Streets as Playgrounds

Maze

Next week Sophie is back in Japan for the second part of the Playable City Residency. 

The Playable City programme has been leading investigations of how to deepen people’s engagement with their cities since 2012. Artists in the programme have developed many novel ways of interacting with the city: giving street furniture a voice, showing people traces of the others who have crossed their paths, giving people a framework to interact with strangers and the night sky. 

I wanted to pull some focus onto the city itself, and interrogate the effect particular places have on play. Use action research to explore how people respond in different surroundings, and which invitations people respond to most strongly, as part of building a practical methodology for siting playful installations.  So I’m using one of the simplest and most universal childhood games KenKenPa (a hopscotch analogue), to test some things out with the citizens of Tokyo.

Relaxing into deep play requires being comfortable enough to be vulnerable. It helps to be with other people who can re-inforce your decision to play. It requires people to be in a space they feel is for them in some way. Observing them make those decisions in real time, on the streets, reveals so much about how they feel in different spaces.

Taking play out onto the open streets has benefits for the overall life of the city. It draws people together, changes the ballet of street life in positive ways, and serves those who would not decide to travel somewhere just to play.

I’m looking forward to trying things out on the street and getting some results.

As I Was Saying…

Goodrich Castle (photo above by Robert Moranelli)  is an amazing place – a set of walls and towers and castle fragments that Wordsworth considered the “noblest ruin in Herefordshire”, now cared for by English Heritage.

And this summer, we made a game for it, to run as part of the castle’s on-site family interpretation. If you visit, you can check it out for free from the visitor centre – something to play while you walk around and explore.

It’s a card game for families and groups to play as they explore the castle, called As I Was Saying. It draws on the real history of the castle, and the people who were there around 1296 and 1297 – from countesses to clerks and coachmen.

Inverted Operas

Holly was recently in Frankfurt to take part in Playsonic, a festival at Alte Oper investigating the overlap between games and music.  Our contribution: “Inverted Operas”, a collaboration with composer David Helbich and architect Rosario Talevi.

“Inverted Operas” took music from outside the opera house, and placed it in the public square outside. Across the weekend, visitors found moveable mirrored sculptures inspired by elements of the opera house’s interior decoration; performers with many different instruments; and cards that they could use to guide them as they listened to the music.