“It’s like they’re in a new world when they get into that cage” (Hackney youth worker)
There are hundreds of them across London. At least 60 in Hackney alone. But they rarely get the attention they deserve. Multi-Use Games Areas (a.k.a. cages) are hugely significant places of safety, fun, and friendship for many children and young people.
Our new report, The Difference a MUGA can make, is a celebration of Hackney’s MUGAs and a celebration of the communities that use them – including the many brilliant sport and youth organisations delivering provision on them. Based on interviews with young people, young adults, parents, sports coaches, and youth workers, the report articulates the value that Hackney’s cages have for young people and the local community, and examines the key enablers of and barriers to MUGAs’ benefits being maximised.
We heard, for instance, about the difference made by a consistent, reliable, approachable “cage coach”, and about the damage done by basic maintenance and management issues. A broken basketball hoop or a cage being locked one day may not seem like much, but if it undermines the consistency of provision, and makes young people feel their facility isn’t being cared for, it can be hugely detrimental.
The central point in the report is that cages should be treated as important social infrastructure – as places which can be vitally important for the social life of communities, bringing wide-ranging benefits to people’s wellbeing and connectedness (see a recent Mayor of London report on social infrastructure).
This is not to say nothing bad ever happens in or near cages; but that’s all the more reason to give them the strategic consideration they deserve. We outline in the report some of the key tensions – such as governance issues – which need to be addressed if any cage is to have maximum benefit for its local neighbourhood. (This builds on our previous Places of safety, places of harm, places of potential report about cages.)
The Difference a MUGA can make report concludes with recommendations for local authorities and decision-makers, and for organisations delivering provision on MUGAs. Though based on research in Hackney, we think that the recommendations have relevance for decision-makers and organisations across London, and perhaps beyond.
Use the links below to download the full report, or you can download as standalone documents the executive summary, the recommendations for decision-makers, and the recommendations for organisations delivering on MUGAs.