Support Play across Leeds & Beyond



Playbox during it’s stay in Seacroft, LS14 Photo credit M Spadafora

“The well-being of society begins with the well-being of children. All kids deserve a childhood filled with the balanced and active play needed to thrive” Kaboom

We are on a mission, much like Kaboom in the US, to enable every child in any neighbourhood to enjoy equal quality of play right where they live. Our experience shows us that by instigating balanced play opportunities, children and their families and carers not only have a healthier, more connected life, but take more ownership of where they live. By involving young people and their families in determining their own play, at a very local level, they become instigators of their own futures. We have witnessed first hand how play brings people together, helps with a sense of belonging and safety, and reduces anti social tendencies*.

Playful Anywhere has spent the last two years developing a playful box of fun to bring creative and balanced play to young people (and by no means exclusively just the young) of Leeds. Playbox01 is our moveable, robust and imaginative 20ft refurbished shipping container has been invited by residents, community organisations and retailers to come catalyse play, friendships and conviviality.

We’ve been contacted by people in neighbourhoods, festivals, community developments in Leeds and beyond to either take Playbox to their parks and commons, or to help them develop their own Playbox where they live.

In 2017 we’re determined to help any neighbourhood community wanting to put play where they live to gain and share ideas, to be enterprising, and develop their own solutions to play, in parks, between bus stops, at school, anywhere and everywhere. Playbox is one part of a wider holistic ecology required to spearhead confidence and citizen centred community flourishing.

How can you play your part?

Businesses we’re looking to support play across the city and beyond, here are some ways you could get involved;

  • Sponsor a new Playbox + programme of activities on an annual basis in Seacroft and/or Armley 
  • Book Playbox01 to come to your development, place of work or local community for a week or longer
  • Help us take our original roving Playbox01 to the next level with solar power, catering kit + kiosk
  • Help design and build our Playbox community website, shareable resources + toolkit
  • Support our Spark in the Park programme of playful technology workshops with communities across Leeds
  • Donate kit and supplies. Sports, games, art and craft supplies are in constant demand. If you have good quality/new stuff we’d love to hear from you
  • Organise a team building activity or away day whilst Playbox is in Leeds City Centre. We don’t think play is just for children…and all our proceeds go back into our social mission

If you represent a festival,  community, residents group, friends of parks group, housing association wanting to hire/book/test out Playbox01 then please do get in touch, we expect to be in Leeds City Centre from February and would love to hear more about your ideas for play where you live or work.

For further information and research we’ve conducted over the last two years please get in contact with Emma@PlayboxWorld.Com




Festive Play Day – Under the Tree



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Playbox01 in Sovereign Square

It’s been quite a year for our 20ft Shipping Container. We started in Armley, took Playbox to Seacroft where LS14 Trust were hosts for 2 months in Summer, from there to the Lingfields in Moortown, Cardigan Fields in Kirkstall, The West Yorkshire Playhouse and now finally it’s come to play its part in Leeds City Centre for the Compass Live Arts Festival.

Playbox is now situated in Sovereign Square, a delightful new pocket park situated betwixt the new office buildings of KPMG & Addleshaw Goddard, and very smart she looks too. Artist Stephen Hodge will be using Playbox as his base 19th & 20th November for 4 curated ‘charrette’s ‘Where to build the walls that protect us‘ inviting very interesting guest speakers to take people on a walk around Leeds based on four different themes.

It’s exactly how we’d like Playbox to play a part in conversations about place, and people’s hopes, concerns for making the most of where they live and work.

We’re nearly ready to draw breath and reflect on what we’ve learnt this year, as we’ve explored what play can mean for very different communities across Leeds. In the meantime do pop by and see us whilst we are in residence next week at Sovereign Square and make your own mini Playbox! We’ll be open everyday between 10-2pm.

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Playbox with child friendly thumbs up

Playbox is in Moortown


Back in July we selected the Lingfield community in Moortown to enjoy a week of free play, based on their stated desire to bring the people together through play at the new venue The Lingfield Centre. A representative team came and visited Playbox whilst it was in Rein Park in Seacroft, hosted by the brilliant LS14 Trust,  and came up with the idea to theme some of the activities around super powers!

The Playbox is now residing at the back of the carpark and will be opening its doors daily for free play for young people their families/carers.

Monday: Come build dens fit for super heroes with our playful team (Emma Upright and Christopher Ryan Smith Whicker) and artist Kevin Hickson. 

Tuesday: Bring your device and make cartoon super heroes v super baddies stop animation with artist Alison Smith. (Whilst we have some devices we ask people to bring your own smart phone/ipad to record video on. Download the imotion app in advance if you can).

