Wanstead Playground Association

Campaigning and fundraising to upgrade the play equipment

Signing up

Our sign has finally gone up! It’s taken us a long time to get this sorted, but we wanted to get it right.

We’ve had to liaise with all our major benefactors to arrange for logos, then work with our sign designer – Andy at South Park – to design the layout. Our eagle-eyed treasurer, Danielle, then checked for spelling errors etc.  All whilst we have each, metaphorically speaking, moved on to jobs/other projects.

It may have taken longer than we wished, but we are very pleased with the end product, and it adds another finishing touch to the playground.

We’re not done yet, however. Fundraising continues, albeit in a low key way. The Living Kitchen are once more holding one of their vegan brunches next weekend, with a percentage of ticket sales going to the playground (for tickets see here). The Co-Operative have also nominated us as one of their local charities.  By March we should have enough funds for another improving touch, be it added safety flooring, new fencing, or another piece of equipment. We’re due a board meeting in March, so will be making a decision then.

Meanwhile, the council have also been playing their part, with sections of the old, rotting fence replaced, and new gates. It’s great to see that the improvements our fundraising have made have also led to renewed investment by the council.

SIgning off for now, until the next time!

Never say Never

Yes, we know we said our last post would probably be our last, but we’ve had quite a busy month and there’s lots of news to share!

Whilst the main phase of the playground has now been installed, our charity continues to operate under the same remit; namely to improve the playground. There’s a patch of ground by the Woodbine Place entrance that is crying out for surfacing, with space for another small piece of equipment. Our plan was to continue to fundraise, albeit in a very low key manner, and thanks to some recent developments it looks like some of the work has been done for us!

Back in April, we were contacted by a local community group who wanted to do something for us. The event they planned didn’t happen, but is now going ahead this Sunday. The Living Kitchen will be hosting a (now sold out) vegan and vegetarian brunch at the Cherry Tree on Woodbine Place. £5 from each ticket sold will go to our fund. https://www.facebook.com/thelivingkitchenldn/

The Cooperative have chosen us as a beneficiary of their Local Community Fund. We won’t know until next Spring how much this will equate to, but are hopeful this will enable us to purchase a nice new piece of equipment.

Finally, thanks go to Annelie Popovic once more for repeating her Christmas photo shoot offer. 25% of booking price goes to us. For more details visit https://www.facebook.com/anneliepopphotography/.

Last year local residents were invited to nominate local projects for CIL funding. The Community Infrastructure Levy is paid to the council by anyone undertaking a new development in the area, and is then used to pay for the ‘nice to have but we don’t have a budget for it’ items on the council’s to-do list. It was actually something we discussed with our local councillors back in October of 2014, right at the start of our campaign, but we were a little discouraged by the unwieldy process involved. We’ve just heard that the playground will be allocated some CIL funding. This will be spent on replacing a large section of the existing playground fence, amongst other things. We’re delighted because, whilst we recognised that the fence badly needed replacing, we didn’t feel that it was in our remit to do so.

We held our Annual General Meeting recently. Whilst it was a quick and relatively relaxed meeting, we needed to conform to certain legalities and it was a good reminder that we are a legally constituted charity and thus have obligations that need to be taken seriously.

Schools out

For summer, and so are we. The children have broken up from school and we’re well into the long summer break. I’d love to say ‘we’ll be back in September’ but, with our playground now fully installed, this may be our last blog entry.

It was lovely to welcome the Mayor of Redbridge to our playground, where he performed the official opening ceremony. Our Chair, Sarah, walked him through the playground showing off the new equipment. Representatives from Vision, who oversaw the installation of the equipment, HAGs – the suppliers – and local councillors were also present. The occasion was blessed with good weather and the children were particularly thrilled by the party bags that HAGs brought along!

With school ended and the playground installed, it really feels like the end of the line for us. To all intents and purposes, our job is done now. The playground is fully installed, officially open and the last few niggles sorted (a couple of extra benches and bins installed). We’re absolutely delighted with what’s been achieved and, judging from the many positive comments we’ve received, we know that everyone else is too.

What’s next for us? We’ve been asked that question a few times! The Wanstead Playground Association will continue to operate as a charity for the foreseeable future. Treasurer Danielle will be presenting the annual reports and accounts to the trustees in September. We’ll be keeping a weather eye on the playground and liaising with Vision to ensure maintenance is kept up etc.

Three of us have children starting in reception this year, so we’ll be turning our attentions to that. We’ve also all been asked by our respective schools’ PTAs to advise on fundraising. Other than that, we have no plans! The last 20 months or so have been a whirlwind and we never expected that our small scale fundraising project would take on such a life of its own. We’ve had a great, if sometimes exhausting and frustrating, time, and we’re looking forward to switching off for a while.

