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Wicksteed Park is celebrating a £1.78 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which will enable it to continue its transformation and preserve its unique history.
To celebrate the announcement of the funding for its @play project, the Kettering Park has officially unveiled an iconic piece of playground equipment – The Witch’s Hat – which can now be enjoyed again by children for the first time in 30 years.
The funding for the park has been agreed by the Midlands & East Committee of The National Lottery Heritage Fund and will enable the Wicksteed Charitable Trust to continue its work to renovate and restore the park, which has a unique place in the history of children’s play.
In recent years the park has successfully completed a £3 million project to restore its lake, aided by a £1miilion National Lottery grant, and its £2.5 million Historic Heart scheme to transform the elegant Edwardian pavilion, central piazza and precinct.
To mark the latest successful bid to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the park has unveiled a replica version of the The Ocean Wave – nicknamed the Witch’s Hat because of its cone-shaped appearance.
The 12ft-high ride was invented almost 100 years ago by Charles Wicksteed, the creator of swings and slides as we know them today. He installed his creations at Wicksteed Park as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.
The Witch’s Hat gradually disappeared from playgrounds across the UK as increasingly stringent health and safety rules were introduced and what was believed to be the last one in Britain was removed from the playground at Wicksteed Park in the mid-1980s.
Its return is part of the @play project’s aim to recreate a playground featuring the Wicksteed attractions which graced the world’s first playgrounds.
The @play project will also include the restoration of the park’s Rose Garden, retaining its original character, and the upper floor of the Pavilion (the Captain’s Lounge) will be refurbished to create a new Learning Centre and events venue with views across the park from a restored veranda walkway.
Among the other exciting changes at the park there will be annual innovation awards and a new Activity Plan programme will build on the park’s current educational and community work; incorporating new staff posts, training, an expanded volunteer programme, an enhanced archive project and further engagement with the community.
There will also be an annual Festival of Play and volunteers will serve as Park Ambassadors to provide information on the park and its history, which will be told using traditional and digital methods of interpretation.
Sculptures located throughout the park will showcase its heritage, interactive interpretation points around the park with online links will help visitors learn about its heritage and there will be a permanent memorial to Charles Wicksteed.
Anne Jenkins, Director, England: Midlands & East, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: Wicksteed Park boasts some of the most fascinating stories related to children’s play and was built on Charles Wicksteed’s admirable vision to encourage play part of families’ health and wellbeing – a vision that chimes with that of The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, Charles Wicksteed’s legacy will live on and enable even more visitors to enjoy this wonderful amusement park.”
Oliver Wicksteed, Chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, said: “The @play project is vitally important as part of our vision for long-term investment in the infrastructure of the park to ensure its ongoing sustainability.
“We not only wanted to preserve the many unique aspects of the park, such as the Captain’s Lounge, and preserve and recreate many of the rides and attractions which made the park such a special place but we wanted to look forward and maintain the park’s reputation for innovation.
“This grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund enables us to do just that and we are absolutely delighted.
“All the exciting work we have planned for the park builds on the extraordinary legacy of Charles Wicksteed.
“The play equipment that he devised and created has been enjoyed by children across the world for generations and bringing back the Witch’s Hat is all about giving children the chance to enjoy good, old-fashioned thrills and spills and have fun.
“The new version is a great piece of British engineering and is typical of the play equipment invented by Charles to encourage sharing and social play.”
The new Witch’s Hat has been created by Wicksteed Playgrounds, the manufacturing business set up by Charles, which is also in Kettering.
Its experts have used modern design and construction methods to comply with current safety rules without taking away the thrills and enjoyment the attraction creates.
Charlie Howard, vice chairman of Wicksteed Playgrounds, said: “The Witch’s Hat as it was fondly known by the general public has been brought into the 21st century with advanced engineering making it as safe a structure as it is exciting.
“I am extremely happy that the first one to be produced is ending up exactly where Charles would have wanted it to be.”
Before Charles Wicksteed, public parks were very formal places, where children were warned to keep off the grass but he envisaged a place to thrill young people and families and encourage them to enjoy unrestricted outdoor play.
Wicksteed Park was founded in 1921 and the Wicksteed Charitable Trust was formed to ensure his work continued after his death.
Issued on behalf of Wicksteed Park
For further information, please contact:
Andrew Turner – Andrew Turner Public Relations
About the National Lottery Heritage Fund
Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.
Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund
About the National Lottery funding of the @play project
National Lottery Heritage Fund grant applications over £250,000 are assessed in two rounds. The @play project was initially granted round one development funding of £108,600 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in June 2017, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals for the second round of funding were then considered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s new Midlands & East committee in June 2019, where a final decision was made on the delivery funding award of £1.78m. The total funding awarded to the @play project from The National Lottery Heritage Fund is £1.89m.

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