Crowdfunder gives Hackney Playbus a new lease of life

The original and colourful 1999 Hackney Playbus.

The original 1999 Hackney Playbus which was taken off the road as it no longer complied with recent low carbon emission standards. - Credit: Hackney Playbus

The team behind Hackney Playbus raised more than £30,000 to build a new travelling play centre to provide free support to the borough’s children and families.

A double-decker, the brightly coloured Hackney Playbus has been on the road since 1972, visiting different parts of Hackney to provide play and learning opportunities for children aged up to four-years-old. 

Last March due to Covid-19 restrictions, the service was halted. Then the bus then had to be taken off the road completely because the original 1999 vehicle failed to comply with the Low Emission Zone Euro VI standards that came into effect in March 2021.

Clapton Trustree, for the Hackney Playbus, Emma Bridge, 49, said: “We deliver Playbus sessions in the local community, parking [it] in housing estates or in nearby parks to give families a safe place to play, which is especially important for families living in cramped or overcrowded conditions."

Run by a number of paid playworkers and volunteers, the team developed remote services over lockdown, including online play sessions and arranging access to essentials like nappies and food.

Interior of new Hackney Playbus to be renovated.

Hackney Playbus has raised over £30,000 to build a new travelling play centre for children in the borough. - Credit: Hackney Playbus

“The team found some really innovative ways to support families," Emma said.

“The issues that some vulnerable parents face can sometimes be exacerbated during lockdown, so it's even more important that we maintain contact with them.”

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With a grant from Transport for London (TfL) to refit an engine complaint with the new standards, the team launched a crowdfunding campaign to develop a new playbus decked out with a kitchen, baby changing facilities, and toddler play areas.

The campaign which has now ended was launched on March 1 and raised a final stretch target of £34,600.

Money will allow the team to put the finishing touches to the new bus and work with families to paint its outside.

Double decker bus being stripped for refurbishment.

The bus will now be stripped for refurbishment so it can back on the road again. - Credit: Hackney Playbus

 “We really appreciate all of the help we've had,” Emma said. “We’ve had such supportive messages and people have been lovely.”

 “The whole point of this is to make sure that we can continue to be a really active part in the community, and that we can reach out to more children and families in Hackney.”

Emma hopes for the Hackney Playbus to be back up and running on the road after national lockdown restrictions are fully lifted on June 21.

You can donate to the project and see how the team plans to spend the funds at