Newsletter: Children, design and our growing family


It’s Amy Rose here, and I’ll be editing the newsletter while Jenny is on maternity leave. Like Play:Disrupt’s founder and director, Malcolm Hamilton, my background is in street theatre and outdoor arts. I enjoy work that builds community and democratises public space in joyful, playful ways.

After becoming a parent, I worked alongside my neighbours to create a temporary play street on our road. This small action evolved into Playing Out CIC, a support organisation for thousands of people across the UK and beyond, all of whom are building playful community on their own doorsteps. As co-director and artist-in-residence for Playing Out, from 2010-2017, I designed and delivered workshops, online resources, special projects and events.

In 2013, I did an MA that explored embodied, arts-based approaches to participatory, public space design, and caught up on the current practices, ethics and politics of socially engaged arts and performance. I continue to work as a freelancer across these interests and am an associate with Play:Disrupt.
So, that’s me. Hi!

photo of Amy Rose, a white woman with glasses and grey hair smiles to camera

In this month’s newsletter

Putting Children in their Place

As we were writing this newsletter, a Parliamentary session on children, young people and the built environment affirmed our commitment to putting play and all-age engagement at the centre of our work. In late January, experts from the fields of land use, public health, play, human rights and others, presented solid evidence to MPs that insufficient space, time and opportunities for self-directed, ‘free’ play is damaging children and young people’s development.

We are seeing serious problems in children and young people’s physical and mental health, language, learning, social, behavioural and more, and these impacts are all much worse in areas of poverty and inequality. The evidence shows that people are shaped by the places where they live and that children and young people’s needs are not being embedded into urban and rural development at an adequate rate to stem these crises.

“Compared to previous generations, children’s lives have become incredibly restricted, indoors, isolated and inactive, largely due to changes in the outdoor environment. Government could reverse this trend and hugely improve children’s health and wellbeing by making streets safer and neighbourhoods more child-friendly, enabling them to get outside and play every day.”

Alice Ferguson, co-founder of Playing Out

Here at Play:Disrupt, we have ways of bringing the voices of children and young people into public consultation and co-design processes, but work is needed to ensure they have impact. It is essential that the needs and rights of children to sufficient play opportunities are heard and embedded into policy.

Scotland and Wales currently lead on this front in the UK; both have standards for ‘play sufficiency’ that are considered in decision making across transport, health, housing and so on. In England, we can look to Leeds, who, in December, demonstrated great practice by approving a play sufficiency action plan and appointing a Play Champion.

The “8-80” concept, that a city that is good for children and the elderly will be good for and everyone, is finally filtering into mainstream thinking and hopefully, into policy. We meanwhile remain committed to engaging people from all generations to make better processes, services and places with diversity, equity, belonging, wellbeing, connection and freedom to play at their core.

Child with umbrella makes chalk marks on the pavement.

Play Prompt: Notice Playable Features

Explore the streets and other outdoor, public spaces near your home or work with a child, or as a child might. Use chalk to write or make a mark on any places
where you, or a child, could safely

Run   Jump    Wheel
Hide    Skip    Dig
Climb    Imagine
Create  Build  Tinker
Throw a ball
Hang out with a friend

If you want to share photos of your findings on social media, please tag @PlayDisrupt and use #childfriendlycity and #oneplaything

If you want to think more about making your places child-friendly, playable and sociable, here is some simple guidance I made whilst at Playing Out, or get in touch!

And here’s another way of seeing through a child’s eyes— a Reverse Periscope! 

Upcoming Events

What can we do about High Streets?

As part of Bristol City Council’s City Centre & High Streets Recovery and Renewal programme, we are running some public events around Bristol to imagine and generate ideas for medium to large scale projects that can benefit the local area. We’ll bring our interactive Creative High Street Pop-Up activity tents and also hold workshops with local groups. Neighbours of all ages, business owners and anyone else with a connection to the area are invited to input into plans for

  • Greening— including things that improve air quality and bio-diversity, for  walking/cycling routes, parklets, planters and so on.
  • Culture—this could include, but is not limited to public art, theatre, music, film, digital performances and installations, community events (fetes, parades etc) and markets.
  • Street Scene—these are things that will make the place attractive for people to come, visit and use the local businesses, to feel welcome, for example, way-finding signage, waste and litter facilities, lighting and more
Come and play!
Fri 16th February, 12-3pm, Ashley Rd/Grosvenor Rd in St Paul’s, Bristol
Sat 17th February, 12-3pm, Crow Lane in Henbury, Bristol
Sun 18th February, 12-3pm, Oatlands Avenue in Whitchurch, Bristol

Alternatively, you can sign up for our online workshop via Eventbrite.
Or, if you prefer, you can take part in the High Streets consultation by filling in this survey.

Help to create a Place Manifesto for Bristol

Play Disrupt are one of the lead conveners of Bristol Urban Forum, a series of drop-in, interactive conversations held at Sparks, in Broadmead, Bristol.This is a one-year listening project where the people of Bristol are exploring themes of importance to them towards a Place Manifesto for the city. All are welcome–please come along. We’d love to meet you. The drop-in sessions run from 13:00-15:00 and are free to attend.  You can register on the forum’s website or by clicking through on the links below.



children and adults playing at an outdoor event

News in brief


How can shared, creative activity increase connection?

One of our highlights of 2023 was the Expressive Pockets Project with Connecting With Culture as We Age.  In it, we worked in a team of over 60 people, including designers and elders to co-design an activity that could enable connection and story-sharing. The resulting textile craft kits were trialled and refined through workshops at Knowle West Media Centre Factory’s Making Space and online. Participants used the kits to create pockets to sew onto bags, jackets, jeans and more. They reported experiencing a stronger sense of visibility and identity, while navigating differences and forging deeper connections with others in the project. We are excited for Expressive Pockets to be used in other settings and contexts to confront age-related isolation, share personal stories and build community. Follow the links and watch this film to learn more! Read more here.

Co-designing services with young people

Play:Disrupt devised and delivered a consultation for young people about healthy eating, weight, and body image. Commissioned by Cornwall Council, we worked closely with young people from socioeconomically deprived communities and those with learning disabilities to understand their experiences with body size, shape, and weight, using play activities such as creating avatars, loose parts and imaginative play. Through these activities, we identified enablers and barriers to a healthy lifestyle, and envisioned an ideal service for managing excess weight. A full project report will be available on our website soon.  Please contact us for more information.

Staff News

Our fearless Operations Director, Jenny Male, gave birth to a healthy baby in late January. The Play Disrupt team extends a hearty welcome to Remy and warmest wishes to the whole family.  And a big, welcome also to Nia Evans, who is managing operations while Jenny is on maternity leave. We will give Nia a proper introduction in next month’s newsletter.

Thank you for reading!

More To Explore

Blog Post

Newsletter: What’s often useful, sometimes messy but always essential?

In this month’s newsletter Often useful, sometimes messy, always essential Make an Encouraging Banner Upcoming News Pop-up place-making Often useful, sometimes messy, always essential  I recently attended an inaugural lecture by an old friend at the University of Bristol, expecting to hear about his projects, in which maths

Blog Post

Newsletter: Do games really improve engagement?

In this month’s newsletter Do games really improve engagement? Gamify to Clarify Upcoming Time for a new Bristol brand? Introducing Nia Play, design thinking and Free Ice Cream to map sustainable futures Gamify Everything? Do games really improve engagement? Saturday, March 23 is the penultimate Bristol Urban