Community playground is revitalised with a new coat of paint

University of Leicester Vice Chancellor and President Professor Nishan Canagarajah (front row right) with members of the executive board team at Highfields Adventure Playground

University of Leicester Vice Chancellor and President Professor Nishan Canagarajah was among a group of volunteers helping to breathe new life into Highfields Adventure Playground last week.

The playground in Spinney Hill Park has been going strong for over 50 years with University of Leicester students helping to raise the initial funds to set it up in 1971.

Since then it has helped thousands of young people in the city, running regular activities for those aged six to 14 years living in the surrounding community. 

Open all year round as well as school holidays, it has both indoor and outdoor play areas including an art room, hall, games room and computer room, as well as a kitchen.

Nishan, alongside several executive board members from the University, helped refresh the indoor space with some painting. 

He said: “Highfields Adventure Playground has been a vital lifeline to the community living in and around it throughout the years. We are proud that our alumni helped get it off the ground all those years ago and even prouder still to be able to return and lend a helping hand so that it can continue to thrive for generations to come. This work embodies all that the University of Leicester stands for as ‘Citizens of Change’.

“It was wonderful to spend the day there, to reminisce about the old days and to hear about its continued work to provide activities for young people.”

The playground’s outdoor space sits on a hill with mature trees and wild flowers, providing a ‘green oasis’ within the city which is also used by several nearby infant and junior schools as part of their outdoor learning. 

As well as a big emphasis on physical outdoor play, staff also provide food, in particular fresh fruit, supplemented from the playground’s orchard and large greenhouse. 

During the pandemic the charity run organisation also acted as a community hub for food distribution parcels with staff and volunteers working to help those in need.

Playground manager Kevin Sherriff added: “It is really heart-warming that the University is re-engaging with this children’s project 50 years after it was set up by a group of their students. 

“It was a pleasure to welcome Nishan and other members of the University executive board to the adventure playground. Whilst they were hard at work painting several of our rooms, we were able to talk and the team were very keen to hear about the work of the playground, its history and our hopes for future engagement. This hands-on support has resulted in a very professional looking paint job and the children are very impressed with their new look play building.  Thank you so much to all those who volunteered on the day.”

Highfields Adventure Playground has also joined the University's latest support programme to help social enterprises and charities in Leicester. 

The Growth Accelerator Project led by the University of Leicester School of Business in partnership with Community Enterprise Engine and the Co-operative and Social Enterprise Development Agency, seeks to help organisations improve their sustainability and build their capability for growth. 

The support programme runs until March 2025 with 40 organisations already benefiting from the support available so far.