The exhibition includes new photographs of internally displaced children in Ukraine; residents of Kakuma, Kenya’s second largest refugee camp, and depictions of children at play in London adventure playgrounds.
Through his photographs Neville captures children’s spontaneous urge to play and their determination to do so in the most unfavourable environments. His images reveal how, through play, children claim a place of power, safety and freedom.
Presenting the images on display along with an overview of the groundbreaking work in the field of child’s play, a book will seek to raise awareness of this universal right, and also focus attention on attitudes towards play in the UK and how the conditions for children can be improved.
Photo-book to form part of campaign
A hardback book of the photographs will feature an essay by Adrian Voce, the former playworker, writer and recently elected President of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities. This will give an overview of children’s right to play and set out the case for a proper policy response, alongside a review of cultural representations of children at play and historical attitudes towards childhood, as seen through the prism of the Foundling Hospital, by curator Nicola Freeman. Copies of the book will be disseminated free to key policy makers and government departments, experts in the field, and to each of the UK’s 433 local councils, in order to directly impact upon government policy thinking and strategy.
In the context of the Museum, the idea of spontaneous play is set against the institutional play evidenced at the Foundling Hospital through archive photographs and film footage. Founded in 1739, the history of the Hospital mirrors the growing recognition of the distinctive needs of children, and the role of play in their lives – from the proliferation of children’s toys and books in the 18th century and campaigns for playgrounds throughout the 19th century, to the closing of the Bloomsbury estate in the early 20th century, now within a fully developed area of London, to give the children better access to fresh air and nature.
Mark Neville said: “The right of the child to play a barely discussed, yet fundamental human right. We aim to use the Museum as a space for debate and an instrument to improve the rights of vulnerable children.
“By addressing the issues through three symbiotic strategies – an exhibition at the Museum, a hardback photobook with a targeted dissemination, and a symposium – we believe we can really make an impact on this forgotten right.”
Caro Howell, Director of the Foundling Museum, said: “Play is creative, disruptive and a universal human drive. Mark Neville’s powerful images demonstrate its essential role in enabling a child to make sense of the world and to shape their place in it, no matter how challenging the environment.”
Originally published on bjp-online.com
Main image: Mark Neville, ‘The Jungle Book Rehearsals, Sewickley Academy’, 2012.
All images © Mark Neville, courtesy The Foundling Museum.
Child’s Play is on show from 3 February – 30 April 2017 at The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ. More information is available here.
A symposium on the themes of the exhibition will be held at the Foundling Museum on 20 March.