The Hidden Gardens’ Code of Conduct

One of our favourite hang outs are the Tramway and the Hidden Gardens in Pollokshields. There is so much we love about it – a cafe and shelter, the piece and quiet of the gardens. You know, just yesterday when in the bustling noise and business of the Science Centre on a very rainy day during the school holidays, I thought to myself, why is it that something that the kids love often is the furthest from what I enjoy? I hated the fact I had to keep track of two little people, how the younger one wouldn’t nap, how the older one got hyper as time progressed. By the time we entered the planetarium, both me and little one conked out. Exhausted.

Compare this to the Hidden Garden: We play together, we relax, we all enjoy this space equally. 5 year old runs about, makes friends, plays hide and seek. I have so many great memories of the Hidden Gardens. Balancing on the walls, exploring each tree, playing tig. Even her 5th birthday party.

It’s also a place where I can actually meet with adults and bring the kids. The one place where it’s possible to have an adult conversation. The children are engaged by the environment and I can engage in a bit more than the usual superficial chit chat.

Now the Hidden Gardens have issued a code of conduct which is more than anything child unfriendly. They have consulted with parents – after the code of conduct was put together (which to me isn’t consultation but information, and I’m sure there are few who would argue that this should be called a consultation at all). The code of conduct includes that there are to be no ball games, no wheeled objects, no drawing of any kind (including with chalk on the paths or with/in dirt), no running.

Now, you tell my 5 year old not to run. She is an active and energetic 5 year old. She runs. She can’t not run. If the code of conduct asks for no running, we are effectively told to leave. All three of us. It is excluding children and their carers from enjoying this oasis of peace in the middle of the city.

I do appreciate the need to make a space work for everyone. I realise that kids can be noisy. However I’ve yet to visit the Hidden Gardens and find noisy kids because the space is just so full of zen that even the kids get it, or the noise is dissipated by the space. They may run and play but they’re not noisy – at least not in comparison to what I’m used to day in and day out.

I do understand the need for the parent to instill respect for nature and special places. I do not let my child pick flowers here, or run into the flower beds. She gets it. I have yet to be shown a child or parent who does not follow these simple rules. Moreover, there is evidence that letting children explore nature, even in places where extra care needs to be taken to ensure conservation, the long term benefits for nature are greater than the short term impact little hands and feet have on plants and wildlife.

I do understand the need to be respective of others and that there are users who are worried to be run into by bikes or scooters. We have brought scooters in but they never got used. The kids park them and then play, sit on the grass, run about and that’s it. I have yet to be shown an accident with a child’s scooter in the Hidden Gardens.

I’m all for working together, however being presented with a code of conduct (which implies misconduct, doesn’t it?) without meaningful ways of inputing into this can only mean that minds have been made up. Children are not welcome, and if my child is not welcome, neither am I because I can’t exactly leave them at the front door on a lead.

As a parent, I feel excluded from this space. There are many parents who use this space, in fact, it’s possible mostly used by parents and children. Which poses the question if this code of conduct might in fact backfire.

I would welcome the Hidden Gardens management to rethink their approach and to engage in a meaningful consultation with parents which would allow a change to the code of conduct and also a review of the vision for the Hidden Gardens. As it stands, children and parents are effectively excluded. This is a large percentage of the population, considering this is a public space. It also sends out a message about how we see our children (as little destroyers and a nuisance, rather than citizens and part of community).

In the meantime, i have a feeling the Hidden Gardens will become an oasis just for childless people. Which is a shame, because anyone with children would love to occasionally visit an oasis of calm, we might well be the ones who need it most!

Addendum: I’ve been alerted that the code of conduct apparently does not prohibit running. This was mentioned as a rule by one person. I’m not clear myself as to the extent to which the code of conduct will be enforced so that time will tell how much it will impact on families.

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10 Responses to The Hidden Gardens’ Code of Conduct

  1. jane says:

    Great article Steffi, well said. I whole heartedly agree with all you have said. I think as well they could be shooting themselves in the foot, lets face it (although separate organisations) everyone knows the Tramway is called Pramway due to the volume of parents and children that use the space, including all the child friendly events in the boiler room. I just really don’t understand this or what prompted this need for a new code of conduct would be interested to know the context of this so called consultation, who pushed for it.

