Romp Around is a new play group for children aged 0-5 and their parents and carers that began in autumn last year. This initial pilot took place over 3 months at the Hidden Gardens and was a partnership project between Rumpus Room and MILK led by a group of artists and community workers: Sakaina Ali, Usma Ashraf, Leah Miller-Biot, Gabby Cluness, Nadia Rossi and Rebecca Livesey-Wright.
The organisers, who are also parents of young children, set up the group as a response the need for this kind of group in the neighbourhood they live in. They wanted to explore what a radical community play project could look like that prioritised experimentation, curiosity, collaboration and care for all involved (children and their parents/carers).
Over the course of 12 weeks the artists designed play sessions with support from the wider organising group, making artworks in collaboration with the children and care-givers that explored their own particular areas of creative research.
Leah explored reproductive labour, family abolition and so called ‘red love’; making a patchwork quilt over the course of her sessions. Rebecca investigated rest & play and sensory engagement, creating collages and sculptures. Nadia considered macro-cosmic and micro-cosmic worlds and interconnections with the earth, through sensory sculptures, sound and text works working in collaboration with artist Jenny Pengilly.
Each session had a snack and story/song time, in and outdoor free play and the kettle was always on for hot drinks for tired grown ups. For the final playtime of the year the group hosted a big free play picnic in the hall around the corner welcoming artist Bear Kenchington and their Ping Pong Ball Orchestra and community herbalist Beti Scott to make Winter Warmer potions. Julia Darrouy from the Rumpus Young Artists Committee also joined the group with homemade fabric parachutes and other objects to play with.
Romp Around celebrated the creativity of all the participants (young and older). The project was set up to make space for the joy and freedom of collaborative processes, working with children to play, make art, and to explore the idea of a community of shared care. In doing this the group learned about the meaning of play between children and their caregivers, the role of aesthetics, sensory experiences and the power of creative practice as a tool for community building and wellbeing.
Quote above is from Sophie Lewis’s Abolish the Family: A manifesto for care and liberation, 2022. Below quotes from people involved in the group.
“We have enjoyed the different kinds of creative approaches and the friendly environment. I felt cared for.” – parent/carer
“It’s been so great to meet people regularly in our neighbourhood.” – parent/carer
“I liked the bubbles.” – 3 yr old
“The feeling of being able to let go of the challenges I’m dealing with elsewhere in our lives and enjoy some nurturing time with my child.” – parent/carer
“It’s so nice to be making something with the kids that we (the adults) can enjoy too.’’ – parent/carer
“I liked making the yucky cakes.” – 3 yr old
The pilot project was funded by The National Lottery Awards for All fund. The group are currently working on ways to continue Romp Around this year. If you are a parent/carer interested in getting involved email email@example.com