As soon as I opened the ‘Adventure Play’ folder of the Elouise Edwards photograph collection I knew I wanted to write about these pictures. Although the folder also included photos of children horse riding, ice skating, river-wading and bouncy castle-jumping, the photos of the adventure playgrounds are what had me hooked. I have so many questions! Who built them? Where were they? Were they safe? Did that even matter?
The photos show enormous wooden and metal structures, usually near a large housing block or in large empty space, with children leaping, hanging and balancing on the various platforms, slides, planks and ropes – smiling for the camera as they go. It struck me just how different playtime was for children in the 70s than it is today – not a screen in sight (just dizzying heights and a couple of splinters instead).
Have you ever whiled away an hour or two in the University of Manchester archive? You should try it sometime. You never know what you’ll find.
I was in there one day rooting around trying to uncover the origins of international students who’d come to study in our city over the decades. Imagine my surprise when I saw the following statistic in the 1954 Report of the Council to the Court of Governors: “Stateless …. 1”. What could that mean? Sixty people from India or twelve from France is understandable, but “Stateless …. 1”?
You’ve probably guessed already I was on another voyage of discovery, one which I’d like to share with you…
Don’t think the mass migration of desperate refugees we’ve witnessed in recent years is anything new to Europe. It isn’t. The “Stateless Student” I’d stumbled across turned out to be only one individual amongst the millions of unfortunate souls left displaced and destitute on mainland Europe at the end of World War II. The cataclysm of the war-torn early 1940s had wrecked economies and devastated huge swathes of the landmass, leaving governments and people with insurmountable difficulties.
Refugees in Germany moving westwards in 1945 (Image courtesy the German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons – Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1985-021-09 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 de)
We have 17 issues of the local community newspaper Moss Side News from 1969 – 1978. They’re not in good condition (so I sadly won’t be taking them to the CoDE conference) but they are fascinating reads, revealing the burning issues of the time, namely housing (‘slum’ clearances were taking place), space for children to play and generally defending Moss Side against the bad press it got in the more mainstream local media.