We took a bit of time out to talk to Suzanna about Pop Up Adventure Play, her advice to new businesses, her loves, the reason behind the charity and what we can expect from them at Happy Sundaze
What’s your name and where do you come from?
My name is Suzanna Law and I currently live in Radcliffe, Manchester.
Tell us about Pop Up Adventure Play and the work the charity does?
Pop-Up Adventure Play
is a UK-based charity that focuses on the advocacy of child-directed play in a community of supportive adults. We travel around the world delivering trainings and workshops on the importance of children’s free play, and help them to develop their pop-up adventure playgrounds – temporary open-ended play sessions with loose materials. It’s our name-sake model which we developed and is now being replicated in over 20 countries. There are only 2 of us who work for the charity – myself in the UK and Morgan who is based in the USA.
What’s your background and how did it all start?
Once upon a time I acquired a chemistry degree, hated it, and starting looking for a type of job that let me stay on my feet and move around. I’ve always had an affinity with children so I thought that teaching could be a route, but then I discovered a field called playwork and I was sold. The more I learned about playwork, how it prioritises children’s play and their rights surrounding that need, the more I fell in love with the field. I worked for a couple of years as a playworker before getting a bachelors degree in Playwork at Leeds Beckett University. During that degree, I co-founded Pop-Up Adventure Play
with Morgan in 2010 and am now working towards a PhD in Playwork.
How are you involved with this Year’s Happy Sundaze event?
We are going to be running a giant pop-up adventure playground at this year’s Happy Sundaze! There will be boxes and fabric, tubes and tubs, lots of open-ended materials for children to explore, create, discover and dismantle. It’s going to be an amazing opportunity for children to follow their own lead in their own play, all in what looks to be a beautiful space in Manchester. We hope to be the event’s chosen charity too, which is a complete blessing for us to raise funds to continue running events in the area!
Which tunes are top of the kitchen disco playlist on your house?
The Pop-Up Adventure Play
kitchen is often in a different country, or in a hotel, or even the snack box in the car hurtling across a country far far away, but we do have some favourites! Here are a couple – apologies for them not being particularly disco! 🙂
What are your favourite places for a knees up without the nippers?
We’re not really a knees up kind of organisation, but places that we would absolutely love to visit again without the kids are:
Captain Kidd’s, Redondo Beach, CA https://captainkidds.com/
(Sitting on the pier eating seafood that I just picked and watched them steam for me – heaven!)
What was the first album / single you bought and what format did you buy it on?
I remember heavily influencing (even paying for) the purchase of the Hear’say single
– Pure and Simple – on cassette. I pretended to be generous and bought it for my younger siblings I think, but actually I secretly wanted it all for myself.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
To take a phrase from playwork theory, I love the fun, freedom and flexibility that my work offers! I work from home so at a time that suits me, often this also might mean I am in a completely different country with people I have only ever spoken to by email. Every day is different and has challenges to overcome, but in a glorious way that really makes me feel alive! My work offers me the flexibility that I need in my personal life, but the adventures that stay with me forever – fun, freedom and flexibility in practice!
Why is free play so important in a child’s development?
Play is a biological, psychological, and social necessity. It is not only a wonderful way to pass time, but an intrinsic urge that children have. The benefits of play are multifaceted and plentiful – it develops gross and fine motor skills, helps to work on communication, creativity, team work and resilience. It is where children develop their executive functioning skills – those soft skills like coming up with a plan and following through, or seeing a potential need and asking for help.
Play can develop Maths, language skills, cultivate a love of Science, and provide a platform to consider the philosophical side of life. Play has a therapeutic quality too, an important way for children to work through life’s difficulties and improve their own mental health. Play is the answer to so many of children’s developmental needs but strangely enough playwork’s focus is not on any of them!
Play from a playwork’s perspective is with the pure joy of playing – playing for play’s sake. That’s what we want to tell the whole world about: the simplicity of play is enough, for every child.
What advice would you give to any new business?
We have a phrase – almost a motto – at Pop-Up Adventure Play that we’ve used since the very beginning: start small, start now, keep going. When you wait for the stars to align to grow your, those conditions may never come about, but if you push forward just a little bit, you will find a way to make things happen.
What’s in store for the charity in the next 12 months?
We are working on some projects that will nurture relationships in Hong Kong, Malaysia and the USA. We are also working on some connections closer to home, running pop-up adventure playgrounds in Manchester. The biggest focus for us this year is sustainability – our little charity runs on a shoestring but want to reach even more people in more places. It’s the year of fundraising for us and we look forward to finding ways of helping our little charity continue to bring playful joy to children all over the world.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Happy Sundaze event?
We are looking forward to meeting lots of new people, and seeing how children play in this kind of environment. It’s going to be strange but beautiful and we’re very excited.
To find out more about Happy Sundaze and to grab tickets for your family this May 6th head here – http://www.ourkids.social