Christine Lehman, play strategy and development officer, Islington Council children's services.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Christine Lehman manages the Big Lottery Fund portfolio in Islington.

What do you do?

Islington has a strong history of play use and this is evolving since the national play strategy was released. We aim to embed play throughout the council and my role is to help the process by developing relationships with a range of agencies and departments, from planning to residents' associations.

What projects are you currently involved with?

I manage the Big Lottery Fund portfolio, which includes several projects, such as the Islington Play Association's play improvement scheme. Islington has a lack of open space and parks for children to play in, but it has 12 adventure playgrounds. We want to redevelop these and make them more accessible to excluded groups.

How do you help children play?

We have groups of Islington play rangers, detached workers who focus on enabling play in parks, schools and estates. It's about raising awareness of play opportunities in the local environment. The play rangers engage with children and young people, offering them the chance to try new activities. They also show children how to play respectfully.

What challenges do you face?

Building trust with local communities can be a challenge. I have to help dispel the idea that children and young people are not welcome to play. There are also access issues. Islington is a dense and busy borough with major thoroughfares. We are looking at implementing safe routes, although every child should have play opportunities within walking distance of their home.

How would you like play to develop in Islington?

I would like to see a wider responsibility for play, which would embed it in local policy. Also, I'd like to see more natural play areas that are challenging and have more risk. I'm from an adventure play background, where managed risk is seen to be positive. However, we have to be sensitive to our partners who can hear the word "risk" and start thinking about litigation.

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