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Conference speakers – Child Friendly Cities

Conference speakers

Towards the Child Friendly City will feature a wide range of expert speakers, presenters and panelists on different aspects of the conference themes.

Plenary and keynote speakers and contributors will be announced here as they are confirmed, while parallel session contributors will be published in the full programme, after the call for papers process is complete in September.

Alice Ferguson
Co-founder and managing director, Playing Out CiC

Alice Ferguson is the managing director of Playing Out, the UK-wide resident led street play movement, now involving thousands of people working in their own communities and time to bring about positive change for children.

Having co-founded the pioneering street play organisation with her neighbour, initially to simply allow their own children to play outside their homes in safety, her role now includes overseeing the organisation, developing new projects and talking up street play to anyone who will listen.

Previously, Alice worked mainly in the environmental and voluntary sectors, including for Sustrans, Friends of the Earth and Climateworks, as well as running her own organic food shop. As a parent, as well as a campaigner, she is actively involved in community efforts towards creating a more liveable neighbourhood, with a particular focus on children’s independent mobility and their access to public space in the city.

Amy Burbidge
Senior Planning Manager, Homes England

Amy Burbidge has recently joined Homes England as a Senior Planning Manager, providing enabling and capacity support to the many local authorities in the MHCLG  Garden Towns and Villages programme in the South East.  Before that Amy was the Design Manager at the North Northamptonshire Joint Planning and Delivery Unit.  The Unit is a shared service across the 4 Local Planning Authorities in the area and works to ensure that spatial planning is done across boundaries and with a common-purpose. Amy  provided design advice to the partner authorities in the JPDU area, and worked extensively on a new garden village, called Tresham, which was developed with a child and young people friendly design ethos. Amy is also a panellist for the Cambridgeshire Quality Panel & East Midland’s Design Review Panel (OPUN), and helps to provide training through the Design Network and Design for Homes.

Jeff Risom
Chief Innovation Officer at Gehl

Jeff Risom is Chief Innovation Officer at Gehl, with a focus on the relationship between human experience and design. He works to apply people-first design principals to communal ecosystems, such as streets, public space, food systems, and energy. With degrees in Architectural Engineering from the US and City Design and Social Science from London School of Economics, Jeff’s multi-disciplinary background has shaped his cross-cutting holistic approach to all projects. He has worked with both public and private clients as well as non-governmental organizations in Europe, USA, Latin America, India and China.

Dr. Kate Bishop
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Built Environment at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Dr. Bishop’s background in environment-behaviour research underpins her teaching and research and her particular area of interest: children, youth and environments. She specialises in the research and design of environments for children with special needs; child and youth-friendly urban planning and design; and participatory methodologies with children and young people. Kate worked in private industry and government before becoming an academic.

Dr. Bishop is the author of Through children’s eyes: Experience of a hospital environment (2009) and co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of People and Place in the 21st Century City (2019), and Designing cities with children and young people: Beyond playgrounds and skate parks (2017). She is a contributing author to many books on children, young people, and place, and the author of numerous research papers and journal articles.


Dinah Bornat
Co-director, ZCD Architects, and design advocate for the Mayor of London

Dinah’s practice in East London includes a variety of projects, from house extensions through to medium sized housing developments, office and commercial buildings. The practice is passionate about socially inclusive architecture and urban design and has published Housing design for community life in 2016 and Neighbourhood design, working with children towards a child-friendly city in 2019. Both use observational techniques to better understand how children use space. Neighbourhood design is a more detailed study, which involved local children and has led to the Mayor of Hackney’s manifesto commitment to becoming a child-friendly borough.

ZCD Architects are delivering quality engagement programmes arising out of their research that aims to bridge the gap between child and young people’s lived experience and built environment objectives. Dinah is a Design Advocate for the Mayor of London, a design review panel member of Harrow and Hounslow Councils and works with a number of local authorities across the country.

Dinah and colleagues’ research and essays on child-friendly cities, urban design and participatory practice can be found her

Dr. Sudeshna Chatterjee
CEO, Action for Children’s Environments (ACE); Founder and Advisor, KCA; and Board Member, International Play Association (IPA) – World.

Dr. Chatterjee works across the world on research, planning, design, and development of more inclusive, safe and resilient cities. Her background in urban design and interdisciplinary design research shaped her practice at KCA to be evidence-based and participatory; focusing on creating people-friendly and environment-friendly places. She has won much acclaim for leading on the urban design of the new Greenfield capital city of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, Naya Raipur. Currently, she is advising on making high-rise and high-density affordable housing projects child-friendly in Indian cities.

In 2011, she set up the non-profit organization Action for Children’s Environments (ACE), which engages in research, advocacy, planning, and design to improve children’s environments, with a focus on vulnerable children. ACE is UNICEF India’s technical partner on its Safe Communities programme for children and families living in slums in Mumbai, Bhopal, and Kolkata; and leads the Outdoor Classroom Day in India, to encourage outdoor learning and free play as part of the everyday school curriculum. ACE with UNICEF support had developed national guidelines for making child-friendly, model children’s homes for the Ministry of Women and Child Development, India.

