Fire is one of the four cornerstones of elemental play, a vitally important aspect of the human play experience. There is no doubt that it must be treated with caution and respect but by understanding and experiencing fire, and recognising its play value, we benefit in so many ways.
Despite being such a powerful force and an effective experience, fire is one of the least accessible of the four elements for play and underrepresented in the average play space. Luckily, not all play spaces are average and there is a growing resurgence of understanding about the need for providing for such experiences.
Ian Lowe the resident Artist Blacksmith at the Forge at Stepney City Farm has been actively engaging with children for over three years, working with young people of all abilities, including those with special needs. Using traditional craftworking skills to enable children to grow and develop as individuals is a core mandate of the Rural Arts Centre at Stepney.Mr Lowe states:
“For me, as working Blacksmith, fire is without doubt the most important tool I use and I’m constantly surprised by just how little the general public understand it. Sadly, this especially stands true when it comes to young people and children as the prevailing attitude amongst most parents is to see only the dangers of fire instead of its incredible usefulness. Without it I simply could not do the work I do, and I spend much of my time explaining to them how our current society would be a radically different place without it and how important a role it still plays in daily life”.
For more on Ian’s work and a longer version of his statement click here.
There are others who are part of the growing movement to reverse the fear of fire and engage with it as part of the fuller play experience. Among them, Yorkshire Play, who have created a fantastic DVD resource for those interested in fire and play. Click here for more information.