Wednesday: Code Bugs and Super Doodling Robots… with Claire Garside

Thursday: Be the best Robot/SpaceCadet you can and join our cosmic disco with Boomchickaboom.  Please bring some spare parts/tin foil and we’ll help you get cosmic!

Friday: Learn junior reporter skills and tell a story about the people and place of Moortown with artist Alison Smith. (Whilst we have some devices we ask people to bring your own smart phone/ipad to record video on. Download the imotion app in advance if you can)

Saturday: Make your super hero capes and learn how to take a super powerful selfie with Generate Leeds and Maria Spadafora. Face and henna painting.

Sunday: Time to bring your super culinary skills together for a community picnic. Bring a dish to share!

Notes for playful participants…

  • We are outside the Lingfield Centre in the Carpark towards the back. We are delivering OUTDOOR activities so please come dressed appropriately – waterproof capes and masks or even full on neoprene body suits!
  • Bring your Breeze Cards. We’ll also be fashioning super hero medallions with all participants
  • We ask that families/carers remain with their young people and get stuck in!
  • The Project has been made possible thanks to a Play Enabling Grant from Leeds City Council

We are sponsored by Cramscene Hauliers and Brian Clegg Art Supplies. #LittleBrian #PaintSticks


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Water Quest Day 1 – Pop Up Museum and Bottle Boat

What a day we day on the first of four water-themed days of school holiday activities!

Across all four days of Water Quest we will be building a boat from plastic bottles – lots of them!

Some of the bottles were kindly donated by people coming aboard the Caddis boat at Kirkstall Art Trail and also from staff at AECOM‘s Leeds Office but most of the over 500 2 litre plastic pop bottles were donated via Leeds City Council’s Chief Waste Officer, Susan Upton (Follow @LeedsWasteDocs and @WastelessSusan). Susan’s team were incredibly helpful and the recycling team led by Daiva Jankeviciene at H W Martin Waste Ltd separated out of the recycling stream the bottles we need for our boat. We could not have asked for more wonderful service- so thanks!



We will be blogging more about plastic waste in waterbodies and our bottle boat in a later blog post.

Our super Water Quest Crew got to work making the boat today led by our friends from Kirklees Duke of Edinburgh Award, Heidi and Steve.

This involved lots of…


hard work


team work




fun and making new friends.


Today was also the day we built our POP UP MUSEUM IN A DAY!

In this session, led by Playful Anywhere’s favourite local maker Alison Booth, the Water Quest Crew got creative.

DSC_1019We borrowed some items from Artemis at Artforms Leeds – an incredible service that loans museum-type items to educational organisations and school – and took inspiration from taxidermy of animals living in and around watercourses, models and artwork. We were also joined by Chris Sharp from Leeds City Council Museums and Galleries Service who brought along some interesting items about the River Aire in Leeds and helped us to think about how you put a museum display together.



Chris is currently collating stories and items for an upcoming exhibition about the Boxing Day 2015 Floods in Leeds and we hope the Water Quest crew passed on some useful ideas for the exhibition.

Our museum involved lots of…

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making – we had some amazing stop motion animation creations too, which we will be uploading very soon.

Finally, sharing…

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We were really proud of our museum at the end and of all the work we completed on the boat today – all in the playful spirit of friendship.

Thanks to our fantastic hosts TCV Hollybush, especially Holly, who made us lovely lunches (the flapjack was a highlight in our feedback).

Tomorrow more boat building and Water Science with a tech twist with Ross Dalziel. Can’t wait…

Water Quest is kindly funded by Leeds City Council via Inner West Community Committee’s Youth Activity Fund.

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Join us on a Water Quest



Book your places on Eventbrite via the following links

Monday 15th August 2016 10.30am to 3pm   POP-UP MUSEUM 

Tuesday 16th August 2016 10.30am to 3pm WATER SCIENCE HACK

Monday 22nd August 2016 2016 10.30am to 3pm MINECRAFT MAP OF KIRKSTALL

Tuesday 23rd August BOAT LAUNCH! Morning or afternoon sessions available


This is a Playful Anywhere CIC project funded by Inner West Community Committee’s Youth Activity Fund.


Why Caddis?

Our floating work of art is called CADDIS – why?

Caddis or caddisflies are group of insects that spend part of their life cycle living underwater in streams, ponds, and canals and then emerge as adults to live above the water. The larval part of their life cycle is spent underwater and some species make cases that they live in to protect their bodies. The case is carefully made by the larvae from specially chosen materials that it finds in its underwater environment. The different species make identifiably different designs and the materials vary in size, from grains of sand to quite large twigs. The materials are fastened together by a material that the insect produces, similar to silk. Caddis cases are true works of insect engineering and act to funnel oxygenated water and food to the insect as well as providing protection and camouflage.

