Ian Waller and his family visit the excellent Brutalist Playground installation at Edge Arts. Photos by Paul Blakemore
Can you imagine a time when it was deemed a good idea to build children’s play areas out of concrete? Look back to photos of 1950s London and that’s exactly what you’ll see, with abstract, concrete play areas designed for many housing estates to provide a safe place for children to play.
By the 1970s, these areas were considered unsuitable and many were redeveloped, although photos and plans still survive. One of the results of this is The Brutalist Playground, a wonderful new interactive installation at The Edge Exhibition at the University of Bath, which recreates elements of these post-war playgrounds in reconstituted foam, giving our children the chance to play on them safely while we can check out the images of the original playgrounds as they’re projected onto the walls of the installation.
Having booked our hour’s slot on the Edge website – www.edgearts.org – we were all soon clambering, climbing and crawling through the exhibits, and thoroughly enjoying a very-hands on exhibit. Split into fives pieces, the flying saucer, steps, slide, tunnel and jeep, for the children this was just good old playground fun, without the slightest threat of the bumps and scrapes that the 1950’s children must have endured on the concrete originals. Here was a great space for the children to develop their own games and stories, playing tag as they chased each other through the tunnels or, like my youngest, searching for wild animals from the foam jeep.
As the children played, we grown ups could check out the photos and plans of the original playgrounds that were projected onto the walls of the gallery, amazed both by the stark, health and safety free look of the place, and also reminded of a more innocent time where children could be amused and inspired by the most basic surroundings.
I can’t recommend this installation enough. It’s fun, free and fascinating, a open door looking back at images of childhood and family that were a genuine reality really not that long ago. As with everything we’ve attended at Edge Arts, the team there are friendly, knowledgable and helpful, plus when your time is up, there’s an excellent cafe on hand for a quick drink and a piece of cake.
The Brutalist Playground run at Edge Arts until 9 September, and is open Tues-Sat 10am-4pm.