Bristol Playground Inspires New Musical

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Inspirations can come in many shapes and sizes, and now, a Bristol playground has inspired a piece of new musical theatre. Junkyard, the musical inspired by a beloved and unusual playground, brings the youthful adventures of the musical’s creator to a wider audience.

The title of ‘Junkyard’ borrows from the materials that were used in the construction of the playground. Most of us remember childhood moments, where we would create makeshift carts, forts, see-saws and towers among other things, whatever we found ideal for our play time that day.

A Self-Made Playground

The park which influenced the writing of this musical was found in Bristol and actually built by children. Some children stole while others begged and borrowed materials from the estate of Lockleaze. Children gathered recycled wood, railway sleepers, and pellets among other materials to make the playground functional.

The musical is motivated by the uplifting story of these children who created the playground in the 70s. You would not expect children to complete such a recreational area using junk. What more unusual is for a musical to erupt from a “junkyard”. A certain lady, according to the writer, memorably commented about the playground having nothing created by anyone else except for the children themselves.

Inspiration Close to Home

The musical’s playwright Jack Thorne explains how, having grown up in the estate, and playing in the playground, he found inspiration in writing about the, at times chaotic, play area. The sheer drops and death-defying rope swings, which on more than one occasion were set on fire, made up vital parts of the playground on Lockleaze estate.

The playground, known locally as The Vent, was first built by Thorne’s father when he was a child, along with fellow kids from the estate. Despite his father seeming very serious about the endeavour, which made the playground initially appear a little silly to the writer, many things about the playground are very intriguing.

The musical’s writer now thinks so much of The Vent. He holds so many memories that he finds worth preserving through this piece. Just as the inventiveness and creativity of the kids influenced them into building their playground, their creation in turn inspired Thorne to develop this musical.

Preserving a Lasting Treasure

The writer also believes in the power of musicals, which allow people to know about the seemingly messed up, but also very poignant, lives of others. Another strength of the musical is the cast, who portray the kids who lived through the playground. This cast is growing wilder each day, playing the same games the kids used to play, even getting stuck into throwing balls at each other’s heads, just like the kids used to do!

Another factor which inspired Thorne into writing the musical is the current threat to the playground. Most playgrounds of its type have been burnt down, or demolished due to the dangers they’re deemed to pose. He feels that he will help to keep the playground alive with the musical. He feels proud that The Vent built by his father is still standing more than 40 years later.

A major dream of Thorne’s is to have his own kids play at, and maybe even rebuild The Vent. The musical, Junkyard, shares the unconquerable spirit of The Vent, a beautiful space made out of the mess and the junk. The Vent has survived even after a nearby school was demolished in 2009. The playground lives on physically as well as through its musical theatre.

We certainly don’t use the same materials, or somewhat questionable safety standards, in any of the playgrounds we develop, but we admire the community spirit and sense of childlike inspiration that this new musical is celebrating.