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15 December 2017

In every borough in London, organisations are bringing young people together to play.

Play is a crucial component of childhood, a way to experiment with emotions, tangle with uncertainty, experience the unexpected, learn to respond to new situations, and create alliances, friendships and attachments. “Play, in all its rich variety, is one of the highest achievements of the human species, alongside language, culture and technology,” says Cambridge University developmental psychologist Dr David Whitebread. “Indeed, without play, none of these other achievements would be possible”. 1 But play is too easily dismissed as childish: for anyone beyond the age of childhood, play is too easily set up in opposition to work, suggesting that it’s something we need to grow out of, and that all these benefits only obtain when we are a certain age.

At London Youth we support what might once have been understood as youth clubs, but which are a far cry from what many adults may think of when they hear the term (deterioriating buildings, pool tables). Our 320 members are diverse community youth organisations, to which young people choose to go, and which champion their rights to play. In every borough of London are projects run by our members – who, every day, and most nights, are enabling young people to express themselves, play, and have fun. They offer provision that is open to all, both structured and unstructured. (Both approaches are important, and provision can vary according to the needs of young people.)

Click here to read the full essay.