Campaigners for Highfield Adventures are looking to create a secure future for the popular children’s playground now that it can remain open for the summer.
Government cuts in the Sheffield City Council budget meant that Activity Sheffield staff who run the playground were being moved to a mobile service. That would have led to big changes in the playground, which local parents value because the staff create a special place where all children feel safe and included.
The Friends of Highfield Adventures have been campaigning to keep it going and now £10,000 of Awards for All Big Lottery Fund money means that it can stay open five days a week during the school summer holidays.
Chair of the group, Kate West, said that her group is now working with Sharrow Community Forum and Sharrow Primary School to ensure it will stay open permanently.
The community forum will take over the management role and the council will help with money money towards repairs, maintenance and facilities management.
The group are looking for funding to pay for a worker who will raise money to ensure that the playground stays open.
Kate said: “It’s fantastic. It was great to see for Sharrow Festival there were more than 500 people in there. It was absolutely packed.
“More and more people are getting to know that the place is staying open, especially the kids. They know the place is still open and their parents don’t. It’s quite funny.”
She said: “We aim to keep it as a playground with free public access and have it open more hours. We want to keep it as a well-used venue for safety community. mental and physical health.
“It has been a long process and it’s not over yet. We need funding now for September onwards.”
She added: “Once we have got a paid role in, they will take over a lot of the work we’ve been doing. We’ll be able to be a normal community group again, supporting rather than leading.
“We’ve had a lot of interest. Funding bodies come and visit us without us putting applications in.
“We tick a lot of boxes, including community cohesion and involvement of black and minority ethnic families, that it’s such a no brainer for them to think, ‘put your money here’. That’s why it’s so shocking the council haven’t bothered to fund it.
“It’ll cost them more in the long run, for two reasons. I think health is one – if kids don’t keep up their activity levels. there will be health costs. More active children are more likely to be active as adults.
“This is self-motivated play. They keep going for hours. The kids go at their own pace and do their own thing.
“We’ve already seen a rise in anti-social behaviour in the area because Adventures is not open as much in the evening.
“Kids are just left in the streets or hanging around in the park. When it’s open they choose to go there. They like hanging out with the staff.”
Summer Adventures is aimed at children aged six to 12 years and runs from Tuesday to Saturday from 2pm to 6pm during the holidays.
The outdoor natural play sessions will be run by staff from Activity Sheffield, plus Heeley City Farm or Sheffield Wildlife Trust on different days. Activities will include bug hunting, fire making and den building.
Highfield Adventures will be open from noon on those days. Youngsters can just drop in to play but under-eights must be brought along and supervised by an adult.
Kate said: “It will be five days a week of amazing activities for the whole of summer. It’s very important because a lot of these kids don’t go away on summer holidays.”
She said that the place already has a beach feel with youngsters playing in an extended sand area. Parents are also enjoying sitting watching them in the sun.