Pupils from Albemarle Primary School with their Create & Learn PlayKits

Hearts for the Arts 2021 Shortlist – Create & Learn PlayKits

Wandsworth Council's Create & Learn PlayKits have been shortlisted for Best Arts Project in the 2021 Hearts for the Arts Awards.

Since May 2020, a group of Wandsworth creative organisations and Wandsworth Council have worked together to make and distribute just under 3500 kits of creative materials and activities to children aged 6-10 years old in most need via 42 Primary Schools and 16 Community groups and Summer Schemes.

These kits contained a booklet of creative activities and art materials. Creativity can feel like magic, but during lockdown families required digital access and materials at home to take part. The kits were created in response to the raising concerns around digital poverty and children not having access to basic materials like scissors, glue, crayons etc. With these kits, we wanted to bring creativity into the heart of the families across Wandsworth, and ensure that children had activities to inspire them and the materials to be able to be creative with.

A consortium of partners was formed for the project, made up of: Agora Arts Circle, Battersea Arts Centre, Creative Wandsworth, Nine Elms Arts Ministry, Roehampton R.O.C.K.S, Royal College of Art, SenTalk, Tara Arts, Wandsworth Council, 575 Wandsworth Road (National Trust).

Following conversations with headteachers, the decision was made to focus the PlayKits on children from the age of 6 to 10 years old, finding that children of this age, although in the process of getting more independent from their parents, do not yet have the capacity to seek entertainment or development on their own. Conversations with Headteachers also helped to identify materials that would both cover basic need and also offer the children something exciting and inspiring to use. The recipient families were identified working side by side with the local schools in order to ensure these kits reached children most in need.

The project has included work by many local artists who created activities for the PlayKits. In addition, the kits have been the chance to reclaim the use of cultural buildings as civic spaces as over 50 local volunteers have come together over the summer to assemble the kits, at Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) first and then at the Civic Suite, Wandsworth Council.

Described by a headteacher as a “god send”, the PlayKits offered local children from lower-income families the tools to be creative; a chance to escape their current situation and let their imagination run free.

Besides the clear impact on local children, this project re-enforced the bond Wandsworth Council’s Arts Service has with its community. It allowed partners to work in a different way and broaden their reach in the local area, strengthening their presence in the community and learning new skills.

What the judges said:

“A great project formed from a strong collaborative partnership between local organisations and with real reach to children across the borough. The PlayKits have provided creativity and inspiration for children and families throughout a very difficult time and it is fantastic that the programme is likely to continue and to influence the way the team operates in future.”

“This is a much-needed project aimed at the children of families that need it the most. Until the pandemic hit no one really knew about the digital poverty that some families faced or the fact that some families lack even the basic supplies for children to be creative. This project really tackles this issue.”