HCS Chairman, David Wyles recently provided support for children’s play facilities in the town centre, as part of a consultation carried out by Playful Anywhere on behalf of Kirklees Council’s Blueprint proposals.
The following is an extract of comments made on behalf of the Civic Society during a telephone interview:
Q. What is your understanding of play and playfulness?
DW: From a children’s point of view – under 10 / 12s – something that is safe, enjoyable and can be enjoyed by families coming to town. Our workshops have indicated that sometimes the facilities need to catch people’s attention. Something that makes them think ‘wow that was good! We came into town and discovered this was going on!’.
Q: What are the big issues around play in Huddersfield?
DW: The big issue is a lack of facilities in the town centre. People who have children or grandchildren are often persuaded to go to play centres, indoor or outdoor. They are safe, clean and well managed. These are the places that children say that they want to go, and that’s the critical thing about getting people into the town centre. It’s hard to drag children around somewhere they don’t want to be. So, if you create such a facility, children will say 'can you take us to …’.
Q: What are the barriers to providing a more playful town centre for everyone?
DW: ‘Playfulness’ for older people is more about experiences that they can be involved in like dance, games, art or music. There are thousands of themes, they don’t have to be big themed events or expensive, it just needs imagination and the chance to join in. It’s getting people actively involved in something.
Q: Are there any specific play sites that you feel are particularly in need of investment?
DW: One proposal in the Blueprint is about Queensgate Market becoming a centre for music and performance. Given the limitations of Council budgets for maintaining something like that, the Civic Society doubt that it’s viable but think that the market is potentially a fantastic space with potential to integrate indoor play and to extend into the piazza. It could be an indoor/ outdoor play facility run by a public private partnership space or by Kirklees Active Leisure. New Street, Macauley Street, St Peter’s Garden may all be possibilities, but given that Queensgate needs to be looked at – and current Blueprint proposals do not appear sustainable - with a revenue income, good food, a variety of stalls, a performance area and children’s play, it could be fantastic. Queensgate is an ideal place to integrate facilities and to link to the area around the library /art gallery. There could be semi-outdoor experiences to bring joy to young and old.
Q: Any other issues about playfulness in Huddersfield Town Centre that you think are important?
DW: HCS want to preserve the heritage of the town but we know we can only do that if its vibrancy is improved. We want to see things being done, they won’t always need to cost the Council a lot of money and we are keen to help attract private investment. It’s important to find ways to get things moving to give a visual signal that it’s worth coming to town and having a good time.
Picture by messy-monkeys.com