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Playscheme story Day 5: Here and There and Back Again

It's loom-tastic!

It’s loom-tastic!

Sarah thinks she might be able to give the T.O.I.L.E.T. more thrust, but will it be enough to get them back to where they need to be before the universe unravels?


This is the final part of the story specially created for this year’s Playscheme. North End Playscheme is 21 this year and seeks to serve and bless families in the North End area of Portsmouth. Its almost entirely run by volunteers, many of whom are from local churches, who give up a week of their time to help provide a fun, safe environment for children to play and learn in.



Playscheme story Day 4: The Shoo of Shooliness

It's just a grubby white trainer...or is it?

It’s just a grubby white trainer…or is it?

Sarah discovers that Doctor Woo has taken a very special object as a souvenir, but something terrible is happening as a result!

(This is part 4 of a 5 part series specially created for North End Playscheme)

Playscheme Day 3: Aunt Marge and the Myriad

Aunt Marge's cottage garden

Aunt Marge’s cottage garden

Doctor Woo and Sarah are pursued across the galaxy by the beetle people, but it seems only Aunt Marge can explain why…

(Part 3 of a 5 part series, specially created for Playscheme)

Playscheme Day 2: The KnowsNot

WooToo, the KnowsNot

WooToo, the KnowsNot

Doctor Woo and Sarah find themselves on another planet, which appears deserted, until a strange and forgetful creature rushes up to meet them…

(This is part 2 of a 5 part series created specially for North End Playscheme)


Playscheme Story Day 1: Sarah meets the Doctor

IMG_20140811_184630This year at Playscheme I have the delight and privilege of telling the story for the children each day. Linking in to the 21st birthday theme, I’ve created a brand new story about time travel and Playscheme’s past, featuring new characters: Sarah and Doctor Woo.

For the first time this year I hope to record each day’s story and then share it online, and through Playscheme’s Facebook page. Although the onsite recording didn’t work quite so well, here’s a retelling of the first part of the story, which I hope you’ll enjoy!


The Shoo of Shooliness

teaspoonIt’s that time of year again and North End Playscheme is just around the corner!

Now in its 21st year, this amazing children’s activity week returns to Mayfield School field to welcome over 100 children with a range of sports, craft, fun and games. The scheme is almost entirely run by volunteers, many of whom are from local churches, as well as parents and young people who give up a week’s holiday to come and work alongside children from the local area. Some of the parents who bring their children used to come along as children themselves and its amazing how time flies when you’re having fun!

This year the story links together the 21st anniversary of Playscheme with the notion of time travel, looking back at key events, both large and small, that have shaped history. At the time perhaps those events didn’t seem all that significant and its only when we look back that we realise what an important moment it was.

As a taster, here is a specially recorded prequel for the Playscheme story this year. I hope you enjoy it! If you’re lucky enough to be able to come to Playscheme, then you’ll be able to hear the whole story but if not, I am going to try and record each episode each day as I tell it, live to the children, so maybe you’ll be able to hear what happens after all!


Top tips for heritage education

This image comes from the 'Onions & Bunions' project, Warwick Museum service

This image comes from the ‘Onions & Bunions’ project, Warwick Museum service

As you know, I’m rather fond of heritage work – not least because it’s so much to do with people and their fascinating stories!

I am across this article today via the ‘Creative & Cultural Skills’ newsletter and thought it was worth sharing 🙂



Read more here: Tips for heritage education

The Potting Shed – why and how?

Alas my potting shed is still a 'virtual' one, but maybe one day...

Alas my potting shed is still a ‘virtual’ one, but maybe one day…

I have a page on Facebook for my freelance work called The Potting Shed – Home of Apple Seed HQ. It’s not a real shed (although it ‘exists’ as a place on Facebook) but rather it’s a virtual shed. Given that my website is apple-seed and that I’m all abut growing great ideas then it seemed logical that a planting, nurturing, creative growing space should need a shed in which to house all these baby ideas!

I update the Facebook page regularly and its a quick way to link to the various projects I’m involved in, so if you want the latest news, its a good idea to look there:

Someone sent me a question via that page recently, and I wondered if some of you might also be interested in the question she asked and the answer I gave.

So here it is. It kinda sums up my raison d’etre – the reason why and how I do what I do.

If you’d like what you read and would like to find out if I can help you out, drop me a line:

Sharon, I completely love the sound of everything The Potting Shed does. How did you get into doing that? What is your background? (if you don’t mind me asking!!) xx
Thank you very much! I don’t mind you asking at all!
I’d like to say that it’s part of some kind of carefully planned career path…but that would be a complete lie! The reality is entirely more haphazard and accidental.

