In 1979 Nottingham City Council organised a well-attended conference for those involved in Play across the city. This was led by Chris Prior, who worked for Nottingham City Council Arts Department and was attended by representatives of Nottingham’s play schemes and play projects. As a result, networking between those involved in Play grew. 

In March 1982 Nottingham Playscheme Forum was established which soon after became Nottingham Play Forum. The purpose was clear – to create an umbrella group and a voice for groups and individuals involved in Play in Nottingham. 

This was a very vibrant and active organisation at this time. There was a wide membership group of community play schemes, projects and activists involved not just in children’s play but the wider arts and community.  


In the early 1980’s workers were based in offices on Mansfield Road with further offices within Nottingham Council for Voluntary Services. 


A key function of Nottingham Play Forum throughout this period was supporting voluntary playschemes across the city. This was done in many ways, assisting in the grant process, delivering training to volunteers and paid workers and bringing people together by championing Play Alongside this a working group was created to find suitable premises to house a resource centre that could further support the Nottingham Play Sector and provide offices for staff. 

By summer 1985 the Summer Holiday Arts Project (S.H.A.P) was running. This innovative project was developed and run by Nottingham Play Forum and worked with artists to provide a variety of art workshops for summer play schemes throughout Nottingham City. SHAP continued until the 1990s  in a variety of forms and later developed into an artist directory that was produced and shared with play schemes and projects which included a Black artists directory. 

4th June 1986 saw the opening of the new Play Resource Centre at Bullivant Street in St Anns. It was opened by Chair of the County Council, Councillor Alan Shaw, accompanied by Ethel Swann, then the Chair of Nottingham Play Forum. With this a new name ‘PlayWorks’ began to be used and there was also a change in the management structure. Previously resources had been kept in a variety of places and distributed in an ad hoc way, with the new base at Bullivant street a central resource centre for the City had been established, along with a bulk buy scheme at reduced rates. 

 That summer Play Forum ran a mobile play scheme over 10 days in August in   various parts of the city providing activities such as drama, arts, crafts, sport, under 5 activities and music from The Fabulous Dirt Sisters! 

With their own building it was easier to provide a range of training opportunities, for example in January 1987 Soft Play making workshop was held at PlayWorks one of many training days aimed at building capacity within voluntary playschemes and those interested in children’s play. All with the intention of increasing the opportunities for children in Nottingham and using Play as a means for community development. 

13th July 1993 the new PlayWorks Resource Centre on Alfred Street North opened for use. 

The official opening day and celebrations followed shortly after on the 29th September 1993.  Ethel Swann and local Councillor John Collins opened the new building, which had previously been the home of the old Boys Brigade. The day showcased the work of Nottingham Play Forum including The Play Development Team, The Summer Holiday Arts Project (SHAP) and the Training Group. There were tours around the building including the new Scrap Store and Bulk Buy Store. The new building featured a creche that provided childcare for training participants or those attending meetings. Playworks also operated a mobile creche that was available for hire. 

PlayWorks led on, and was involved in a whole host of initiatives to support the play sector over the years, from organising and delivering street play sessionsdeveloping and delivering accredited training to increase skills, to holding conferences on Play.   

The PlayWorks Information Project organised the Play Action Network which brought together people involved in Play to develop a Play Policy for Nottingham in 2001 and in later years to support the work of The Play Strategy. PlayWorks were a key partner in delivering the “Play Pathfinder” in 2007/08 and campaigned for equality and diversity to ensure that play in Nottingham reflected the different communities within the city. 

In more recent years a decade of austerity and subsequent huge funding cuts, saw Playworks adapting to survive, developing innovative projects and continuing to be an important voice for children’s Play in Nottingham, and to meet the needs of the city within an environment where there was less funding for Play, Playwork and community engagement. 

The Scrap Store served what had become a much smaller ‘Play Sector’ alongside several schools and an increasing number of Students studying creative courses such as Fine Art, Photography and textiles. During the latter years families and individuals were also able to become Scrap Store members; this was encouraged by the monthly ‘Scrap Saturdays’ where families could come and get creative with scrap and take their creations home with the scrap store open to collect further resources.   

Some of the projects that Playworks developed and delivered in more recent times included: 

  • Ready, Steady, Go! – Funded by Children in Need - Play sessions on local parks for children aged 5-13 years 
  • Playing Out Nottingham - Delivering ‘Street Play’ sessions alongside residents, within their local communities 
  • Scrap Saturdays - enabling families to play together using scrap from the scrap store 
  • Our Park Heskey - Play Sessions on Heskey Park, St Anns just down the Road from PlayWorks 
  • Scrap Band – funded by Youth Music - Making and Playing music using scrap – children were able to achieve an accredited award  
  • PlayBack 
  • Celebrate Play  - An Annual celebration of Play, bringing together partners from across the play community, held on the Arboretum on National Play Day  


In March 2019, with huge sadness, Playworks announced to a shocked Nottingham Play sector that they could no longer continue. 

Throughout its existence Nottingham Play Forum benefitted from the involvement of many volunteers tonumerous to mention, from helping in the Scrap Store, assisting with training or organising play events. We want to take this opportunity to thank all those who were involved in making it the special place that it was.