1960: University Settlement Plan Craigmillar Adventure Playground
Scotland’s first “adventure playground,” modelled on Scandinavian lines, is to be established in the Craigmillar district of Edinburgh next year. It is part of the Edinburgh University Settlement’s plan to create in the Niddrie and Craigmillar districts a number of projects designed to make life fuller and happier for young people, said Mr Jim Brunton, leader of the scheme, in Edinburgh yesterday.
Mr Brunton has just returned from a tour of Sweden and Denmark, where ” adventure playgrounds ” have been in operation for nearly 24 years. The Edinburgh playground will combine the best features of the playgrounds in both these countries, and a youth centre will also be opened. Mr Brunton said yesterday: ” Given the good-will of the local people and the support of industry, the settlement is confident that the efforts of a voluntary body will provide an example and a reservoir of knowledge for the rest of Scotland.”
Reporting on his six weeks tour, he stated: “Playground activity in Stockholm has become a well-recognised institution. From nine in 1937, there are now 90 supervised play-places. Each playground usually has two or three play-leaders, who encourage personal activity and good behaviour among the children.
“All the playgrounds have available a wide range of toys, games, sports equipment, materials for handicrafts, and every play-leader is specially trained and has a high degree of skill in making children’s outdoor and in door leisure time happy, entertaining, and also unobtrusively educative.
“On the ‘Junk Playground’ in a suburb of Copenhagen hundreds of children construct, with imagination and skill, miniature houses which they decorate and furnish completely at their own discretion. Here they spend the summer months, happy and secure, tending their small gardens, co-operating with their neighbours in larger projects like the building of a workshop, and turning out a large range of handicrafts. “Periodic ventures such as exhibitions of work, festivals open to the public, evening dances and parties, help to make the Copenhagen playground a children’s paradise.
“About 80 per cent of the finance is provided by the State and the local authority, the balance being the responsibility of the local committee made up of residents in the housing scheme and other enthusiasts. Every encouragement is given to the children to help in fund-raising. ” From Scandinavia, the lessons for Scotland are few and simple. There is an urgent need to improve the social and psychological climate of our children. An end must be made to the sterile and unrestricted parks of the past. We must provide scope for children’s original ideas to be given full freedom. Modern, well-equipped youth centres are as essential in each community as drains and street-lamps.
An impressive feature of youth activities in Copenhagen was the part played by the city’s police force. It ran a number of centres staffed entirely by full-time police officers assisted by the spare-time efforts of their colleagues on the beat.
Niddrie Adventure Playground and was created in 1961 by Edinburgh University Settlement, making it possibly the first adventure playground in Scotland. Save the Children managed and funded it (with some grant aid from the local authority) from 1967 until 1998. For 40 years, the ‘Venchie’ (as it is known locally) has been widely used by generations of young people living and growing up in the local area.
It has grown and developed over time: new playground structures, a new building, new activities, new youth work programmes. The project has always tried to reflect the best practice in its work with children and young people, and to provide the highest quality of service to families and to the local community.
Save the Children withdrew from managing and funding the project at the end of August 1998. In preparation for the handover a steering group was formed of local people, representatives from community based organisations, businesses, and most importantly parents who live locally and whose children come to the Venchie.
The task of this steering group was to work with staff and SCF to develop a new organisation capable of managing the project after SCF’s withdrawal. Local people in Craigmillar are determined that this excellent and worthwhile project should be continued into the future. From the initial steering group the Venchie Management Association was created to take over the project from Save the Children and to run it as a successful community facility.