We are deeply saddened to hear that our dear friend and colleague Dr. Stuart Lester recently passed away.
Stuart was a strong supporter of Play Wales and over the last decade or so we worked with him on frequent occasions when he facilitated workshops at our annual Spirit conferences and through the delivery of Professional Development Programmes for local authorities in Wales. However, most notable for us was Stuart’s valued input and contribution with colleague Wendy Russell, as a key researcher into Welsh Government’s ground-breaking Play Sufficiency Duty. This work, Leopard Skin Wellies, a Top Hat and a Vacuum Cleaner Hose, explored how local authorities responded to their duty to assess sufficient play opportunities for children. It identified key themes which have influenced the strategic approach to planning, providing and protecting children’s right to play in Wales.
After years working on adventure playgrounds, local community projects and as a playwork trainer, Stuart was most recently senior lecturer on the play and playwork programmes at the University of Gloucestershire. His recent work has highlighted the ways in which all aspects of children’s lives are interconnected and the work has contributed to a greater understanding of the conditions required to better support playing, playfulness and the immediate benefits of playing to children’s sense of wellness.
Stuart was a regular contributor to international sector publications. His most well-known works, which he co-authored with Wendy, were Play for a Change – Play, Policy and Practice: A review of contemporary perspectives (2008) and Children’s Right to Play: An examination of the importance of play in the lives of children worldwide. This latter piece of work, a concept paper, influenced the drafting of General comment No. 17 on Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and helped to raise awareness of the importance of play in the lives of children throughout the world.
At Play Wales, we will really miss Stuart – his joyfulness and reminding us to to celebrate moments of enchantment, both in children’s play and in our adult lives. In particular, we will miss his ‘what if’ persistence that helped us all to think more creatively about how we view playing children. His passing will leave a considerable to gap in the play, playwork and academic sector.