Dr. Chatterjee was the lead researcher on Climate Change, Risks, and Resilience in Urban Children in Asia, for Save the Children and the International Institute of Environment and Development. She currently serves on the board of the International Play Association (IPA), where she has contributed to the drafting General Comment 17 on Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and led the six-country research and training project, Access to Play in Crisis.

Dr. Chatterjee’s PhD dissertation (Children’s Friendship with Place) at North Carolina State University deconstructed the idea of the child-friendly city from the perspective of how children form affective bonds with places through direct and indirect experiences. Her conceptual model of place friendships in childhood has now been empirically tested in many countries. She is on the editorial board of the International Journal of E-Planning Research (IJEPR) and the international journal of Children, Youth, and Environments (CYE). She is a passionate teacher and mentor, lecturing in universities and at global conferences across the US, the UK, and several European countries.

Dr. Chatterjee is part of the Doctoral Research Committee of the School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal. She has published widely on topics related to children and urban environments and is currently working as the lead editor of a new book on SDGs for adolescents, for the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) and The New School, New York.

Tim Gill
Independent scholar, writer and consultant, author of No Fear: Growing up in a risk-averse society.

Tim is a well-known advocate for children’s freedom to play and explore, and for a balanced approach to risk in childhood. His work cuts across education, child care, recreation, planning, and urban design. It speaks to decision makers, academics, commentators, practitioners, and the wider public.

The New York Times described Tim’s book No Fear: Growing up in a risk-averse society as “a handbook for the movement for freer, riskier play.” It led to him advising politicians across the political spectrum, including a Conservative Party review of childhood. Tim is a Built Environment Enabler for the Design Council. In 2017 he was awarded a traveling fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to study child-friendly urban planning in Canada and Europe. Tim’s consultancy clients include the Forestry Commission, the Mayor of London, the Bernard van Leer Foundation, the Lawson Foundation, Unilever, Historic Royal Palaces and National Trust. He has spoken to audiences in over 20 countries across five continents, at venues including Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Tim holds degrees in philosophy and psychology from Oxford University and London University, and an honorary doctorate from Edge Hill University. He is a former director of the Children’s Play Council (now Play England). In 2002 he was seconded to Whitehall to lead the UK government’s first comprehensive review into children’s play. He writes for the mainstream media, trade, and academic publications, and appears regularly on radio and television. www.rethinkingchildhood.com.

Dr. Wendy Russell
Senior Lecturer in Play and Playwork at the University of Gloucestershire (UK), and independent researcher, writer and consultant.

Dr. Russell has worked in the field of children’s play since the mid-1970s, first on adventure playgrounds and then in a wide variety of development, research, training and education roles at local, national and international levels.

Her research focuses on supporting children’s right to play, particularly in terms of the politics of space, policy, and ethics. She has worked on a number of research and development projects into the Welsh Government’s Play Sufficiency Duty, positioning children’s right to play as a matter of spatial justice.

Much of her work has been carried out in collaboration with Dr. Stuart Lester, including Play for a Change: Play, Policy and Practice -a review of contemporary perspectives (2008), commissioned by Play England to inform the English 2008 Play Strategy; Children’s Right to Play: An examination of the importance of play in the lives of children worldwide (2010), commissioned by the International Play Association as part of their campaign for a General Comment on article 31 of the UNCRC; Leopard-Skin Wellies, a Top Hat and a Vacuum Cleaner Hose: An analysis of Wales’ Play Sufficiency Assessment duty (2013), Towards Securing Sufficient Play Opportunities (2014); and Practice-Based Research in Children’s Play (2017), co-edited with Stuart Lester and Hilary Smith.

She is a co-founder of the biennial international Philosophy at Play conference along with Dr. Emily Ryall and Dr. Malcolm MacLean, co-editing The Philosophy of Play (2013), Philosophical Perspectives on Play (2015), The Philosophy of Play as Life (2017) and Play, Philosophy and Performance (forthcoming).


Adrian Voce OBE (conference chair)
President, European Network for Child Friendly Cities.

Adrian has worked with and for children and young people since 1979. A former playworker, residential social worker, special needs assistant and parent partnership worker, Adrian became the first director of London Play in 1998. He was chair and then director of the Children’s Play Council, and the founding director of Play England, leading the successful campaign for a national play strategy, launched in 2008 by the UK government, underpinned by £390m of public funding.

He is the author of Policy for Play: responding to children’s forgotten right (Policy Press, 2015). In 2016 he was elected president of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities and in 2018-19 set up Playful Planet, a community interest company dedicated to advocacy for children’s rights to play, mobility and to enjoy the built and natural environment. He was awarded the OBE in 2011, for services to children.