One Potato is an intergenerational oral history project that is exploring the history of children's play over the past 80 years in the north and south of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Set up and run by arts and education charity digital:works, "One Potato" began as a project working with Servite Primary School, Age UK Kensington and Chelsea, the V&A Museum of Childhood and local residents in Chelsea. This initial project based in the south of the borough was great fun and has led to a wonderful oral history based documentary that you can see on this website. It was so successful that the project has expanded and digital:works are now working with Colville Primary School and residents in North Kensington.
IIn Spring 2016 we worked with children from Servite Primary School in Chelsea and in Autumn 2016 we are working with children from Colville Primary School in Ladbroke Grove.
Exploring the history of play through oral history presents a fascinating opportunity to learn through play, with the older generation teaching the children games and vice versa with opportunities to discuss and explore how games have changed over time and why. We don't just want people born in the local area involved as it will be interesting to find out what games people played in other countries or parts of the UK as children.
The project is exploring aspects of play for pre-teen children including street play, playgrounds, singing games and rhymes and board games. So, in short, what people played, where they played and how they played.
A reminiscence group of local older people are working with children from the schools to explore, compare and contrast their experiences playing as children.
The children and adults are also visiting the wonderful Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green where Carolyn Bloore and colleagues are running fascinating workshops on the history of play.
We are also working closely with the archives and local studies centre of both Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Alison Kenny at Westminster and Dave Walker at RBKC Local Studies are running sessions on using the archives and exploring their collections with the children.
Next, after training and workshops, the children film interviews with the older group to make a film.
The children from Servite Primary School have produced some wonderful writing as well as an oral history based documentary film. This film was launched at the Chelsea Theatre in May 2016 and you can see the film on this website.
We are now working with residents of North Kensington and Colville Primary School so watch this website for more info as the project progresses.
Please visit the project blog for more on what has been going on.
To find out more, please contact Matthew Rosenberg at
tel: 07949 107023
The first "One Potato" project focusing on Chelsea was coordinated by arts and education charity digital-works and Age UK Kensington and Chelsea. It has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and also by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's "City Living Local Life" Chelsea Riverside Ward initiative.
The upcoming project running in North Kensington is also coordinated by digital-works . It is being funded by Colville Primary School and also by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's "City Living Local Life" Colville Ward initiative
The reminiscence sessions for both projects are being run by Maggie Tyler, Community Historian.
According to Steven Roud, author of "The Lore of the Plyground" (Random House, 2010), One Potato was possibly the most widely known play rhyme in England in the mid 1940s and it is possibly much older.
All of the children put our their two fists. One kid goes around tapping the other kids' fists with his fist. The one whose fist he ends the rhyme on is out (that kid puts that fist behind his back). Then go around again and again until only one fist is left. The one that is left at the end of all the rounds is "It".
The film was shown to a packed house at the Gate Cinema, Notting Hill, on Friday 9th December 2016. It was a lovely event as the children introduced the film to an audience of locals including many who they interviewed for the film. Also present were the local MP, the mayor of Kensington and Chelsea as well as historians and teachers.
You can now watch the film on this website on the film page here.
We went out into the playground at Servite Primary School in Chelsea at lunchbreaks to record children's games and were met both with enthusiasm and also lots and lots of lovely games. Some you might be familiar with, old tunes, new words? Others might be completely new to you. Go to the writing page to listen to some.
The Opie Collection of Children's Games and Songs is a set of recordings made by Iona Opie between 1969 and 1983. Iona and her husband, Peter, dedicated their working lives to documenting children's play, folklore, language and literature and published several influential works, most notably The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (1959). Their audio archive consists of 85 open reel and cassette tapes recorded by Iona during research for The Singing Game (1985) and deposited with the British Library in 1998.
You can listen to these wonderful recordings on the British Library website and there are some specific to Chelsea from the 1970s here.
Children from Colville Primary School playing One Potato at the V&A Museum of Childhood.Learning to use the camera.
Servite School visit the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green
Children sharing games with local residents from the Worlds End area of Chelsea.
Local resident Allan Tyrell teaches children at Colville Primary School an old street game.
Thanks to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's Local Studies Centre for the images on this website. Additional photos from project participants.