast wooden roundabouts, the sturdy rocking horse and the ‘Witches Hat’. I then noticed that in some of the Images children and adults were often shown either hanging upside down or on swings that went horizontal or so high, I’m sure some of them would have got vertigo. Finally I noted the tile of the article ‘100 Years of Play’……well that explained the knee length shorts, flat caps and suits and I’d love to know how the lady wearing heels, facing the ground managed to kept her hat on whilst flying through the air.

100 Years of Play

Follow link to the full article

100 Years of Play

What I really stood out from these images is that in many ways the principles behind some of the play equipment, the play action or activity in some cases hasn’t changed that much. Swings and slides have got lower and roundabouts slower. No doubt in response to the demands made by Health and safety regulations. I’m sure I’m blocking out many scraps and knocks and bruises from rickety equipment and hard surfacing.

100 Years of Play

One of the main challenges that Wicksteed have to overcome is how to keep their play equipment as adventurous, challenging and relevant to suit the demands of that generation. The 100 years of play development is testament to their ability to continue to respond to change in demands and trends. The changes that I most welcome are those that address inclusive play. There’s along way to go with this concept but with companies like Wicksteed innovating and adapting their products it will be interesting to see how play equipment develops in the future.

100 Years of Play

But no need to wait another hundred years to check out their latest products

Parkrun – the challenge on our landscape.

Does the concept of Park Run require us to change the way we design and regenerate parks, open spaces and green routes?

Articles in the media highlighted a conflict between having free healthy activities for all verses the Councils pressures to provide quality open spaces. Should councils charge for Park Run events and charge for parking in otherwise free locations?

For those who are not familiar with Park Run, it’s a 5k race for anyone to join in where you are timed and only compete against yourself unless you decide otherwise. It’s about personal challenges and goals. It appeals to the young and old alike and canines are welcome. You just need a pair of trainers, a few extra layers in the winter and the desire to give it a go. It’s sociable, its free, its outdoors, its healthy, it’s a regular event and it seems you are never far away from a venue. So what’s the issue?

parkrun logo

Park Runs in some areas may have become a victim of their own success and the sustainability of some events is unclear.

Whist you are running against yourself you may be joined by hundreds of people not including the supporters and volunteers. What started as one race with 13 people back in 2004 in Bushy Park, Teddington is now a worldwide event which has been known to encourage even the most dedicated of couch potatoes to get moving. It must be the most successful uptake of people exercising since Zumba classes or when the country had Olympic fever. Park Run is an amazing concept and well attended events often occupy to capacity some parks for a few hours on a Saturday and for some locations Sunday mornings for junior runs.

I’m sure most will agree that there should be access to ‘tax free’ exercise for all, So why have same councils considered charging for these events to be run which will no doubt make it less attractive option for many?

The unprecedented increase in the use of these spaces is not sustainable in some locations. Events and have taken over some parks damaging footpaths not built to sustain the wear of hundreds of people and shorting the intended life span of the path, grass areas churned up as paths are too narrow to accommodate the numbers people at any one time, Overflowing car parks with cars parked on grass verges and under trees which is essentially causing thousands of pounds of damage. Some of the venues just can’t cope and the damage the grounds can be extensive and at some point may no longer be suitable for the runs. Repairs will be inevitably be required so arguably isn’t an event free of financial obligations, not really. Some local authorities are already incorporating parking charges at event locations that where once free.

Wimpole Estate Parkrun

If the councils don’t charge who pays for it….the NHS, Sponsors and private donations. Budgets for maintaining parks and open spaces are at an all-time low as they are not classes as statutory service such as refuse collection that the council have to provide. Yet in contrast there is an increased need to get people outdoors, to be sociable, to get active to reconnect with nature. The health benefits of access to quality spaces is well documented and the message seems be getting through to people. The problem appears to be the funding.

  • Are councils right to consider collecting revenue to supplement diminished maintenance budgets and to pay for the repairs caused by the events?
  • Should Councils accept the increase in use of these parks?
  • Should parks and open spaces be a Statuary responsibility due to the health benefits these spaces can offer everyone?
  • As designers how can we and should we try and accommodate the trends, the changes in society and the way we utilise these spaces? Can we make predictions about the future uses of open spaces that set them up to be sustainable?
  • Do we still use these spaces in the same as we did in the 1900’s and if we do is that because it’s all the designs allow for? Is it time to break with the traditional concept of parks?
The debate continues….

Let us know what you think via our social media streams.

Twitter: @lizlakedesigner



Three minute interview…Steve Woodhouse

Brief introduction, name, job title, location.

Steve Woodhouse, Lead 3D artist, 3D Animator & videographer. Stansted Office. I joined Liz Lake in 2005.


When you were at school what did you want to be and why?

I always really enjoyed track and field sports at school & loved the film making process (Behind the scenes etc.) So a job creating 3D visuals was a good foot in the door.


How did you get to be where you are today?

I came in as a junior & progressed to creating a multi-disciplinary 3D division developing basic proposals to detailed photomontages.


What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?

The diversity of work is very important to me! Developing & expanding the 3D department is my main drive.


What is your proudest achievement?

Landing my first animation contract with Disney Juniors & seeing it in action felt great!

Laps around Daytona is a close 2nd


What is the best advice you’ve been given in life?

Happy wife, happy life.


What is your next adventure / goal?

Hit the best downhill MTB runs in Slovenia this year & expand our 3D & filming operations.


See some of Steves work here