If you’re a grown-up Londoner looking for some fun and games, you’re pretty spoilt for choice. Shuffleboard, neon golf, adult ball pits, video game-inspired climbing walls… the only limit is your ability to fork out rather more than pocket-money prices. But if you’re an actual child who wants a decent local playground? Well, it’s like this whole city is collectively yelling ‘get off my lawn!’
Kids’ charity London Play recently asked locals to vote for London’s Saddest Playground, and the shortlist is packed with bleak examples that wouldn’t spark the imagination of even a prodigious infant William Blake. Scattered among the slick housing developments of Greenwich are tasteful arrangements of logs, suitable only for sad beige kids to look mournful among. In chichi Islington, there are play parks that look more like spots to park a Range Rover in.
But the two play parks Londoners voted as the city’s very worst are still more disappointing. Crystal Palace park is mobbed with kids every day of the week, which makes it all the weirder that its play park is so uninspired: only a tiny fibreglass dino nods forlornly to its famous Jurassic/Victorian cousins, which people travel from all over the city to see. And Peckham’s Leyton Square, the playground where a young Rio Ferdinand honed his footie skills, isn’t likely to inspire the next generation in its current state. It’s currently walled off after a fire laid waste to it, something that’s even sadder given that it was expensively refurbished in 2018, in consultation with local kids.
These two lucky ‘winners’ will get some TLC courtesy of London Play, which plans to work with local groups to spruce them up. And it’s not all negativity, either. The charity’s also looking to hear from you about the city’s best playgrounds, so they can be added to its handy play map. Go on, nominate your local grouch’s front yard, I double-dare you.