  2. julia says:

    Thanks for speaking out about this. I was so baffled when sb from the hidden gardens told me my 3-year old wasn’t allowed to play with his ball! I think these new policies are a big mistake and will get rid of most of tramway’s customers.

  3. How sad that they have done this. These gardens sound lovely and its a shame children are not being encouraged to enjoy it. Mothers always seem to get critisised for not getting their children out into the fresh air and yet its very hard if they feel constrained or judged by others. I think it would be physically impossible to stop my 2 running around. I also think that alot of people enjoy seeing kids running around enjoying themselves outside! I hope you do get the authorities to re-consider.

  4. Alicia says:

    Great article and very well said! I have been fired up about this issue for some time. So much so that I actually wrote a letter which was signed by over 30 families and sent to the Hidden Gardens. I can send you a copy if you like. They met with me and 2 other mums due to short notice and it being ‘summer holidays’. It was at this meeting that they gave me an internal report about the damage being done to the Hidden Gardens. It’s quite clear from this report where the ‘anti-children’ attitude stems from. In my opinion it was used as justification for the change in policies that have recently taken place. We were also given the code of conduct as well as another internal document which explains what staff should do to enforce said code (i.e it’s all about what to do with children). I can also provide copies of these documents.

    The meeting basically felt like a PR exercise to appease those who signed the letter. However since it was so poorly attended the director of the Hidden Gardens was open to having another meeting in early September. If more people were able to attend this it might make them take more notice.

    Oh and has anyone else noticed how the Tramway (completely separate from the Hidden Gardens) is also following the same route. The toy/children’s corner area is gone and most days the sliding wooden door closes the space off….

  5. Cat says:

    I saw the code at the weekend and think it’s really sad that this family friendly venue seems to be regulating fun. I don’t have children but love how interactive and lively this space is, scooters, balls and all. I Read the wish tree the other day and saw someone had wished that all the children would be quiet and understand the Need for calm, it made me sad. As does the new code. I hope those who developed it consider your thoughts here.

  6. Nicola says:

    No wheeled objects- does this include prams?!! I chiefly started using the Tramway/Hidden Gardens after my babies were born as a practical place for mums to meet with lots of/large prams due to the plentiful space! On their own website (under About Us/Vision) they still have a photo (in a changing slideshow) of a child holding up a poster that says ‘I like the toys and playing mucky yuck yuck in the garden’ – not exactly compatible with requiring children to adhere to a code of conduct for grown-up peace and quiet (especially if the toys have been removed).
    I’d be really interested to know what percentage of their users arrive bringing children, because I’m also wondering how much this new code counters the aims stated on the Vision page:http://www.thehiddengardens.org.uk/vision.php
    Alicia, I’d be very keen to come along to the next meeting, if you are happy to share details.

    • Alicia says:

      Nicola,once a date has been set I will happily share the details. The more people to attend and voice their concerns the better! Don’t think a date will be set until later in August but will keep you posted.

    • Alicia says:

      I’ve had the following from the Director of the Hidden Gardens. If anyone who has read/responded to the blog wishes to attend please let me know and which date would suit:

      If you have school aged children the school’s are off for Sept weekend on Friday 21 Sept.

      Thanks!

      —-Original Message—-

      As promised, I am writing to you to follow up on our informal chat back in July; and to invite you, and those who signed the letter written to the Gardens, to join me again in September for a further discussion.

      Irfan Rabbani, the Chair of The Hidden Gardens Trust and Donna Borokinni, the Community Programme Manager in The Gardens are also available to join the discussion in September. We are looking forward to extending a warm welcome to you again in the Gardens, and to continuing the discussion.

      Below are some dates and times when we are available, for a meeting of one hours duration . Please let me know which option suits best. As before, it would be really helpful to know the numbers who will be attending so that I can offer refreshments for the meeting.

      Monday 17th September, between 4.00pm and 6.00pm
      Friday 21st September, between 11am and 12.00pm
      Friday 28th September, between 3.00pm and 5.00pm

      Looking forward to hearing from you

      Warmest wishes,

      Amanda

  7. Alicia says:

    Due to lack of interest a further meeting in September will not be taking place.

  8. Classic Kids says:

    Interactive space is so important for children and grown up children!

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