Growing up, I remember the joy of a new playpark opening ceremony. They invited us all along and had plenty of sweeties and new toys to play on. There were slides, swings, roundabouts and more. If you asked me what a typical park looked like, this is what I would describe.
But then Jupiter Play invited me along to Bargarran – Scotland’s first interactive playpark, which turned everything I know about parks on its head.
This is a park for all ages – but one that teenagers, in particular, will love. From the DJ booth called the Fono, a dance arch called the Sona, and an activity zone with seven different screens called the Memo, this is certainly different! It even has a callisthenics gym and the obligatory zip wire!
So often we say that there is nothing for young teenagers to do. But the teenagers of Bargarran, those in the Erskine Youth Council, were the ones who worked tirelessly to raise the majority of the funds for this. They made a change to their community, and what a change it is!
This gives the young people a space to enjoy that is theirs. An area where they can graffiti, relax, and play their music. A place that gives them somewhere to call their own.
Given the technology aspect of it, I was surprised by how easy it all was to use. We started at the DJ decks. You simply play a song on your phone, place it on the special pad on the deck, and suddenly it comes out through the speakers. No connections, no wires, no Bluetooth – just a bit of magic! Not only that, but you can have two phones simultaneously, mixing between tracks, scratching, sliding and all sorts of other DJ jargon that I do not understand.
From here we headed towards the arch, which was great fun. It started leading us through different games and breaking down barriers. You know what it is like when you go to a formal work event, you are on your best behaviour, but before long we were jumping, running and playing like kids!
My favourite piece of equipment was the Memo activity zone. I loved this as it is excellent for health and wellbeing as you run around, but more than this, it is also educational. It has maths and literacy games, beep tests, quizzes, and much more. The exciting thing is that the community council can change what games are on it (as they can with the Sona arch), ensuring that each visit can be different! As a teacher, I could easily see how well this could support the curriculum. And there are even two schools right on the doorstep that are in a prime position to make great use of this. I know I would have my classes outside!
But as much as I am talking about how it can benefit older children, a lady with two young kids in a buggy arrived while we were there. They had just come from a music class and were passing the time until nursery pick up. Even these wee dotes were quickly interacting and enjoying the park.
It truly is accessible for all ages. But also for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. The park is flat; there is no climbing or steps to stop people from accessing all this great equipment. Even the DJ booth is the right height for those in wheelchairs! What I particularly loved, though, is it doesn’t look like an accessible park, where there is a clear divide over which equipment is for whom. Instead, it is accessible in the same design, ensuring everyone is included and can play or hang around together.
The funding for the play space was achieved through a £50,000 grant from Renfrewshire Council’s Green Spaces, Parks and Play Areas and Villages Investment Fund to Erskine Youth Council, as well as £110,000 allocated by Renfrewshire Council to replace the former MUGA at the site of the new primary school joint campus in Bargarran. It took a real community effort to give the community something that can and does pull them together.
And that there is the magic of Bargarran; it is about everyone coming together!