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Children lacking winter activities build their own Mile End ‘cave’ play facility and start a crowdfunding campaign

PUBLISHED: 15:51 27 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:53 27 February 2018

The cave project at Mile End Park. Picture: Toynbee Hall

The cave project at Mile End Park. Picture: Toynbee Hall

Toynbee Hall

Children have taken matters into their hands launching a campaign in east London to tackle obesity with a crowdfunding project to build a ‘cave’ play facility at Mile End Park.

Chris Dunne... Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation chairman's plea to councillors for funding in 2017 falls on deaf ears. Picture: Mike Brooke Chris Dunne... Tower Hamlets Youth Sports Foundation chairman's plea to councillors for funding in 2017 falls on deaf ears. Picture: Mike Brooke

It follows a growing number of playgrounds being shut down around the country—expected to reach 400 by the end of the year.

Many youngsters are left without facilities to keep active and fit, even with Tower Hamlets being a ‘host’ borough for the 2012 Olympics legacy, although no playgrounds have been shut here.

But the issue of youth funding came to a head in July when the Tower Hamlets Council voted against financing the borough’s Youth Sports foundation, despite a petition by 2,000 youngsters and a plea to councillors by its chairman Chris Dunne.

But now the 12-year-olds taking part in Toynbee Hall’s own youth project have decided to take charge and start building their cave at Mile End Park as an indoor play facility.

Youngsters prepare their own food at Mile End cave project, learning about healthy eating. Picture: Toynbee Hall Youngsters prepare their own food at Mile End cave project, learning about healthy eating. Picture: Toynbee Hall

Toynbee Hall is appealing for public crowdfunding donations for the project which also aims to tackling the East End’s high child obesity levels by teaching healthy eating where youngsters cook their own meals in the cave.

One-in-four pupils are obese at 10, with 42 fast food outlets close to every Tower Hamlets school, Toynbee Hall points out. Seven-out-of-10 give up sports at 13, largely due to lack of facilities. The cave project aims to address these issues.

“Play spaces in east London are uninspiring, with so many being closed,” Toynbee Hall’s Curtis Worrell said. “It’s not enough for young people just having areas of grey concrete to play on—they need diversity and be challenged mentally and physically.

“So these kids have decided they want change and can do it themselves, crowdfunding and building their own caving facility.”

Toynbee Hall's 2017 project where youngsters built an outdoor classroom at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in Mile End. Picture: Toynbee Hall Toynbee Hall's 2017 project where youngsters built an outdoor classroom at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in Mile End. Picture: Toynbee Hall

The cave idea follows last year’s youth project when youngsters built their own outdoor classroom at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.

The cave is being built entirely by the youngsters, at Mile End’s council-run Urban Adventure Base, with expertise help from east London’s Build Up Foundation charity. The centre has outdoor activities including Duke of Edinburgh awards and watersports—but only one indoor facility during the winter months without the cave.

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