Hackney Playbus to return to the streets in June thanks to crowdfunding

The original 1999 model playbus. Pic: Hackney Playbus

The Hackney Playbus, a mobile children’s play centre, is due to return to the streets of the borough in June after having been taken off due to being unable to comply with carbon emission standards.

The double-decker Playbus was forced off the road last month when new Low Emission Zone Euro VI standards were introduced. The current bus, a 1999 model vehicle, did not comply with the modernised emission standards.

The Euro VI standards have become mandatory for all heavy duty engines. This includes those used in busses – especially older, more polluting models.

The bus had previously been a London Transport vehicle, before it was acquired by Hackney Playbus in 2017 to replace its 1984 Leyland Olympian school bus which the group had been using since 2009.

“We got the bus in 2017 when the older bus’ gearbox failed. This one served us well for four years but it’s about time we moved on again,” a Playbus spokesperson told ELL.

Together, the team behind the Hackney Playbus have managed to gather well over £30,000 through crowdfunding. With these funds, they intend to modernise the bus and fit in a new engine that complies with the emission standards.

The service is primarily run by volunteers and paid playworkers. It was originally run by the borough’s Town Hall, but has since become an independent charity organisation. It travels around the borough, providing education and day-care management of children aged up to four years old.

“My child was very reserved and shy. Coming to these play sessions, she has become very confident around other children and adults.” said a Playbus mother on the official Playbus Website.

The Hackney Playbus has been in operation since 1972, when it was set up by Hackney Labour councillor Anthony Kendall. He felt that children growing up on council estates often lacked places to safely play, thus inspiring the organisation.

The spokesperson added: “The Playbus is active very locally. We park in different places in Hackney and provide the sessions, and we never move around while the sessions are active.”

The campaign started on March 1 and has now raised over £34,800.

The funds will be enough to rework the bus to make it more child-friendly and modernised, and refit a more environmentally conscious engine with the help of a grant from Transport for London (TfL).

The donation page says: “The next Hackney Playbus will have an improved sensory play area for babies, better kitchen facilities, more seating for parents and carers, and stairs that are less steep for little legs!”

There are hopes to have the Playbus back on the streets by June 21, when the national lockdown restrictions are expected to slacken. The group have been found to be very important to families living in cramped or overcrowded conditions.

“We’ve been active since the 70s,” the spokesperson added. “And we hope to be active for a long time.”

Donations to the Hackney Playbus can still be made and read about here.

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