About us

We work with cultural organisations to make spaces and collections unforgettable and enjoyable.

Through creative collaboration, we foster the potential of play and empower children’s rights and freedoms.

We are playful, creative, inclusive and innovative.

Children playing
Children playing and taking photos


Our Vision is for play to be part of everyday public places.

We want places of culture, art and heritage to embody fun and playfulness.

We believe that play is essential for children’s everyday well-being, and that playing has the capacity to connect us. It can help us develop our creative capabilities to respond to social, spatial and climate challenges.

We aspire to:

  • Encourage playful change in the cultural sector
  • Address inequalities in participation in shared cultural spaces.
  • Cultivate creativity, playfulness and resilience
  • Develop staff confidence to enable greater permission for people to play
  • Support children’s right to play and leisure.
A child playing in a water fountain

Our story

Our work began through a collaboration between Charlotte Derry, a museum exhibitions and education officer (and former playworker) and play work trainer and academic, Dr Stuart Lester. Stuart and Charlotte created an approach that blended playwork practice and practical play training with philosophy and creativity to create novel, experimental ways of supporting everyday museum practice and people.

Starting out with developing play training and play-friendly exhibitions, we discovered an appetite in the sector for support with playful engagement and building audiences through play-centred programming and exhibitions.

Supported by Happy Museum funding we developed play training for staff at Manchester Museum and created the book Rules for a Playful Museum. Soon we were working with English Heritage and Chester Zoo – training staff and initiating the process of moving to a play-friendly culture.

From these roots we have become a hybrid collection of museum professionals, creatives, philosophers and play workers seeking to create playful change through collaboration. You can find out more about our Associates below.

Why play?

Museums, galleries and cultural venues have a wealth of experience and understanding about children and families as visitors. Children play instinctively whenever they are given the chance. But, in museums, families and children may sometimes feel uncomfortable or that they have permission to be playful. Children and teenagers consistently say they want more free time to play and be with friends, and places to play together.

Play may be one approach to involve more children, teenagers and families in museums. There are some key benefits of play which relate to the cultural sector, including:

  • Well-being for children, adults and staff alike
  • Improved visitor engagement
  • Developing good business and increasing footfall
  • The creation of lively, social spaces that cultivate the conditions for increased visits, and for play and engagement to emerge.
A child playing with yarn bombing
Yarn bombing

Having welcoming places, enough time and the company of others to play with is of great importance to all children and teenagers. We need to foster environments that support this.

Playful Places exists to help museums cultivate the benefits of play and manage the complexities of supporting staff to develop the conditions for play to emerge.

Find out more about the WHY here.

About us

Playful Places is led by Charlotte Derry, with support and collaboration from Associates and Partners.

Playful Places emerged:

From the joy and adrenaline rush sparked by the deliberate creation of playful exhibition environments for children… from the satisfaction of liberating staff from limiting social beliefs and re-connecting them with their memories of play and playful nature…… from applying research about the benefits of play…… and through sensing the explosive possibilities of fusing academic wisdom, philosophical insights, and practical and empowering action.

Playful Places is the consolidation of Charlotte’s experiences of engaging museums in play. It has become a hybrid collection of museum professionals, creatives, philosophers and playworkers, all seeking to create playful change through collaboration.

Come and explore your playful spark with us!

Charlotte Derry

Charlotte Derry
Playful Practitioner, Cultural Creative,
Mentor and Trainer. Director of Playful Places

And what they say…

Associates / The Team

These associates are an informal collaborative team, all with a similar passion to improve the play lives for children and young people. They are some of the best people in the realm of play theory, play work training and play development practice.

Advocates, campaigners, researchers, philosophers, writers and managers, as well as consultants and experts in their own right, the associates work with Playful Places on a project-by-project basis.

Together we respond to briefs, cook up new ideas, act as sounding boards and critical friends, and take on related work and projects that emerge, that best fits our expertise and experience.

Charlotte Derry

Charlotte Derry

Playful Practitioner, Cultural Creative, Mentor and Play Trainer. Director, Playful Places.

Lucidology logo


Play consultants and researchers

Anna Salaman

Anna Salaman

Anna Salaman is a Cultural Heritage Learning Consultant based in York.

Gwealan Tops Adventure Playground

Gwealan Tops Adventure Playground 

A charity dedicated to promoting play for children, young people and the wider community.

Dr Wendy Russell

Dr Wendy Russell

Independent researcher on children’s play and playwork and Visiting Fellow at the University of Gloucestershire

Sam Creagh

Sean Creagh/ Eightspace

Playscape Designer

The OPAL Mentor Team

The OPAL Mentor Team

Supporting outdoor play and learning in schools

Julie West

Julie West / Unearth Julie

Julie West / Unearth Julie For more than 30 years play has been my life’s…

Penny Wilson

Penny Wilson

Penny Wilson Penny Wilson has been Playworking since the mid 1980’s. She has worked  in…

Supporters / Partners

Our partners and supporters provide Playful Places with the inspiration, motivation and the drive to do what we do every day.

Without the people within these organisations who have believed in us and our vision, and whom advocate for cultural and playful change, we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing now. There are many more supporters, change-makers and inspirational people that we could add to this list, watch this space for more information to follow up!

The Happy Museum logo

Happy Museum

Re-imagining museums for a sustainable future by fostering wellbeing that doesn’t cost the earth.

Kids in Museums logo

Kids in Museums

Dedicated to making museums open and welcoming to all children, young people and families.

Playful Anywhere

Playful Anywhere

On a mission to catalyse creativity,  inventiveness and playfulness, where we work, live and travel.

Playful Museums

Museum Next

Making professional development available to all

Play at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo

Developing play and achieving a conservation mission

Animated brain illustration

Want more?

We would love to work with you if you are curious and excited about where play and playfulness might take you and your organisation. Let’s connect and explore how you can positively shape more Playful Places.

If you’d like to have a chat about play, let’s hookup.