We started this project with a few questions; What happens when we wrap children in cotton wool and
we don't let them explore their own limitations? Where do children safely explore risk taking in a risk averse society? We wanted to look at Risk Aversion and Risk Benefit. There is a gap between what people fear and what’s actually happening.
In exploring these ideas we stumbled across an incredible place called ‘The Land’. A ‘Dangerous Playground with a raw, energised, untamed feel about it. It was an overwhelmed, challenging and excited place to be, full of potential, possibility, story and adventure. The idea of creating a world with pallets, tires, tubes, rope and mud that can be manipulated by cast and audience was a very exciting possibility. Risk and adventure is slowly being designed out of children's lives. Can we use our theatre practice to design it back in?
There are no rules at ‘The Land’ apart from ‘don’t burn plastic’. Every single part of the playground has a thick risk benefit file on it. The risk benefits always far out way the risk. This is key. And what we found really interesting. This idea of RISK BENEFIT.
‘The Land’ has a raw, energised, untamed feel about it. The kids that are playing appear confident, loud and are having a blast. This is very much their kingdom.
There is a fundamental understanding that taking risks is beneficial and far out ways the ‘actual risk’. In a risk adverse society its understandable why people find this approach so hard to stomach. It’s telling that in the past 7 years since ‘The Land’ began the most serious accident there has been is a sprained ankle. Kids are good at managing their own risk.
We have now been to about 8 different adventure/dangerous play grounds across wales and the UK. We have met passionate play workers and advocates of the importance of this type of play for kids development. There is a frustration around the lack of support and importance placed on this type of play.
Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway said “Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,”. After studying children playing in playgrounds she identified 6 key chatagories of risky play, speed, hights, dangerous tools, dangerous elements, rough play and disappearing from adult range.
David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London said “There is no clear evidence that playground safety measures have lowered the average risk on playgrounds,”. He noted that the risk of some injuries, like long fractures of the arm, actually increased after the introduction of softer surfaces on playgrounds in Britain and Australia.