Essential Information

Type Conferences
National Maritime Museum
Date and Times Thursday 28 September
Prices Pay what you can

The global pandemic, cost of living crisis, wider awakening to racial inequality and injustice have changed the way we play, and how we support children, families and young people within our cultural institutions, schools, nurseries and streets and in our local communities.

This conference aims to bring together people across the cultural and education sector to share ideas and practice.

From inspiring case studies to best practice grounded in evaluation and interactive workshops, we will re-evaluate what play means in today’s society, the role we can play and what commitments we need to make to truly take play seriously.

Games without wires Caribbean takeover

Conference themes

Presentations and workshops will cover the following themes or wider areas:

Play and equality  

  • The impact of the pandemic 

  • Cost of living crisis 
  • Poverty 
  • Play poverty and sufficiency  
  • Gender identity and gender equality in play
  • Temporary residents and play across cultures
  • SEND 

Taking play seriously – the importance of play 

  • Creating more time and freedom for play   
  • Child development 
  • Wellbeing 
  • Family resilience 
  • SEND 
  • Outdoor play / nature play

Building on Play  

  • Using play to access history/ culture 
  • Playful entries to ‘difficult’ topics 
  • Museums as unique places for play 
  • Building on play – supporting children to move through play, asking the right questions, supporting/ developing play 
  • SEND 

Conference programme

Daytime session *fully booked: email to be added to the waiting list*

10.15am  Arrival & coffee 

10.45am – Introduction from the National Maritime Museum

Speakers include Rosalind Croker-Ahmed, Senior Manager: Partnerships and Public Engagement; Ruth Boley, Senior Manager: Learning; Katie Cassels, Families and Young People Manager

11pm – Keynotes 

  • Planning for play and the journey towards play sufficiency; how Scotland’s policy landscape has developed to support children and young people’s participation. Speakers: Cherie Morgan and Marguerite Hunter Blair, Play Scotland  
  • Outdoor play and wellbeing. Speaker: Helen Dodd
  • Moving play to the heart of planning, policy and practice: playful culture change in museums, schools and cultural places. Speaker: Charlotte Derry, Playful Places & OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning)

12pm – Breakouts  

1.30pm  Lunch & optional tours

2.30pm  Workshops 

3.30pm  Plenary 

4pm  End 


Evening session

4.30pm – Evening delegates arrive

5pm  Welcome & intro 

5.15pm Keynotes  

5.45pm Breakouts

6.15pm  Plenary

6.30pm End

Conference speakers and workshop leaders

Click on the arrows to find out more about our conference speakers and facilitators

Kerry Murphy, Lecturer in Early Years & SEND, Goldsmiths, University of London

Kerry is an early childhood specialist with a background in neurodiversity, disability and behaviour. She is a lecturer in early years & SEND at Goldsmiths University and an author. She is currently completing her doctorate (EdD) in play and neurodivergence at The University of Sheffield.

Her research aims to challenge the quality of play-based intervention so that there is a move away from teaching neurodivergent children to mimic neurotypical skills, also referred to as masking. Her aim in working in the early years is to challenge the deficit narratives about children whose development does not take a typical pathway.

She adopts a neurodiversity-affirming stance and believe in strengths-based approaches to inclusion. She offers training and guidance to help practitioners and settings become neuroinclusive, including understanding the role of neurodiversity and ableism and the harms of traditional behaviour management approaches.

Richard O’Neill

Richard O’Neill is an award winning storyteller, author, screenwriter, woodcarver and toymaker and educator. He grew up in a traditional Nomadic Romani family in the North of England. Learning traditional skills through purposeful play he is an advocate for the same for all children. 

Anna Bruder, A Line Art

Anna Bruder is the Founder, Designer and Creative Director of A Line Art. Anna studied Theatre Design: Design for Performance at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, graduating in 2004.

Anna has worked in theatre, installation art, music, TV and illustration. She has created striking visual experiences which find themselves in theatre, arts centres, schools, public spaces, festivals and shops.

Since 2011, Anna has been working on her design concept A Line Art. This is a design style that will take you back to a childlike state of mind by transforming the original interior into an illustrated world. Her main aim is to inspire and encourage creative play within families. 

Kevin Campbell Davidson, A Line Art

Kevin Campbell Davidson is an award-winning creative arts practitioner, using music, movement, spoken word and storytelling to design adventures and games for communities. Kevin has delivered work at Sadler's Wells, the Royal College of Arts and BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

He facilitates R&D projects and works with organisations for extended periods as resident artist. Alongside this, Kevin holds three Masters degrees in Law, Education and Psychology, delivers teacher training internationally and lectures in embodied and playful approaches to learning at Goldsmiths College, Kingston School of Art and University of East London.

