In the summer of the first lockdown, Sue Pyecroft, our Director of Production and Design, contacted Paul Howgill, the manager of Rowley Fields Allotment and Gardens, with an idea for a project designed for families who have children on the autistic spectrum. We were looking for a secure wildlife area, or an overgrown allotment plot in which we could run creative outdoor session for families. Paul replied saying that Rowley Fields had just the space – a Wildlife plot! The Wildlife plot was perfect and became the home of Bamboozle’s ‘Backyard’. The plot was secure, had a pond, a cabin and lots of trees.
Over the summer of 2021, The Backyard became a place of relaxation, curiosity and magic for 50 families who booked onto an hour and a half session from May through to August. The families from Leicester and beyond who visited The Backyard were welcomed individually at the allotment gates, and then entered through a willow tunnel – at the end of which they met a potion maker called Glendolin. Another character called McGeorge, was found under an ancient Hawthorn tree, trying to float stones in a tin bath filled with water!
After a welcome song on a picnic blanket, the parents and carers were given a cup of tea and encouraged to relax and put there feet up as the young people explored the site. Some children created magical potions, collecting ingredients with Glendolin. Some children helped McGeorge make a raft out of twigs so that the stones would float. Other children made dens, clay faces, their own songs, or played hide and seek. There was no fixed agenda and because of this the children played and interacted in ways they felt most comfortable. Lydia, mother of Lizzie told us:
“I’m so grateful to you all. It has been amazing to see how quickly Lizzie has relaxed and how much she has talked! Lizzie often doesn’t talk with new people and in new situations, yet here she has chatted happily. Lizzie was allowed to open up her in her own time and was enraptured with the activities. This feels a very happy, magical safe place”.
Vicky Davies who came with her daughter Chloe, said about The Backyard:
“Anxiety ebbs away rapidly, the magic of the location and the wonderful people involved, are a purely ‘magical’ combination. It is also a chance for parents to take a little ‘me’ time while our kids are happy and safe. It’s like walking into a daydream”.
We are so grateful to Paul Howgill, the allotment committee, and the plot holders at the Rowley Fields Allotment and Garden site, who made us feel welcome and helped to make the project happen. We’re also grateful to the funders of the project; we are able to provide these sessions for free thanks to vital investment from Arts Council England: National Lottery Project Grants; BBC Children in Need; The Henry Smith Charity and The National Lottery Community Fund. As well as Bamboozle’s individual, corporate and community supporters.
In an exciting development, Leicester company Taylor Hobson who are supporting Bamboozle as charity of the year 2022 will be leading some renovations to our site at Rowley Fields to enhance the experience for our families on our next round of sessions! Watch this space!
We also wanted to make the experience accessible for families in Nottinghamshire, and were delighted to find a suitable site at Windmill Community Gardens. On the 12th and 13th of April we ran sessions for 8 families, who were also surprised with Easter Eggs kindly sent to us by members of staff at Taylor Hobson. Thank you for a lovely Easter treat!
Our sessions at Windmill Community Gardens were generously supported by Nottinghamshire County Council.
Do keep an eye on our Families & Community page for when we next have Backyard sessions available.