I haven’t been posting a lot of shoots lately – partly because people don’t tend to book family photoshoots in winter – but mainly because I’ve been focusing my efforts lately on a new project: Sydney Creative Play.
Actually, it’s an old project. I founded this nonprofit in 2014 and we ran a popular but short-lived artspace for toddlers and preschoolers in Marrickville. I won’t go into the politics and long story of why we lost our space, but it was a big bummer so I took some time off, then fell pregnant with Nikolas and thought I’d put the project to bed… until a few months ago when it kept coming up in conversations.
I started thinking about it more and thought that maybe if the right place came along and enough people wanted to see it happen, we could re-launch. And as luck would have it, not long after some informal discussions I stumbled onto a new space called Cockatoo Creative. It was a large warehouse space, right along the Cooks River, an easy walk to my house and the manager had a 3 year old daughter and a mutual friend.
The stars seemed to be aligning. And so Sydney Creative Play was reborn! We launched our primary program in August, the Cooks River Creative Playgroup:
This is our warehouse space which is awesome because we can chalk up the floors and get messy. In fact, it’s encouraged.
The playgroup meets on Mondays and Thursdays from 10-1 for kids under 5. It’s been a great success so far.
And our outdoor space is where urban graffiti walls meet placid riverside nature play. I love the contrast. And for many of our Inner West kids the chance to get messy and dig into mudpies is all too rare!
We recently ran our first school holidays program which featured some special events in addition to the regular playgroup. The first was a nature scavenger hunt. I created a sheet of photos of flowers, leaves and other natural items from around the Cooks River and those who completed it got a small prize at the end. (Almost all the kids did, so I’ll have to make it harder next time!) And then we had a picnic together afterwards. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.
Another highlight was our Pop-Up Adventure Playground. If you’re not familiar with the concept (more info here) the gist of it is, you fill a space with loose parts, open-ended materials, junk. But what we see as junk, our kids see as…
And goodness knows what else…
That was our biggest event ever, with nearly 40 kids participating in one afternoon!
We’ve got big plans for the future. We’re looking at expanding our programs for 2017 and sorting our offerings for the next big school holiday break.
Another component I’d like to develop is our outreach program. As many know I’m also passionate about my work with Mums 4 Refugees. Currently I’m running a separate playgroup in Lakemba for refugee and new migrant families. There’s also an English learning component, and I’ve tried tying activities into vocabulary work, such as this activity below for learning names of fruit and vegetables.
I’d very much like to expand our programming to offer mobile groups and other activities to this community. But in small ways we are getting the message out there that all kids deserve to play free!
UPDATE: As of August 2017 we, very sadly, had to shut our doors. We lost the space photographed above and were briefly able to move into the old Canterbury Bowling Club. (Below)
The space was under-utilised and full of amazing potential, but we encountered a lot of resistance from our local council and eventually got booted from this space as well. There’s a lot more politics to it, but let’s just leave it at that and remember some of the great times we had there.
I’m so proud of the work we did in our short run. So many school holiday programs and community events. The ones below was from an “Easy Earlwood” community event to highlight sustainable transport.
But one of my favourite achievements was securing a grant to run a “Refugee Week” event. We hosted a series of workshops on our site and with our M4R playgroup in Lakemba to create two chalkboard mosaics to hand in the community garden at Jubilee Park.
We capped it off with a big family event full of art activities.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This project has been a true labour of love, with lots of ups and downs and in July 2018 we re-launched again, this time in Newtown.
You can keep up to date on our programs on our Facebook page.