If you have ever been pond dipping as a child or with children (or if like me, just for kicks as an adult) it is likely that you will have found one of these creatures quirkily hauling its usually roughly tubular case around with legs protruding at the front.

When the idea of the project was first discussed at Playful Anywhere we were really interested in the metaphors that this clever and industrious creature brought to mind – using found local things but selecting and designing what we made, the idea of metamorphosis – change from an underwater form emerging to life above water, and this is a creature that lives in the very water-bodies that our project sought to explore. So we set out to build something a bit like the structure a Caddis larvae makes but made from information, collected stories, flood data – all things that we aimed to seek out and find from our local environment of Kirkstall.

I was lucky to be go along to an event by a group of Liverpool-based artists, Hwa Young Jung, Glenn Boulter and Ross Dalziel, collectively called Domestic Science for one of their OK Sparks! Events at Wray Castle back in May. The castle is a National Trust property that has had a fascinating range of uses and OK Sparks! sought to look at engaging people with the history of the place by re-presenting the science that had been part of the various tenants work. One occupier of the place had been the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA). Wray Castle is on the shores of Windermere and formed a perfect base for the society. They are now based on the opposite side of the Lake but have actively taken daily measurements of the lake for many decades to create a data set that provides great insight into how Windermere and climate has changed.


Not Kirkstall

The OK Sparks! event that I attended was focussed on the FBA’s work and showcased many types of practical freshwater science including a hands-on introduction to may of the invertebrates that live in freshwater. By a very happy accident I met as this event the world authority on Caddis, Dr. Ian Wallace. Unbelievable!

Dr. Ian Wallace, world Caddis expert.

Dr. Ian Wallace, world Caddis expert.



OK Sparks!

Ian told me many very interesting things about Caddis and his admiration for the insect was contagious He also agreed to classify the type of Caddis that we make! I must remember to take him up in this offer, but I think in its current incarnation it could be one of these.


Lepidostoma hirtum



Caddis  Lepidostoma hirtum?




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Building Caddis

Today, Caddis artist Gemma Latham and the amazing chaps from M3 Industries installed the first stage of the workboat, Lady Brenda’s metamorphosis into Caddis and she is a treat to behold. We owe M3 Industries massive thanks for making sure the project was installed in a right timeframe and their dedication to doing this was incredible.
Tomorrow Caddis will set sail on a trip from Mirfield to Leeds – a journey that is longer than you might think. It involves sailing down the Calder and Hebble Navigation to Wakefield and then joining the Aire and Calder Navigation at Castleford – then up through the east side of Leeds to join the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Leeds city centre. Two long days sailing and 21 locks. We are extremely grateful to the Safe Anchor Trust volunteer skippers who will be bringing Caddis and a fleet of four other boats in all to Leeds for the Waterfront Festival.
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Dreamboats – Collecting Flood Recollections, Advice, Hopes in Kirkstall

One of the tough nuts to crack for an organisation called Playful Anywhere is how to inject an element of playfulness into collecting responses to an event like flooding. If you have been impacted, its was probably not much fun and we didn’t want to make light of that. Also, we were very concerned to not lay claim in some way to the amazing community response to the floods – the glory very much belongs to those who did the messy, cold, hard work to get Kirkstall back onto its feet and continue to do so – we just want to find a different way of documenting it.

With this in mind, we took this question to Playful Anywhere’s People Place Play event held at  ODI Leeds on 22nd April. This was a gathering of people “doing amazing stuff in neighbourhoods, city centres and with communities which bring smiles to peoples faces.”

The workshop part of the day gave opportunities to prototype how you might approach a community project in a playful way, so we used this as a chance look at how we might use origami boats to collect stories, ideas, advice – we called the idea “dreamboats”.


Dreamy Mc Dreamboat

Thanks to everyone at event took part and helped us to work out whether making boats might practically work, what sort of questions might work well and how to approach a difficult subject. The teamwork paid dividends! There were loads of other brilliant ideas prototyped, including Elaine Cresswell from Blue Green Liverpool‘s and team’s crazy golf course!


Elaine and team’s crazy golf


Prototyping at People, Place, Play

Before releasing the dreamboats idea onto the world we further gamified it by adding a spin the bottle select a numbered question and we also decided to add the boats to a giant bottle – a ship-in-a-bottle message-in-a-bottle to the artist, Gemma.


We collected messages, drawings, advice, stories and plans, on specially printed paper, and then folded them into boats at the Flood Clean Up Party organised by Team Kirkstall, and at a 6-day residency in Playbox01 at Cardigan Fields Leisure park, right next to the River Aire (a site that flooded back on Boxing Day).


Gemma Latham – waiting for your message in a bottle

The messages in the bottle were sent to Gemma to be shaped into pieces of Caddis. More of that in our next post…

Flotsam and Jetsam
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Join us on the water