Windmill Lane, Smethwick, 1982

From the beginning of the 1980s, Jubilee undertook ‘themed’ playschemes across the borough of Sandwell  – Space Week, Horror Week, Rock’n’Roll Week and so on. This image is from Windmill Lane, Smethwick. Here the theme of the week was ‘Around the World in 8 Days’, exploring different parts of the world, and modes of transport. So of course, pirates had to make an appearance, with the adventures depicted by Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stephenson offering inspiration. The Bus functioned as a giant mobile resource, full of cardboard and paint, materials for costumes, and for serving refreshments.

This playscheme took place on an empty patch of ground, where Victorian terraces had been recently demolished, alongside a new community centre under construction. For their tenants, the council had constructed new low-rise maisonettes here but the area still had the highest concentration of high rise blocks in the West Midlands.  Hamilton House was one, a 24 storey tower block completed in 1970, 67 metres tall with 136 flats. It was demolished in 2007. A feature of the Black Country skyline for decades, several tower blocks remain, though recently refurbished.

As essential part of each playscheme was, at the outset, writing up and agreeing a contract with the young people, getting them involved at the outset by encouraging them to suggest a series of ‘rules’ for the project and discussing what these meant. Some, for example, included: Always finish what you start; help each other; look after your materials; look after each other; share equipment; listen to others’ ideas and so on. These ‘rules’ were written down on a large sheet of paper or cardboard, which everyone signed, and was then pinned up.

With their adventurous creative play, where Jubilee led, others soon followed. A close relationship with the Department of Recreation and Amenities Department, who approved Jubilee’s grant aid, meant that many of these playscheme ideas, as well as arts and music festival events, were taken up across their youth and estate schemes. To promote these activities the Department came up with an overarching theme of ‘Holidays at Home’ and a later event called Sandwell-on-Sea. Sandwell is about as far from the coast as you can get in Britain, and many families couldn’t afford to take their kids on a summer holiday, so these themes were highly popular. As were the pirates.

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