Kevin is thrilled to be collaborating with A Line Arts on projects supporting play and wellbeing for communities. 

Arji Manuelpillai, A Line Art 

Arji is a performer, poet and education artist who has worked both nationally and internationally with young people, children and adults from across the world.

For over 15 years Arji has worked with community arts projects nationally and internationally.  His major strength lies in language, which has allowed him to work with several bands as songwriter including Oojami and The Leano. In 2019 he was one of the Jerwood/Arvon mentees and has performed with some of London's best poets from Raymond Antrobus to Hollie McNish.

Alongside his own creative projects he has been running workshops for vulnerable children and young people in various settings. In the last 15 years he has worked for companies including Emergency Exit Arts, The Southbank Centre, The Young Vic Theatre, The Roundhouse, Music in Detention, The Royal Opera House, Breathe and many more. 

As well as being a passionate creative facilitator he is also a published poet. In 2021, following the release of his first book Mutton Rolls, He was awarded a Develop Your Creative Practice Grant from Arts Council England which he used to research and develop a new book discussing extremism and radicalisation in its many forms. Improvised Explosive Device was published in October 2022 under the auspicious publisher Penned in the Margins. 

Ross Bolwell-Williams, A Line Art 

Ross is a creative producer, participatory artist and creative learning specialist who has been creating, managing and producing ambitious participatory arts programmes which fire up imaginations and create unforgettable moments of wonder.

Graduating from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2008, Ross has been making extraordinary ideas happen in a spectrum of places and spaces which have co-creation, invention and curiosity at their heart.  Ross has previously worked with Punchdrunk Enrichment as their Producer; overseeing the company's pioneering immersive learning programmes in schools and community settings.

Prior to this Ross walked amongst the mechanical giants and creatures at Emergency Exit Arts as their Creative Producer, dreaming up and instigating their creative learning and activism programmes of work.  

Louisa Bartlett-Pestell, artsdepot

Louisa is Director of Programming and Participation at artsdepot where she oversees a large multi-art form performance and participation programme in the venue and across community and education settings.

Louisa has previously worked in the Festival Programming team at Southbank Centre and the Learning and Participation team in the Dance Faculty at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. She is committed to reducing the barriers to participation in the arts and enabling as many people as possible to engage with high quality creative and cultural experiences. 

Joe Carr, Britten Pears Arts

Joe Carr is Community and Collection Curator at Britten Pears Arts based at The Red House. He has worked in the museum sector for over 20 years in the areas of collection, curation and education. This includes helping to develop Time and Tide in Great Yarmouth, working with a variety of communities at Brent Museum in London, managing the education programme at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village and creating the learning experience at The Red House Aldeburgh. 

Joe developed Mini Music Makers at The Red House, a unique and new experience for under 5s. The group has developed into its own community with over 30 families taking part in free, weekly sessions on site.

Sandra Hedblad, Built Environment Trust

After graduating with an MA in Public Archaeology, Sandra worked at the Museum of London for 17 years. For 10 of those years she was responsible for the delivery and expansion of the family programme, working closely with community groups including children centres and virtual schools to reach underrepresented families. She later managed the family team as it grew to include dedicated Early Years programming and family community festivals, as well as a programme for people living with dementia. 

In 2020 she moved to RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects). As Head of Learning she worked closely with a team delivering a national schools programme, events for children, families and older adults at risk of social isolation, but also supporting young people looking for a career in architecture.

In September 2022 she started a new role as Head of Learning at the Built Environment Trust, where she is setting up a Learning programme looking at the impact the built environment has on our daily lives and wellbeing. The new programme will engage with schools, families and general interest adults exploring how we can make where we live more sustainable and community friendly. 

Patch Scales, Science Museum Group

Patch was a science communicator and activity facilitator at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester for seven years, before transitioning to the Science Museum Group’s Audience Research & Advocacy team, where he now researches how to engage early years audiences with objects and museums. 

Madeline Stanley, Science Museum Group 

Madeline has worked in museum education at the Science Museum for 10 years. Most recently, she was working as an Audience Researcher, advocating for the early years audience across the Science Museum Group.

She is now working in the Science Museum Group Academy, researching and developing a training for early years practitioners, to help support them in engaging early years children with science and science-related objects in playful ways.    

Lucy Nicholls, Roundhouse 

Lucy has been working at the Roundhouse as the Education Programme Manager for four years and formally as Creative Learning Producer and Arts Council England funded Change Maker at Stan's Cafe Theatre Company.

She has 16 years experience working both nationally and internationally with small grass-roots organisations and large non-profit organisations, facilitating, managing projects, producing and performing. She has a First Class BA (Hons) and an MA in Performing Arts and PGCE in Post-Compulsory Education. She previously attended the Clore Leadership short course. She has directed, scripted and devised productions and large scale outdoor performances and installations for clients including the Birmingham Literary Festival, the Birmingham Hippodrome, universities and music festivals. 

