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A rush and a push!

by Fiona on August 08, 2016

08 August 2016 I London Play

Hundreds of children got a rush of adrenaline, a sense of achievement and an encounter with true greatness on Friday.

Sixteen teams from across London raced self-made go karts against one another while motorsport legend John Surtees OBE waved the starting flag

The Hackney Marsh Adventure Playground team were ultimately victorious in the All London Go Kart Build and Race at Mudchute Farm, organised by the charity London Play. The Hackney team left the competition in the dust in their heat but met serious contest from Croydon’s CACFO Summer School in the final; leading Mr Surtees to make a controversial decision to demand a re-match between the two finalists. Local Mudchute Farm team was third and Camden’s Three Acres Play Centre was also in the final four.

But this was a day when the taking part – as much as the winning – was truly what mattered. Mr Surtees was delighted to see 16 creative teams of potential designers, engineers and racing drivers work together to build old-school go karts from scratch in just four hours – and then race them against each other. It was the second year running that he has lent his support to the event through the Henry Surtees Foundation, set up in memory of his late son to nurture skills and potential of young people. Many of the children taking part were from disadvantaged areas and plenty had never even held a hammer before. Lameis, 10, with the team from Notting Hill’s Venture Centre said: “I’ve used a saw and actually built something for the first time – I’ve never built anything before and it feels really good and exciting.”

Mr Surtees said: “The enthusiasm and pleasure that these children obviously get in working and competing in a team that has to put heads and hands together to design and build the karts is inspiring to see.  I hope they have discovered how much fun it is and how rewarding to make things with their hands and to test themselves.  I hope this encourages them to continue.”

The teams had arrived on the field at 11am that morning to find piles of wood, wheels, tools and fixings awaiting them, under the expectant gazes of the farm’s resident geese, ponies and alpacas. One child was heard to suggest that the alpacas might have a better chance of making a go kart out of that “pile of scrap” than they did!  

But as the minutes and hours ticked by, even the doubters found themselves immersed in hammering, sawing, drilling and painting; some unearthing previously latent talents in aerodynamic design, precision engineering and automotive aesthetics. And when the whistle blew to mark the end of four hours’ furious construction, all 16 karts were deemed fit to race and some were even visions of beauty too!

A few practice runs to hone driving and pushing skills led straight into four heats, each with four karts – featuring some fierce competition, tactical manoeuvres, unexpected deviations and partial demolitions but huge grins all round. The winning team will get to experience some petrol-powered karting action at Surtees’ Buckmore Park Kart Circuit in Kent, the track where Formula One stars Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button started out.

John, 14 from the winning team said:  “We made a coffin-shaped fuselage because I have a model of a F1 car at home and the bottom of it is shaped like that. It helps the aerodynamic flow and makes it go faster.” His team mate Beneditah, 11, saw it differently. “We won because of the chicken [mascot],” she said.

Corporate volunteers from businesses located nearby at Canary Wharf helped the day run smoothly and had a great time in the process. Canary Wharf Group volunteers were indispensable at the power tool station and they and JLL Canary Wharf volunteers also got stuck in helping the teams to make their visions a reality. Charlotte Malone, director at JLL Canary Wharf, commented: “This is the third time we have supported London Play at this fun event. We love being able to give back to the community in which we operate in.”

London Play chair Melian Mansfield said: “As opportunities for children to get outdoors, be playful and creative and have fun become more and more limited in London and beyond, this event demonstrates what is possible when you give young people a few basic materials, a bit of freedom and space to experiment. These children arrived doubting themselves and their abilities and by the end of the day they were walking on air! We are grateful to the Henry Surtees Foundation and all our corporate sponsors and volunteers for supporting this event and offering hundreds of children a challenging experience which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

For more information or high-resolution photos of the event please contact Fiona Sutherland via or on 0203 384 8510.

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