The Create & Learn PlayKits began in response to the outbreak of the Covid pandemic and the closure of schools in Spring 2020. Building upon the success of a number of smaller initiatives in Nine Elms and Roehampton, a group of arts and cultural organisations from across the borough of Wandsworth came together to discuss how they could support and inspire young people and their families to get creative during lockdown.
Focusing on families impacted by digital poverty, together they worked with schools and Wandsworth Council to ensure those most in need had access to creative, and practical, resources and materials during school closures. By the end of 2020, the consortium distributed over 6,000 activity kits to 46 Primary Schools and 16 community groups / summer schemes.
In February 2021, the Create & Learn PlayKits won the national Hearts for the Arts Award for Best Arts Project for providing children in Wandsworth with resources that was described as “a wonderful example of a community responding to specific need and bringing art and creativity into the homes and lives of the children involved…. really heart-warming and simple example of what a big impact small targeted local initiative can achieve” (Mariella Frostrup, journalist and broadcaster).
Building upon the success of the scheme and in response to feedback from teachers, from Monday 19 July, 4000 new PlayKits will be distributed across Wandsworth via over 50 primary schools. Offered to every primary school in the borough, these free kits will continue to bring much-needed creativity and play into the heart of family homes across Wandsworth throughout the summer holidays. The kits contain a range of creative resources including watercolour paints, crayons and a bespoke sketchbook, designed by artist and Royal College of Art graduate Hannah Coulson.
The sketchbook is inspired by a very special local house, 575 Wandsworth Road, cared for by the National Trust, and contains activities and ideas to inspire young families to see their home and neighbourhood in new ways, explore nature, experiment with materials and encourage drawing, painting, writing and playing. 575 Wandsworth Road was Kenyan-born poet and British civil servant Khadambi Asalache’s home, where for over 20 years he covered nearly every wall, door and floor with hand-carved wooden designs, paintings and drawings - his own living sketchbook inspired by the world around him. The sketchbook also contains two pages designed by Wandsworth based artist Raksha Patel, that introduces children to her practice.
The sketchbooks are aimed at families with children aged 6-10 years old, and will also be made available online to download for all families across the borough to enjoy. Primary schools across the borough have been asked to refer families for the scheme so kits go to those that need them most. Kits will be delivered to schools.
The project brings together Agora Arts Circle, Battersea Arts Centre, Creative Wandsworth, Nine Elms Arts Ministry, Roehampton R.O.C.K.S, the Royal College of Art, Wandsworth Council and 575 Wandsworth Road (National Trust). The sketchbook was designed by RCA graduate and artist Hannah Coulson with contribution from local artist Raksha Patel. The PlayKits have been generously supported by Arena, Battersea Power Station Foundation, Battersea United Charities, Big Local SW11, Big Yellow Storage, ISG, National Education Union Wandsworth, Sale, SenTalk, Southside Shopping Centre, South Thames College, Southwark Diocese, Thomas Foundation and Wandsworth Council.
The council’s culture spokesman, Cllr Steffi Sutters, said: “It is so wonderful that we have been able to continue this award-winning project with so many local partners to enable this next round of the Create and Learn Play Kits.
We are delighted to support a summer of creativity for our children and young people, particularly after such a difficult year. Now more than ever health and wellbeing are at a critical point and so projects such as this are vital as we come together to support positive outcomes through creativity and expression.
I look forward to seeing the sketchbooks brought to life by the vitality, hope, creativity and imagination of our children and young people and would like to thank all of the partners who came together to enable this project to continue.”
Ellie Loughnan, Headteacher of Brandlehow School & Chair of Wandsworth Primary Heads said: “Creative expression is so important for our children’s health and wellbeing and the recent pandemic has highlighted more than ever the barriers that young people face in our areas of socio-economic deprivation. So many of our young pupils do not have access to basic equipment and resources and this project has given them a creative lifeline – the ability to paint, draw, craft and express themselves. As we move into the next stage of this pandemic, the Summer Sketchbook will be a fantastic way for them to heal.”