SHOCKED friends have paid tribute after the sudden death of a man who dedicated his life to giving thousands of youngsters the gift of play.
Ken Abbott, who played a huge role in adventure playgrounds across Portsmouth, died of pneumonia. He was 58.
His work in the city touched generations of families and he worked most recently as manager of the Portsea Venture Playground (PVP).
Geoff Chapman, PVP deputy manager, first met his mentor as an 11-year-old when he used to play at the Stamshaw Adventure Playground.
He said: ‘Ken was an amazing man and his death has come as a massive shock to all of us. He spoke to us a day before he passed away to say he was feeling better and he’d be coming in for work – it all happened so suddenly.’
Mr Abbott started his career in adventure playgrounds as a volunteer at the Sun Street facility in Portsea, later replaced by PVP, while doing a degree in cultural studies at the then Portsmouth Polytechnic. The Gosport-born Pompey fan, who co-founded the Copnor North End football club in 1996, later worked for the Landport and Stamshaw playgrounds before returning to Portsea in 2003.
His passion for his job is evident at Portsea Venture Playground, where inside a jungle of climbing frames and swings stands a big fairytale castle and a giant play-ship modelled on the Mary Rose, with a beautiful Tudor House round the back.
Mr Chapman, 32, said: ‘This is Ken’s vision. He was fantastic at building and designing play structures and he also organised lots of off-site trips and ran summer camps to the New Forest for local children.
‘Ken wanted to provide children with opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.
‘He’s left a huge legacy and he had big plans for the playground which we will carry out to honour his memory.’
Children have penned tributes which they have pinned to the gates of the Portsea playground.
Playground user Grace Orrell, 11 said: ‘I’m devastated. Ken was always there for us. The playground won’t be the same without him.’
Tim Head, 52, manager of the Stamshaw site, said: ‘Ken had an empathic understanding of the importance of adventure playgrounds in the community. In turn, the community recognised this generous commitment and took him into their hearts.’
Brenda Tregarthen, manager of Portsea Youth Club, added: ‘Ken had a special bond with the Portsea community. Portsea has lost a leader.’