@Play – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Wicksteed Park, near Kettering in Northamptonshire, has received initial support of £1.89million, made possible by National Lottery players, to transform the historic heart of the Park, showcase its heritage, and enhance the enjoyment of play in line with the original vision of its founder, Charles Wicksteed.
Wicksteed Park was originally established as a safe and free park for the families and children of Kettering, a philanthropic gesture by engineer Charles Wicksteed during the First World War. It was one of the UK’s first leisure parks and continues to be operated by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust.
In the past, lack of funding has prevented the Park from reaching its full potential as a heritage and learning resource for the local community and the large number of visitors who use the Park. The intention of the @Play project is to restore it to its former glory.
Thanks to the support from National Lottery players the @Play project will invite people to learn about the heritage of the park and the importance of play. The project will complement the restoration of the central Piazza and Precinct which will provide an improved welcome to the park. A substantial education and learning programme will also be delivered in the form of inventive events and activities.
Jonathan Platt, Head of HLF East Midlands, said: “As one of the UK’s first leisure parks Wicksteed has a particularly interesting history, and has played a significant role for the local community over the years. This latest investment, made possible by National Lottery players, builds on a previous HLF project to restore the Lake and we are delighted to support the Park’s latest exciting project.”
Oliver Wicksteed, Chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, said: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has recognised the potential of Wicksteed Park and has signaled its intention to offer grant support for our project. We know from our own surveys that over 90% of visitors rate the importance of the history and heritage of the Park as high or very high.”
“Our project builds on the extraordinary legacy of Charles Wicksteed and extends beyond the Recreation Park he created. As an entrepreneur and innovator Charles was also an inventor and respected successful engineer.”
“The @Play project not only secures this legacy but creates new opportunities to engage both existing and future generations with the park and its place within the local community and the history of play.”
The plans also include:
• Conservation and capital works, including restoration of the Pavilion, Verandah walkway, and Rose Garden;
• Returning inappropriate paths and access roads near the Pavilion to parkland and pedestrian areas;
• Creation of a Heritage Play Area, featuring original or replica Wicksteed play equipment;
• Delivering a Festival of Play with a national focus to celebrate play in all its forms;
• Introduce new volunteering activities through the development of our Volunteers network and a new cohort of volunteer Park explainers and hosts to tell people about the history of the Park;
• Run an Innovation Awards competition for inventions with a social or environmental benefit;
• An annual programme of engaging heritage and community events diversifying audiences and animating the park’s rich cultural and social heritage;
• Creating a sculpture trail (recreating iconic images from the park’s archives), with interactive sculpture and way markers.
This announcement follows the fantastic news that both Northamptonshire County Council and Kettering Borough Council have also confirmed funding support for the project.