The History of Martin Luther King Playground

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By Jordan James

In 1968 an Adventure Playground opened for a summer play scheme on some derelict land. It was a 10 acre site surrounded by a high corrugated iron fence, completely empty and unused and there was at the time nowhere for the children to play. The Greater London Council (GLC) gave permission to the parents to use the land for a summer play scheme.

martin-luther-kingChristian Aid agreed to help fund the volunteers on the scheme on the condition that the funding was matched. One of the play workers, Anne Power, approached the Martin Luther King foundation which was giving out grants to fund community projects in multiracial areas in the county. The foundation agreed to give the playground a grant as long as it was named after Martin Luther King -it has remained that way ever since.

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MLK’s banner made for the 2016 exhibition

On the first day that they opened their gates, hundreds of children poured into Martin Luther King Playground and TV camera crews arrived to interview the mothers. By September 1968 the GLC agreed to a permanent playground on a corner of the large 10 acre site. They also announced plans to turn the rest of the site into “Paradise Park“.

The corner the Adventure Playground had been given had a derelict Woodbine Tobacco Factory on it. In the Spring of 1969, with the help of prisoners from Pentonville Prison, the Martin Luther King Association members and parents started to do up the playground.

The playground was the first project that the Foundation had supported and so they brought Coretta King, the widow of Martin Luther King, to visit. She, her sister-in-law and two of her children spent time at the playground with the mothers and children. The playground was also visited by Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

To find out more about Adventure Playgrounds in Islington please visit the IPA website or look on Islington Council’s website

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