Glasgow, one year on: a Storyplay explosion!

It’s been a year since we moved the Licketyspit office to Glasgow – and what a year it’s been. None of us could have predicted the tumultuous events that would affect everything and everyone; for the past six months, like all other arts organisations, the activities and goals we set out have been forced to shift and morph to fit our new reality.

So, we were delighted when one of the parents in our Children & Families Network happily remarked that she’d noticed “an explosion” in Licketyspit activity since we moved here. It looks like this is recognised elsewhere too, as we have just been granted funding from the Glasgow Communities Fund for our Storyplay City project!

So, we thought it would be good to step back and reflect on that “explosion” ourselves. Our Storyplay Residencies and Big Porridge & Play intergenerational play sessions, focus on energetic, face-to-face imaginary play, often within large groups of families from different parts of the city, which with the arrival of the pandemic had to stop! But with difficulties come opportunities: we’ve learnt new ways of playing, new ways of conducting events remotely, new ways of connecting with children and families when we can’t be physically near each other, and new ways of finding new families to join our vibrant Families Network community

A new home

We had been working in Glasgow effectively for nearly 20 years before we moved our office from lovely North Edinburgh Arts to Maryhill’s Community Central Hall. Having a physical space here has had a huge impact on our connectivity across the city – with partners, and with children and families.

Two highlights soon after arriving were a huge Picnic & Play session at the CCH – the perfect way to settle into our new home – and our 3rd annual play session at the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) Christmas party.

SRC are important Licketyspit partners. The Children & Families Network is a doorway to joining welcoming, like-minded families looking for ways to support their children to flourish and have fun. Many SRC families have become regulars in our C&F network, bringing outstanding contributions to our events!

New Storyplay Residencies

Licketyspit Storyplay Schools Residencies support children’s literacy, language, confidence and physical and mental wellbeing, through sharing a children’s rights based culture of rhymes, songs, group games and imaginary play across the whole school community.

As well as continuing our residencies at Oakwood and St. Mary’s R. C. Primaries, at the start of this year we started working with St. Martha’s and Miltonbank Primaries. We’re so grateful now, that we managed to squeeze in some fantastic sessions in person with the whole of Miltonbank and P1-3/4 at St Marthas – while Oakwoods P4’s pioneered a new literacy project around Molly Whuppie which continued online during Lockdown. You can see their fantastic Giant and King letters here. 

We hope to be able to start delivering Storyplay Schools sessions again in the new year, and Licketyspit continues to develop ideas and resources for online engagement with schools. Storyplay has an accelerated, high impact on literacy, language and health and wellbeing and supports parental engagement in schools, which is more important than ever with possible future distance learning.

Any interested primaries are welcome to contact us to discuss what a Storyplay residency could do for your pupils – please email

New CFN Trips

Another early development was CFN TRIPS – free cultural outings for families in the network. With our partners, the Caravan Project and Glasgow Film Theatre we took 70 people to see Mary Poppins in November 2019!

Then in January 2020, we took two groups of CFN families to Celtic ConnectionsIn the Community gigs, which were supported by our new friends at BEMIS.

Have your Say through Play

It has been great to join the Ethnic Minority National Resilience Network set up by BEMIS and lead on creating some exciting consultation opportunities in the Children and Families subgroup.

Have your Say Through Play sessions in September 2020 invited Scottish Government officials and an outreach officer from the Scottish Parliament working on the UNCRC Incorporation Scotland Bill to hear BAME children’s experiences and views on lockdown through an online play session – this was a huge success!

Going digital!

Our Big Porridge & Play sessions are intrinsically social gatherings. We share good food, dress up spectacularly in old clothes, explore amazing imaginary play and story-making as a group, and invite families from different communities. Of course, in the middle of March, this simply – and suddenly – was no longer an option.

The thought of the children in our CFN not being able to experience the benefits of these sessions together, or of families feeling isolated and stuck at home, was a huge motivation for us to innovate, be creative and be flexible. Imagination isn’t just for play! 

Big Porridge & Play Glasgow – Online!

Using the video platform Zoom, we consulted our Play Champion Families and moved our usual energetic in-person sessions online. Children and their families join virtual adventures from their homes, featuring adaptations of the same games we usually enjoy in person! 