Wishing everyone a great summer,

Sarah, Danielle, Nicola and Louise

I’d like to teach the world to swing

Apologies for the New Seekers reference (google it if you’re not as old as me!) – couldn’t resist. 

Last week finally saw, after a couple of weeks where we were (metaphorically) tearing our hair out with frustration, the missing elements of the new playground installed. Pretty fundamental ones too – namely the slide on the large climbing frame, and the much anticipated Tango swings, where carer and child can swing together in perfect harmony! 

Literally minutes after the safety fencing been taken away from the swings children were already using them. Not just carers and children, but siblings, friends and even 3 children managed to sit comfortably. We’re still missing the two infant swings but these are due to be fitted soon. 

What’s turning out to be our key piece of equipment is the large climbing frame situated in the centre of the playground. Fantastic to see so many children of different ages using this at the same time, as it offers multiple – and challenging – ways to access the equipment. 

A few other tweaks – new surfacing for the picnic area here, a bench added there – have made the playground look fabulous. Pencilled in the diary for this coming Saturday 16th July is the official opening at 10am, with the Mayor of Redbridge and other council representatives, but what we enjoyed the most was Saturday just gone, when the four of us (Sarah, Danielle, Nicola and Louise) gathered with our children, cut a red ribbon and enjoyed a well deserved glass of champagne to celebrate (the adults that is!). What with school holidays coming up and just life in general, we’d not had a chance to get together in the playground, see what we’d achieved and give ourselves a pat on the back.

The Power of 4

The day we’d all been working towards these past 18 months finally arrived – the playground opened today!

Rain had frustratingly hampered the completion of the flooring and, as we had previously guesstimated, it was Tuesday when the contractors cleared away the safety perimeter fencing. Thinking it was open, a few families took advantage to play yesterday evening but it wasn’t until today when Vision officials came to do their final check that we could officially declare the playground open.

By late afternoon the playground was packed full of excited children, ours included, and everyone seems absolutely delighted with the equipment. The cycle roundabout in particular proved a huge hit and it was lovely to see children of varying ages all pedalling madly together. We’ve had loads of really positive comments from carers and children alike.

There are still a few snags to sort out – the missing slide, baby swings and picnic tables all need installing – and these should be sorted out in a couple of weeks.

It’s been an exciting day and only now, sitting quietly at home, have we had a chance to take stock. Back in October of 2014, four local mothers sat down together to discuss raising some cash for one or two pieces of new equipment. Today we’ve seen the opening of a £ 103,000 playground. Fair play to us.

Down to the wire

We’re entering what should be the final week of the work to install the new equipment and feeling a little apprehensive. All the equipment is in bar the picnic tables, but the flooring work has only just begun and the contractors are not 100% positive they’ll be finished by Friday. That means the playground might not open until Tuesday of next week.

Things started well but, as always with building work, a slight hiccup occurred. The wrong panel for the older children’s climbing frame was ordered. Crucially it’s the one for the slide and a new part will have to be manufactured. It shouldn’t prevent the rest of the apparatus from being used in the meantime, but a final health and safety check will determine if the climbing frame can be used or not.

It’s been wonderful watching the excitement grow as each piece gets installed and we are really happy with the equipment we’ve chosen. The train in particular has elicited much approval from the children peering through the fences.

When the playground is deemed ready, the fences will come down and the children will be able to play straight away. We’re planning an official opening ceremony in June, so that we get a chance to thank everyone who helped make this happen.

Ultimately the greatest satisfaction for us will be to see our children playing on the new equipment – we can’t wait!

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Adieu, swings

Nothing sums up what’s going on this week more than this photo.

Work started on Tuesday and by Thursday the whole playground had been dismantled, bar the tractor and rope swing which are remaining. It’s certainly grabbed the attention of the children in the park and the sight of so many tractors and diggers has compensated for the lack of playground. Luckily the weather has been good, and fingers crossed it remains so.

What’s happening to the old equipment, we hear you ask? The majority is so old that it no longer meets current European legislation, so will be scrapped. One set of swings are being sent to another playground however, and it is very satisfying to know that our campaign has benefited another park. The much loved  horse has found a new home courtesy of a local lady who plans to upcycle it into something beautiful.

Boris Johnson also visited Wanstead last week on the election trail, and found time to pop into the playground to see where his Mayor’s Fund’s grant was going. It was our application to his High Street Fund back in early 2015 which really kicked off our fundraising efforts, including our video, so seeing the photo of Boris standing in front of the old wooden bridge felt like we’d closed the circle.

