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Oliver Wicksteed: Keeping the Dream alive

One hundred years ago Charles Wicksteed’s dream of creating a free to enter public park, encouraging families to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle, became a reality.

During the coming year we will be celebrating the centenary of the park’s opening and the unique impact that it has had on children’s play across the world.

The fact that we have had to fight so hard to reach this milestone, over the last 12 months in particular, wouldn’t have been lost on Charles, who loved a challenge and enjoyed creating new and innovative ways to succeed.

He would have embraced the fact that, despite the country being in lockdown, the park is still providing a vital service to local people by giving them somewhere to exercise and get some fresh air.

However, as difficult as the last year has been, the fact that access to Wicksteed Park’s outstanding facilities remains free of charge is also a testament to generations of Wicksteed Charitable Trust Trustees and park staff, who have wholeheartedly embraced Charles’ vision and striven to keep it alive and relevant.

I believe that the challenge of maintaining the park for all these years has probably been as great as the challenges Charles initially faced in its foundation. 

Today, as we look backwards and reflect upon our rich heritage, we are also looking forward to what lies ahead.

Charles showed an interest in the welfare of his fellow man, his workers and in particular children and young people.

As the park opened and evolved Charles used his engineering works to construct play equipment such as slides and swings that later became “must have” items in public parks. 

Using his imagination and engineering skills he developed more and more pieces of equipment and soon he had another string to his thriving business, manufacturing the now world-renowned Wicksteed play equipment. Products, many of which are still made today, were exported to more than 80 countries around the world.

As we all still face much uncertainty due to Covid-19, two things are driving the Wicksteed Charitable Trust forward.

One is to ensure that, no matter what challenges lie ahead, virus or non-virus related, the park and Charles’ dream remain intact for another 100 years.

The second is to do what Charles would have done, and keep innovating. Through physical interpretation and engagement we want to bring the history of the park alive to all visitors. In so doing everyone who visits will learn about our significant heritage and just how vital play is for the development of our children.

Oliver Wicksteed, chairman, Wicksteed Charitable Trust

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