What?: Designed with underprivileged families in mind but open to all, the Hackney Playbus is a small but brilliant charity offering imaginative play opportunities in and around its awesome green and blue double-decker bus. It might seem like a bit of a novelty act as far as under-5s stay and plays go – and I guess the whole “it’s a playgroup on a bus lol” thing is its initial draw – but this is one you’ll return to again and again, albeit perhaps in different locations.
In fact the Playbus has four regular pop-up spots across Hackney: Springfield Park in Upper Clapton, Shoreditch Park in Hoxton, Gilpin Square in Lower Clapton and Rowley Gardens in Manor House. We went along to the latter on a roasting hot afternoon that made the inside of the bus vaguely insufferable, particularly since the electricity was down and the on-board fans were out of action. Thankfully there was plenty to do outside, the gardens having been set up with ride-ons, a glitter-dough table, water play, toys, books, soft play and basically everything else you can imagine, all under the shade of two giant gazebos.
Inside the layout is ingenious, with activities packed into every nook and cranny. Downstairs there’s a compact loo and baby change, a sandpit and a painting table complete with built-in picture-drying rack. Upstairs there’s – most importantly – a door to stop little ones from tumbling down the pant-crappingly precarious bus steps, comprehensive dressing up, books, blocks, a dolls’ house and a whole host of plastic toys. Play is totally free-flow, with a few songs thrown in here and there (no sitting in a circle) – including The Wheels on the Bus with authentic horn/wiper/door effects.
Where and When?: Mondays 10am-12pm in Springfield Park and 1-3pm in Rowley Gardens; Wednesdays 10am-12pm in Gilpin Square and 1-3pm in Shoreditch Park.
Best Bits: Such a unique playgroup and the lovely staff went out of their way to welcome and chat to us.
Worst Bits: Way too hot. We had to leave in search of ice cream.
Facilities: On-board toilet and baby change. Free tea and coffee.
Would We Come Back?: Absolutely.
Bab & Shrimp play outside the Hackney Playbus in Rowley Gardens, Woodberry Down.