Oval Road, Tipton, 1980

Here we see a group of women from Oval Road, Tipton, alongside the Jubilee Bus, with food they have prepared for a celebratory party for children at the end of a playscheme week with workers from Jubilee Arts – Circus being the theme of this particular week. The final day ends with performances by the children, showing off the skills they have learned, and a street parade around the estate and food, glorious food, jellies, cup cakes, ham and cucumber sandwiches, Victoria sponge. Needless to say, only crumbs remained at the end of the day, as Jubilee packed up the bus and headed home.

The houses on Oval Road, some 200, were built in the 1950s, part of the Tibbington council estate, an area of former 19th century collieries and iron works bounded by a loop of the Birmingham canal which was filled by the 1970s. The estate fell within the ward of Princes End, which was then one of the most deprived areas of Sandwell. From its inception as a metropolitan local authority Sandwell held one of the largest stocks of social housing in the country. Engagement with tenants associations was an essential ingredient of any Jubilee project.

In a report the previous summer to the Playleader’s Department and Sandwell Adventure Playground Association, Jubilee wrote: ‘Almost all of our work outside of playcentres occurs in the context of self-help initiatives by local tenants or residents, continuing contact is maintained with these groups to provide a forum and a workshop for the planning of play projects and events and for the exploration of the practical skills involved.’ The report goes on to highlight the ambition of the group to broaden its palette of activity. In commenting on the relationship with the council and balancing the often conflicting priorities and demands of funders, it says: ‘Jubilee never has been, and would never be able to concern itself solely with playleadership. The Company’s sources of funding require us to work through the arts with a cross section of the community – although it has of course been possible to prioritise work with particular age groups. As a result, Jubilee has never moved towards, for example, running its own playcentres but has concentrated on a peripatetic role, on reinforcing initiatives taken by playleaders and community organisations alike, and on a pattern of short term creative play projects in playcentres or in communities where there is a desire to develop and consolidate such activities within their own programme of work.’

In this sense, Jubilee often took on a training and facilitation role. With the arrival of the Bus. Jubilee was able to develop projects where there was no play centre provision, working closer with self-help groups, such as the tenants at Oval Road.

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