Job done, almost.

Last hurrah for the playground

This week contractors from the equipment supplier and council paid a site visit to the playground and confirmed that work would commence on Tuesday 3rd May after the Bank Holiday weekend. So that weekend will be the last time the old playground will be open to the public. We’re aware that some of our more senior residents may have fond childhood memories of playing on the old equipment, but we’re truly excited about what is going to be installed in the new one and know our younger residents are eagerly looking forward to playing in it! All being well if the weather stays good, the playground should be open for the half term school holiday at the end of May.

Meanwhile funds continue to come in. This week the Nationwide Community Match scheme informed us that North East London branches had voted us the winner, awarding us £600! We’re a tiny charity, and customers voted in branches as far afield as East Ham, so for us to win was a huge but very welcome surprise.

Just as our playground project nears its completion, another is just starting. We met with campaigners looking to renovate the playground in Churchfields park to give them the benefit of our experience. Some 18 months ago, right at the start of our project, we met with the organisers of the Friends of Lloyd Park to ask for their advice, so it’s nice to pay it forward. Good luck to them.

Eggciting news!

Pardon the pun, but with it being Easter we couldn’t resist!

We see March coming to a close with not one but two good pieces of news. Firstly, we’re absolutely eggstatic (OK, we’ll stop now) that the new playground equipment is now in the process of being manufactured! We’re still waiting for a confirmed install date, but the order is now with the factory. We’re hoping works will commence beginning of May.

Last Wednesday saw us battling the Ilford traffic to get to Redbridge Town Hall for the Mayor’s Community Awards evening. We had been nominated in the Community Champion group category and were thrilled to be announced as the winners!

It feels really good to have our hard work recognised by the Mayor and of course the lovely local people who nominated us. Humbling too, to realise that we are just a very small part of a huge group of local people who take the time to volunteer and help their community. We’re honoured to have been included amongst their numbers.

With April comes spring and our thoughts turn to gardening. With that in mind, we’ve recently taken delivery of a large quantity of wildflower seeds thanks to the ‘Grow Wild’ campaign to bring more flowers into our life. Our plan is to sow these in the buffer area between the current swings and Woodbine Place. We’re not quite sure yet on how we will do this – it could just be a few of us ‘guerrilla gardeners’ seed bombing the area, or we might try and arrange a volunteer seed sowing event – watch this space for more updates.

Wishing you all a happy Easter!

Keeping mum

Happy Mother’s Day! Apologies for the hiatus between blog posts. To tell the truth, we’ve had nothing to say – or rather that we could say – and wanted to wait until the ink was dry on our agreement with Redbridge council before talking about it.

So, what’s new? Well, this week has seen the culmination of the past 18 months of hard work. The order for the playground equipment has finally been placed! Big sighs of relief all round. We’ve not got a confirmed install date yet, but are hoping that work will commence at the end of April or beginning of May latest.

As was widely reported in the press, Redbridge agreed to meet the £10,000 shortfall in our budget. We raised £93,000 on our own and needed £103,000 in order to place the order. However, the wheels of town hall admin run slowly and it took longer than we thought to get the agreement inked and then get the order to the equipment supplier. This has delayed our install date but we’re still looking good for the new playground opening by May half term.

We’re delighted to have the financial support of the council. Initial press reports focussed on the ‘up to £19.5k’, leading to questions in some quarters as to why we hadn’t been given that amount. However, the agreement we had with Redbridge has always been that they would commit to funding the shortfall. After our fundraising efforts were better than expected, the amount was revised to £10k. We started this campaign because we recognised the financial difficulties the council faced and feel very lucky that Redbridge has been able to help at all, but the Leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Jas Athwal, was keen to recognise the hard work that we’ve put in.

We’ve been extremely fortunate in being awarded two grants this month which boosted our total. The Morrisons Foundation awarded £6,700 which has purchased the ‘Spinmee’ wheelchair accessible roundabout and The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation awarded £2,000. In addition, donations of £1,000 from the Wanstead Society and £400 from the Wanstead Business Partnership will go towards toddler picnic tables and bins. Finally, kudos to Luke Standen, a local father who successfully completed the Wanstead Flats Park Run, raising over £270 (which his employer, Barclays, will match). Thanks to all concerned.

With the equipment ordered, we can relax a bit. The 16th March sees us attending the Mayor’s Community Awards evening, where we’ve been nominated for an award. It’ll be a great chance to have a well deserved drink. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

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