Article: What does it mean to play in the city?

A reflection piece by Furaha Asani on how Playable City became a global network of creative producers and how the enforced pause of the pandemic enabled valuable reflection about who may play.

(Redirect of Nesta’s Creativity, Culture & Capital article)

(…) ‘In 2021, we co-designed and co-produced hybrid labs with some of our CPI alums based in Lagos and Durban, looking at themes of creative producing, future heritage, climate justice and creative resilience. We also received funding from Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund for a three-day online artists’ lab to focus on what a future socially conscious Playable City could look like. In the context of the pandemic, as we transition out of lockdown phases, this means embedding public health considerations in all our Playable City operations and experiences. In our home city of Bristol, and in a building located alongside the harbour where Colston’s statue was thrown into the water in the summer of 2020, it also means intentionally interrogating the very concept of ‘playfulness’: for instance, how do we responsibly open an invitation to everyone to play in city spaces that are still reckoning with historical and contemporary racism, inaccessibility, and other forms of discrimination and injustice?

With these thoughts in mind, we convened our artists’ lab with six artists and makers from among our Pervasive Media Studio residents. The group came together online to converse, share openly and honestly, and play. This artists’ lab produced six co-designed themes, which we plan to embed into all our future Playable City work:

  • Definitions: How can the definition of play be expanded and owned by everyone and especially those who are marginalised and underrepresented? 
  • Permissions: How can we better understand the different social and cultural pressures different people feel about how they can ‘play’ in public. What and who might consciously or unconsciously reinforce these pressures?
  • Safety & comfort: Who feels safe and comfortable within a space to play in their own style? How is safety and comfort given or taken away? 
  • Perspectives: How can we embrace the many different ways people perceive cities, spaces and play?
  • Details: What details truly build a sense of space for people? How do these change from person to person and how do they shift over time?
  • Accessibility: What biases are present in the very materials with which we create or ask others to be creative. How can this create barriers and inaccessibility, and how do we dismantle these?’ (…)

Read the full article here.