CALA Conference 2023


Thursday 7th December 2023

Spectrum Centre, Inverness IV1 1LS



Our Conference is now full. 

Should you wish to join our waiting list, please fill in our waiting list form. 


We are delighted to announce our  annual conference on
Thursday 7th December 2023 from 9 am – 12.40 pm in the Spectrum Centre, Inverness.  

Our theme ‘Just Play’ explores and values ‘play’ as an essential component for all-round development, health and well-being in the lives of children, young people and adults and is designed to complement our calendar of play events which have been taking place over this year in the run-up to our 35th Anniversary of CALA in January 2024.  

We have a fabulous range of inspirational experts, complemented by contributions from China and Lebanon helping us achieve the aims of our conference to: 

Share experiences, showcase, learn, have fun, generate knowledge and inspire 

We’ll explore why play is so important, sharing examples of inspiring play locally, nationally and internationally.

By our Environmental Policy, we invite you to bring your water bottle and make use of our refill stations.

Do you have a favourite childhood toy? If you still have it – or a picture – we would love for you to bring it along! 

We will provide a delegate contact list on the day for networking purposes. There will be photography and recording of some aspects of the event for social media  – please notify [email protected] if you wish to opt out of this. 




One FREE ticket per member

Guest of member – £5.00


£10.00 per person.

Bookings must be made by the 28th of October. 

Our Speakers

Click on the hotspots for further information


Marguerite Hunter Blair is the Chief Executive of Play Scotland the national expert in play for parents, providers, the play profession, and policymakers. She established the Scottish Play Commission (2008) and led the campaigns for Scotland’s Play Strategy (2013) and a statutory duty for Play in the Planning Act (2019).
Marguerite is Chair of the Play Strategy Refresh Group and is a vice-chair of Planning Aid Scotland, and Secretary of IPA Scotland. She is a member of SW/65 – BSI committee for children’s playgrounds standards (EN 1176 series) and Scotland’s representative on the UK Play Safety Forum and UK Children’s Play Policy Forum.
Recent publication contributions include, ‘Play is The Way’ edited by Sue Palmer (2019), ‘Nature-based Play: Fostering Connections for Children’s Wellbeing and climate resilience’ ARUP( 2022), ‘The Health & Wellbeing of Children in the Early Years ‘ report by Children’s Alliance (2022), ‘Inspirationally Playful: People, papers and practices that have inspired play practitioners and researchers’ edited Professor John McKendrick (2023),  and the  Practice Information Note for RIAS (June 2023) on the importance of play, and how it relates to planning, places and health and wellbeing. 


Sarah is the Vice Chair of the International Play Association (IPA) Scotland and was the volunteer coordinator for the IPA Word Conference in Glasgow in June 2023. As well as working as a playwork practitioner and trainer for over 20 years, Sarah has recently completed her PhD which looked at primary school-aged children’s lived experiences of toys and gender. A result of her PhD was creating ‘Staging’, a framework to help practitioners support children’s gendered negotiations and performances during play. Sarah currently works as a Childhood Practice Lecturer at West College Scotland and is learning how to crochet! 


James is an educational psychologist with specialisms in early years and childhood trauma.  His work ranges from infant mental health to developmentally informed curriculum in early primary school.  James was one of the writers for Realising the Ambition and contributed consultation and content for the Parent Club and other national resources.  More locally, he curates  He loves to chat with anyone about anything early years and often does this on Twitter as @JamesEdPsych. 


Melodie has over 20 years experience of working in the voluntary sector and has long been a passionate advocate for children’s play, community arts and youth work. In 2000, Melodie began working as a Children’s Play and Community Arts Worker in Glasgow’s East End alongside local community members to establish programmes of activities around their needs and wants. 21 years on, PEEK – Possibilities for Every Kid is an award-winning charity working with thousands of youngsters across Glasgow. Melodie, in her position as CEO until 2019 was key to the development and growth of the organisation.   More recently Melodie has supported the set-up, development and leading of The Judy Murray Foundation which has opened tennis to thousands of less advantaged families by investing in people who can now deliver fun activity in their communities. Melodie has contributed to the development of local and national play and youth work strategies, frameworks and resources sharing her experience on policy and best practice.  Her educational background is in Community Arts, Play Work and Business Management.

Marguerite Hunter- Blair

Chief Executive,

Play Scotland

Dr. Sarah Goldman

West College Scotland

Dr. James McTaggart

Early Years 


Melodie Crumlin

Thrive Fund Manager

Inspiring Scotland

How to find us

Conference Outline


Registration, refreshments and networking 


Welcome from Jaci Douglas, Chief Executive, CALA 


Setting the scene – Reflections on Play discussion


Marguerite Hunter-Blair, Chief Executive, Play Scotland

10.10 am

 Play session – CALA’s Play Team

10.20 am

Dr Sarah Goldsmith, West of Scotland College

10.35 am

Short film – play in other countries

10.40 am

Dr James McTaggart, Early Years Psychologist, Highland Council 

10.55 am

Play session 2 – CALA’s Play Team

11.10 am

Melodie Crumlin, Inspiring Scotland 

11.25 am

Play Session 3 – CALA’s Foundation Apprentices

11.35 am

An overview and looking ahead – Jaci Douglas and Chair of CALA Board of Directors, Graham Watson

12 pm

 Lunch and conference close

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