state of play

Seth Giddings’s chapter ‘The state of play: the work of Iona Opie in the postdigital era’ opens a recently published book. Edited by Julia Bishop and June Factor, The Lifework and Legacy of Iona and Peter Opie: research into children’s play (Routledge 2018), is based on a special issue of The International Journal of Play in 2014. There is an extended version of the chapter here.

Iona and Peter Opie were twentieth-century pioneers. Their research and writing focused on the folklore of British children – their games, rhymes, riddles, secret languages and every variety of the traditions and inventions of the children’s collective physical and verbal play. Such closely observed, respectful, good-humoured and historically attuned writing about the traditions of childhood was a revelation to English-language readers around the world. Their numerous books were a rare phenomenon: they attracted a popular readership far beyond the professional and academic communities. For those who work with children, their collaborative research was a powerful influence in confirming the immense capacities of the young for cooperation, conservation, invention and imagination. Their books challenged – then and now – the bleak and limited view of children which focuses on their smallness, ignorance and powerlessness.

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