We’ve been running BIG Porridge & Play Online Saturday sessions with up to 30 families, as well as smaller, more intimate sessions with the communities we would have been working in – Govan, Milton, Easterhouse, Ruchill, Whiteinch and the Gorbals.

We can’t believe how well this works and how carefully the children look after each other, appreciating and interacting with each other’s ideas across the Zoom! There is dressing-up and dancing galore and we meet with our imaginary balloons and fly from Glasgow out over the whole world! Despite the Pandemic, in our imaginations we can meet up with friends and go anywhere, be anyone and do anything! We feel happy, adventurous and connected. So that’s not bad!

Coronavirus Digital Resources

We made videos explaining about coronavirus and the lockdown and sharing our songs, rhymes and warm-ups with children and their families at home.

We couldn’t sit down together to eat our usual soup, bread and mountains of fruit SO our fantastic actor-pedagogues turned their hand to making Activity Films for childrenCooking with Taz which included how to make delicious soup, lemonade and baked apples! Making with Iona – which showed how to make jellyfish, false moustaches and mini-worlds! And Exploring with Jack where Jack uses his Magic Map to travel to the Arctic, the pyramids and under the sea!

Providing digital tablets to families who needed them 

At the start of lockdown we heard from CFN families who had no access to the internet – for school, for accessing services OR for Licketyspit play. We were so pleased to receive crucial funding from the Scottish Government Wellbeing Fund and then BEMIS and Migration Exchange, to provide digital tablets, SIM cards and data to 50 families who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to join our sessions and get online. We’ll soon have 10 more devices from #DevicesDotNow too!

As with many other companies making the shift to online work, without compromising on experiential value for those participating, and without excluding more disadvantaged families, it has been a challenging and emotional time. Six months on, we’re happy to say that children and their families’ desire to play and feel part of a community, has shone through, and made the weekly sessions a joy to be part of. Attendance has grown exponentially at our Saturday sessions – the other week we had 81 participants joining us! – and the feedback has been heart-warming, joyous, wonderful. 

A Storyplay revolution…

In August, we received news of funding by the Glasgow Communities Fund to support our ambition for a “Storyplay Revolution!”. It felt significant to see this phrase on the funding confirmation; it’s an innovative and radical project, and to see this language reflected through the funders’ eyes is extremely satisfying.

We’re excited to get on and deliver a project which we believe will be of enormous, real benefit to children across Glasgow – helping to unlock both children’s and adults’ innate creativity and limitless imaginations through a shared love of imaginary play rooted in children’s human rights, that everyone can enjoy.

The Storyplay City funding will enable us to continue to deliver weekly online sessions throughout next year, in between our TNL Community Fund sessions, as well as – we hope – running some Picnic & Play live sessions across the city, where families in the CFN will have a chance to meet up, share food, stories and more imaginary play adventures. We’ll also be able to give Lickety Playcards and Reflective Drawing packs to more children and hopefully run some CFN trips to Glasgow’s most exciting arts and culture venues. This funding supports specific work in our Big Porridge & Play communities – Ruchill, Maryhill, Whiteinch, the Gorbals, Milton, Easterhouse and Govan, as well as sessions for families who’ve joined our Children & Families Network from other parts of Glasgow, such as Cardonald, Shettleston and Kings Park.

The scope for our in-person imaginary play sessions next year is of course dependent on how things evolve with the pandemic but that’s why stories and imagination are more important than ever! Other activities we have in mind include creating audio-stories and videos with children, out of the amazing Magic Ball adventures we go on in our online sessions, and a “send-a-story” postcard campaign. Our recent Over to You campaign collated the wealth of creativity we saw from our participants over lockdown – from recipes to poems, craft projects and drawings – and we look forward to building on this further within the Storyplay City project.

…and a children’s rights revolution!

It feels very timely that Licketyspit’s first newsletter from our new base in Glasgow coincides with the consultation on the incorporation of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child into Scots Law.

Licketyspit’s work has all come about through talking to and playing with children and learning about what’s important to them. We hope to play our part in supporting this fantastic Bill to become embedded in Scots Law because we believe children deserve their rights and that making this policy a reality has the potential to make children’s voices heard like never before. And fundamentally, we all need what children need – to know we are seen, heard, valued, loved and to feel that anything is possible!