Sarah Gudgin

Sarah works with stories and memories to create understanding, learning and wellbeing. Sarah has a museum and heritage background and has delivered a wide range of projects exploring the past through oral histories, exhibitions, reminiscence, intergenerational and arts-based activities. 

Sarah has worked in collaboration with multiple partners and diverse communities, to produce heritage based outputs which explore memory, place, belonging and identity. Sarah is a freelance oral historian, curator, reminiscence arts practitioner, facilitator and trainer.

Katie Cassels, Royal Museums Greenwich

Katie Cassels has worked in heritage for nearly a decade, across historic houses and museums. Her work is driven by a passion for intergenerational relationship building and conversations. Her approaches look for opportunities to build confidence in families and young people to access and use museums on their own terms and in ways they truly need.

Katie is the Families and Young People Manager at Royal Museums Greenwich.

Michael Walling, Border Crossings

Michael is Artistic Director and Founder of theatre company, Border Crossings. He studied History at Oxford University, and subsequently trained at Trinity College, Dublin. He has directed numerous productions across four continents, winning awards for Two Gentlemen of Verona in the US and Paul & Virginie in Mauritius. He has directed the bulk of Border Crossings' productions, films and festivals, and is responsible for the overall direction of the company.

Michael is Visiting Professor in the Research Centre for Multicultural and Intercultural Performance at Rose Bruford College. He has written the college's Theatre Studies Modules on The Social Stage, Shakespeare, The Designer, Elements of the Performance, Post-Colonial and Black Theatres and The Critical Audience.

His numerous publications include pieces in New Theatre Quarterly, African Theatre, Suspect (Toronto, Alphabet City 2005) and Peripheral Centres / Central Peripheries (Saarbrucken, 2006). He is also Chair of the board of the theatre company Kandinsky. Known for his eloquent advocacy for culture and social justice, Michael is frequently asked to speak in public. In 2017, he was a platform speaker at the European Culture Forum in Milan.

Lucy Dunkerley, Border Crossings

Lucy has been Associate Director at Border Crossings since 2012 and leads their Community, Participation and Education work. Since 2016, Lucy has been working with young refugees & minority women's projects, exploring and developing methodologies that honour cultural diversity and enable equitable participation.

Lucy has worked extensively with communities and disfranchised young people who are traditionally under-represented in theatre. Lucy worked for 8 years at London's Royal Court, leading playwriting projects for young people. Lucy founded a theatre company for adults with learning disabilities at Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough. She has directed numerous professional plays and readings, youth theatre productions and community performances.

She is Chair of Audiovisability, a Deaf-led music charity, ensuring that all deaf people have access to music. She has also worked all over Italy, writing, devising and directing shows for young people, as well as being involved in projects in other parts of the world, including China and many European countries.

Sophie Bennett, MK Gallery

Sophie is the Producer of Inclusion at MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, and heads up their Inclusive Practice in the Arts (IPA) programme. She has worked in the field of inclusive arts for many years and has a background in facilitating dynamic visual arts projects for diverse groups across various settings.

Sophie studied for her undergraduate degrees in Manchester and subsequently completed a Masters in Inclusive Arts Practice at the University of Brighton. Sophie is passionate about opening up opportunities within the arts for those who may face barriers, and creating projects which facilitate connection, play and child-led learning.

Rosie May, MK Gallery

Rosie is the Inclusion Coordinator at MK Gallery, supporting the delivery of the Inclusive Practice in the Arts (IPA) programme. Rosie studied Graphic Arts at Winchester School of Art, specialising in illustration. After graduating she pursued a career as a freelance illustrator, and later developed a more community-oriented practice, delivering creative workshops for local cultural organisations and arts charities.

Rosie initially formed a connection with MK Gallery’s IPA Programme in 2021, joining as an Art & Us Assistant. Rosie fell in love with IPA’s work and is delighted to be in her new role. Rosie feels privileged to be working in a field that is kind, generous, constantly evolving and has the care of others at its heart.

Charlotte Derry, Playful Places

Charlotte Derry is a play & museum consultant who manages Playful Places, an organisation offering mentoring, training & creative idea-generation for play in public venues - with the aim to support children’s play needs and cultivate resilience, well-being and our creative capabilities to respond to social, cultural and climate challenges. Charlotte is a regular workshop facilitator for Kids in Museums & a mentor for OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) - supporting schools to improve the quality of children’s playtimes. Together with The Happy Museum she established the Playful Places Network which supports museums & cultural venues cultivate the conditions for children’s play and the playful engagement of all visitors.

An image for 'Charlotte Derry, Playful Places'

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