THE sounds of excited children having a great time greeted visitors to Highfield Adventure Playground on Saturday, just as it has done for the past 40 years.
The playground in Crowther Place was thronging with youngsters trying out a visiting mobile climbing wall, braving the giant slide or just having fun running around at a party to celebrate the milestone. Little ones played in the sand pit or enjoyed a game of tig.
Inside, a brisk trade was going on in tea, coffee and toast to ward off the bitter cold while youngsters queued for face painting or challenged each other to a game of table tennis.
Later on, everyone gathered together to sing happy birthday and blow out the candles on a cake.
And parents spoke about how worried they are at the cuts that could seriously affect the future of the playground. They say it is a vital resource in this inner-city area, helping to bring cohesion and a sense of community to a widely diverse population.
The same prospect faces other communities across the city at the Verdon Street and Pitsmoor adventure playgrounds as Sheffield City Council seeks a £50 million cut to its budget, imposed by the Government.
At Highfield, the council is consulting about the possibility of withdrawing funding for staff who currently run the playground, making the playground open access by taking the fences down and opening up the building on the site to public hire.
Mum Berie Stott, mum of Lewis, almost six, who goes to Sharrow Primary School, and Emily, who’s one, lives in Vincent Road, Sharrow.
She said: “I come here after school a lot of days and for us it’s just a safe place for them to come and mix with kids of all ages and different cultural backgrounds. Kids can also come without their parents. It’s somewhere safe and supervised. Older kids can come after school on their own.
“We’ve been coming since Lewis was a toddler, then I had the baby as well. She crawls around the play area. Older kids don’t mind having kids crawling around. Usually teenagers would shy away from that. There are few places that actually cater for such a wide age range.”
She added: “I’m worried that kids could burn the building down again if it’s opened up as it’s happened before.’’
“This playground is vital for my family and whole community. Kids come without parents a lot of the time, playing and mixing with kids of all cultures.’’
Dad Perry Ismangil, who runs a software development company, lives in Carterknowle Road and brings his daughter Alyah, who is 15, and his 10-year-old son Abyan.
He said; “We came to Sheffield in 2000. Ever since then we always came here. Both of my kids went to Sharrow School and one still goes there.
“This has been a good after-school stop. That’s how our family use it, rather than them going straight home and then they’re on the computer and TV. They always run around here.
“You can pick them up from here, happy that they’re safe. If you picked them up from the normal playground you don’t know who’s going to be there. Where are they going to be waiting around?”
Amina Ali is a mum of two boys and a girl, aged four to nine. The family live just off Sharrow Lane.
She said: “It’s such a brilliant place and it’s really sad that they want to change it the way they’re saying. I’ve always felt really fortunate that the children can come here right after school. Kids have a great chance to play with their friends. At school they work so hard on the curriculum. They can be free and play and see their friends and have their snacks here. The staff are so lovely, there’s so much going on. It’s a shame the council are not valuing it enough and trying to get rid of them all.”
“They should look after our children and do a good job for us. They tried to pass the buck and say the Government is telling us to do it.
“It’s not good enough. We elected them. They ought to stand up for us.”
Full-time mum Nermin Araz lives in Highfield and has a daughter Celine, aged five, who is at Sharrow School.
Originally from Turkey, she said: “We come quite often, we quite like it here and we like the community here. The kids really enjoy it. You’re inside as well when it’s cold. The children do drawing and art and can have their drinks. It’s really good and we’re having fun here. It’s not going to be nice if they close this. My daughter’s got all her friends coming to this park.’’
Coun Isobel Bowler, Sheffield City Council cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said in a statement: “Sheffield City Council is faced with having to make £50 million of savings this year due to a reduction in Government funding.
“We are considering how we run our adventure playgrounds at Highfields and Pitsmoor as part of our budget proposals. We are not proposing to close them, but to make them available for community hire or possibly for community management. In terms of playground equipment we’re looking at options regarding continued access.
“We are keen to hear from any community groups who have ideas about how these facilities can continue to be operated.”