To celebrate National Play Day Historyworks collaborated with ChYpPS and lots of wonderful partners including Abbey People and Cambridge University Museums. The event was devised by Helen Weinstein inspired by the children's idea for a 'take over' and therefore provided an opportunity for the children to 'take over' Coldham's Common & Historyworks offered free workshops for Junk Band and a participatory performance to celebrate the afternoon's activities!



On Wednesday 3rd August 2016 over 1,000 children came along to Coldham’s Common for the BIG WEDNESDAY afternoon to celebrate National Play Day, organized by Historyworks in partnership with ChYpPS. The event was part of the fantastic BIG WEDNESDAY series in the parks over the Summer as part of the Summerdaze programme, and on this occasion in Abbey Ward, Historyworks and ChYpPS brought together other local partners including Abbey People, Make Do & Mend, Cambridge Scrapstore, the University of Cambridge Museums, Cambridge United, Cambridge Community Circus.


It was a fantastic occasion with children and their families pitching into the free activities, whirling around with kites and getting stuck into the modeling and music activities, especially making shakers and enjoying drumming, with smaller children having face-painting and drawing opportunities.  You can see the coverage in Cambridge News here:

Helen Weinstein, Director of Historyworks has been researching the area of Coldham’s Common and bringing groups on history walks from the local primary schools and also community groups, including the Sustrans Wednesday walks.  Helen is a public historian and found a range of stories to engage children and their families with the local area, including the riot of the 1590s when local people had to fight for Coldham’s Common to remain owned by the ‘common people’ for the public in the area to you as land that everyone could freely use to graze their livestock, which means it can be used today for leisure activities and include the wildlife reserves. To find out more about the History of the Common with an illustrated overview of the Historyworks research you can click here.

In the programme of place-making work with Historyworks, Michael Rosen was commissioned by Helen to write a poem about this history of Coldham’s Common and you can find it here:

Especially for this event, the most amazing ‘forgotten’ story which Helen has discovered to have inspired children and formed a key theme for the BIG WEDNESDAY ‘takeover’ day on August 3rd, was the prehistoric fact that huge flying lizards, called Ornithocherius, which were a kind of Pterosaur, lived in Cambridge at the time of the dinosaurs and left deposits which then turned into corprolite (fossilised dino poo!).


The Historyworks activities for the BIG WEDNESDAY therefore focused on ways to engage children and their families with Coldham’s Common. 


These included activities for very small children, such as making Pterosaur pictures by dot-to-dot and colouring small Pterosaur stick puppets to take home. 

We knew the children were going to be into making, as they’ve told us this is what they most enjoy, and they were!  We probably made about 300 of these small Pterosaurs with the help of colleagues at ChYPpS and the Sedgwick Museum. 

Nicola from the Sedgewick Museum also very kindly brought some coprolite (dino poo) with her for people to examine- even the major enjoyed having a look!


For older children, there was the opportunity to make their own kite with the help of sculptor Matt Lane Sanderson and Georgie from Marshall


They assisted the children to contrast their own kites that they could then fly on the Common!

Children also has the chance to learn circus skills, try a variety of sports activities, have fun playing on giant inflatables and explore a real fire engine!

Historyworks also created a new wildlife walk and geocache trail, highlighting some of the Common’s key historic and natural features, with the help of wildlife officer Vic Smith from the City Council.

And foodPark organised Holy Schnitzel to come provide some yummy food and drink for the event!


One of the other highlights were the musical opportunities on offer, with Anthony Paul from Cambridgeshire Music providing fun filled samba workshops for all ages.

Children also had the chance to explore some of the junk percussion instruments we’d used earlier in the week and also make their own shaker at the Historyworks stand or create their own instrument at the Cambridge Scrapstore gazebo, with the help of the fantastic ChYpPS team.

The whole afternoon culminated in a junk band performance introduced by the major and led by Bethany Kirby, Mario Satchwell and Tizzy Faller. It was a collaborative performance, performed by the children from the junk band workshops earlier in the week, who were then joined by children on the samba instruments with Anthony and playing their own newly made shakers!

The finale was a performance of Michael Rosen’s ‘Pterosaur Poo’ poem, which was performed with junk percussion accompaniment, which family and friends were encouraged to join with in the audience!


We had an absolutely wonderful time being on Coldham’s Common alongside so many fantastic partners and would especially like to thank ChYpPS for all their hard work organising the event in the run up and on the day itself.

Thank you to everyone who came to join the fun on Coldham’s Common- we hope we’ll be able to do something similar again with ChYpPS next year!