18 FEBRUARY 1949, Page 16


Snt,—In the Spectator of January 28th, Mr. C. A. Murray suggests that a sound way of strengthening the weak family relationships which are a basic cause of so much juvenile delinquencAvould be to provide a great number of " playing-grounds . . . designed to give scope for boisterous and even destructive behaviour, without damage to nearby property," where parents and children could play together. It is precisely this need which a group of people in Camberwell have tried to meet, by turning the

• site of a bombed church in a congested area into a playground. This site has not been levelled and concreted, because our aim has been to provide something which more fortunate children have as their birthright—a place where there are interesting materials with which they can experiment, a place where they can satisfy their creative instincts and give harmless expression to their destructive urges, a place which gives scope to their imagination and their sense of adventure. There is earth to dig in, sand to play with, bricks and stones to use for many purposes ; water is laid on and tools and wheelbarrows provided ; cement is obtained (in judicious quantities) when bricklaying is the order of the day. For the rest, there is any clean waste material which can be acquired at low cost ; drain-pipes, rubber tyres, scrap-wood, ammunition-boxes, sheets of corru- gated iron, even engine-less cars, all have a part to play.

When the site was being prepared, by volunteers working during their week-ends in February, 1948, the children were enormously enthusiastic and wholly co-operative. The satisfaction they found in the novel experi- ence of working as partners with adults was ample justification for the experiment. Later on, when the playground was officially open, the supervisor found many difficulties to contend with, and we can only claim a partial success for our first season. But the scheme is still in its infancy, and we believe that this year, with the experience we have gained and the wider support we have been given, it will worthily fulfil its objective. We agree with Mr. Murray that it is of the utmost importance that parents should interest themselves in their children's leisure, and one of our chief aims this year will be to enlist the parents' help more fully. Last year most of them came to approve of the playground as a place to which they could send their children after school, knowing they would be safely and hdppily occupied till dusk ; we would rather they thought of it as the place to which, let us say, Father can take his boys to show them how to build a rabbit-hutch, or where Mother and the children can lay out a garden together.

This is not primarily a begging letter, but if any of your London readers have tools past adult use, or " out-door junk " of any description which they are thinking of throwing away, we should be more than grateful to hear of them. We have been given a sum of money for the erection of a Nissen hut, and are going to receive a small grant towards the supervisor's salary from the London County Council ; but the rest of the expense has to be met by voluntary subscriptions, and it is hard to

make ends meet.—Yours, &c., KATHARINE MARKHAM,

5 St. George's Terrace, Hon. Sec., Camberwell Playgrounds Regent's Park Road, N.W.I. Committee.