My background is in youth & children’s work. I’m a qualified teacher and youthworker, but I have a real passion for heritage, arts, communities and storytelling.

This means that I tend to get drawn to projects which touch on those kinds of areas…Children and young people are part of communities and they interact with and affect each other (whether they know it or not!) Heritage is about the story of a place and the people who have, or are currently living in it, and the arts (such as storytelling) is how we can share and explore the locality and community where we live and begin to understand our place in it.

I think my core motivation is around valuing people: I believe everyone has inherent value, because each person is unique. Our DNA, our fingerprints, the combination of character, personality, skills and experience are not to be found anywhere else, or in anyone else.
That makes you uniquely valuable and irreplaceable.

The work I’m involved in – which has come along haphazardly and sometimes almost by accident, doesn’t bring value or worth to the people or places I work with…but perhaps some of what I bring helps to draw out the value of what’s already there?

Does that make sense?

I love what I’m doing, even though at times it feels very stressful (like now when I’ve got two chaplaincy visits this week and an exhibition opening on Friday!!) and I miss being part of a team with other people. Being freelance can feel lonely and isolated at times and I sometimes feel like I bear a heavier responsibility than if I were an employee in a bigger company. There are times when I feel like I’m dangling on a string above a rather cavernous ravine, and it wouldn’t take too much for the string to snap…

But on the other hand it’s a tremendous privilege to be able to work with people and make a big/small difference in their lives! Who can say that they get to do that? I love the variety, the creativity, the opportunity to direct and hold and shape things…And it means I can be very flexible around the needs of my family, which is the most important part.
So that’s kind of it really….!
Got any more questions…do send ’em my way

How community engagement is like clutch control

One of the trickiest things about learning to drive, is mastering clutch control. service-clutch-650x320

It relies on on a combination of good hearing (attuning your ear to the changing tones of the engine) as well as physical control on the pedals, to create the right balance of just-enough-pressure-on-the-gas with not-too-high-on-the clutch. With mastery of the clutch you can hold the car perfectly still, or allow the beginnings of forward momentum. Get it wrong and the whole thing comes to a abrupt, juddering halt.

The thing that really allows you to master clutch control is not just knowing you have to press certain pedals in a certain way, but understanding why that is and what’s happening under the bonnet. You need to understand that to achieve different speeds, the gears need to mesh successfully, and the clutch helps you do that without damaging those fast-spinning disks. To increase or decrease speed, the correct gear needs to be engaged and getting it wrong at high speeds can be very dangerous, for you and other drivers.

It occurred to me recently that successful university-community engagement is a lot like using clutch control. In order to help the different worlds of academia and community mesh together, there needs to be an understanding of both groups of people and what governs them. There needs to be an understanding not only of what needs to mesh together (aims, priorities, communication, resources etc) but why.

Successful engagement understands the different perspectives and needs of each group. It takes account of the history, demography, economics , geography and social capital within a local community, and weighs those factors up against the national and local drivers for the university, its funding, strategic plan, student population and research focii. And then, using time, patience, clear communication, collaborative planning and resource sharing, it gently and purposefully attempts to mesh these two very different worlds together – this is clutch control.

Done well, it allows for positive, forward motion on a project or piece of research work. It can empower residents, encourage staff and develop students.

Done badly, it can cause projects to come to an abrupt, juddering halt and almost everyone involved can feel hurt and disappointed by the results and probably less likely to want to engage in similar work in the future.

Of course, you could replace the word ‘university’ with almost any other institution or organisation: health, faith, government…The key element is remembering that when attempting to mesh two worlds together, it needs to be done, carefully, thoughtfully and with enough sensitivity to know that it’s not just what needs to be meshed, but why it’s important to get it right.



hammock_relaxing-summer_living-etcThe latest newsletter and blog update has been released from the Portsmouth Deanery’s FE Chaplaincy project. Read it here:

One of my tasks over the summer was to do some research into how prayer rooms and quiet rooms are set up, used and managed. The use of quiet rooms and spaces (both indoors and outdoors) is a visible, tangible way in which a chaplaincy service can offer support to staff and students and acknowledge their inner ‘spiritual’ needs, as well as their external ones. People may explore and express their spirituality in a variety of ways, but everyone needs some peace and quiet from time to time!

Read more here:

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