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Make Believe Leeds

On April 29th as part of the tech strand of Leeds International Festival Playful Anywhere were commissioned to put together a day of arts, tech and imagination to inspire the next generation of inventors, makers & technologists. We were delighted to bring together a wonderful range of facilitators from across the UK to create a magical environment of playful, curiousity and creativity. As with all our creative tech events we blended elements of cardboard and code to stimulate young minds, and as usual we were happy to see parents and grand parents equally engrossed.

The event was fully booked and we met over 700 people during our day at the splendid Leeds City Museum

Code Zone Image Maria Spadafora

Pitops in the Code Zone led by Claire Garside of Leeds Raspberry Jam
Image Maria Spadafora

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Grimm&Co inspire the imagination of young inventors Image: Maria Spadafora

Grimm&Co inspire the imagination of young inventors
Image: Maria Spadafora

Scrap inventions Image Maria Spadafora

Scrap inventors
Image Maria Spadafora

How did we do?

How did we do?

Many thanks to our amazing facilitators and to host Leeds Museum, Child Friendly Leeds, and 100% Digital Leeds

Leeds BID, Kingston Unity, Rabbit Hole Creative, Greyhound Boxes, Fred Aldous & Awesome Merchandise

Were already hatching plans for more Make Believe in 2017 and 2018 but in the meantime if you are interested in arts/tech/making here is a list of groups, places and online resources to tap into.

Buy kits and supplies from:

For more pictures from our Make Believe Photo Booth check out our Facebook Page

Pop Up Photo Booth Image Jonathan Peach

Pop Up Photo Booth
Image Jonathan Peach


Make Believe – Imagining the Tech of the Future


We’re delighted that the first Make Believe – Imagining the Technology of the Future event is fully booked.

We’re hosting it at Leeds Museums as part of Leeds International Festival. 

There are four zones: Make, Invent, Code and Play.

We’re delighted to be joined on the day by the following people

The Crafty Robot – Ross Atkin @CraftyRobot
The Crafty Robot allows anyone to invent their own robot, using cheap and readily available materials like card, packaging or even food. Robots are based on the Fizzbit, a reusable robot engine that charges from USB and causes them to move around to battle, race or just strut their stuff. Free to download paper robot designs and building ideas are available, along with robot kits, from


The Pi Zone – Claire Garside @cgarside
The Pi Zone will be a space where young people can learn from doing and hopefully facilitate those ‘eureka moments’ in the innovation process. We aim to inspire these digital creators to become future innovators, and gain a greater understanding of tech now and in the future; rather than just using it. They’ll be supported to design, build and test projects and build confidence to recognise that they’ll learn as much from their failures as their successes. Visit the Pi Zone to make, learn, share, tinker and invent together at the Raspberry Jam. Everybody’s welcome to come along and find out more about the inventive wonders of Raspberry Pi.

PatternCraft – Gemma May Latham @gemmamaylatham
PatternCraft is an analogue to digital punchcard reader that teaches the fundamentals of programming and encoding data through the write once medium of a physical punched card. Created by digital artist Gemma May Latham and STEM ambassador David Whale, PatternCraft has been tested by thousands of families at Maker Faires and STEAM events. Featured in the Raspberry Pi blog and coined as ‘coding with hammers’, 2017 and Make Believe sees the launch of a new peaceful version whilst retaining the hole punching fun. Join Gemma to explore how punchcards can be used to program Minecraft, create secret messages and even compose music.

pattern craft

Ohbot @OhbotRobot
Ohbot is a robot head which can be programmed by children to talk, move and interact with the world using a block based programming language that’s similar to Scratch. Ohbot is developed and manufactured in Stroud, Gloucestershire and there are now over a thousand of them in schools and homes around the world. For Make Believe the team will bring a set of Ohbots and will be encouraging anyone who comes along to have a go at programming and see what they can make Ohbot do.


Scrap @scrapleeds
Scrap Centre of Creative Reuse Arts and Play is a social enterprise that takes end of line and surplus stock from businesses and reuses them as arts materials. Our mill store in Farsley is full to the brim with all types of fantastic stuff! We also run workshops based around Creative Reuse and Play. At Make Believe, Scrap’s in house Tinkerers Kat Yore and Shayne Hall will be taking apart broken, old, unloved machinery in their pop up tinker lab. They need you to bring them back to life by building a wonderful new invention, exploring what the future might look like for those of us lucky enough to still be around, after the rise of the machines!

Lego Mindstorms – Dan Toms (CAS) @danieltoms
CAS is a grass-roots organisation that organises free CPD through their teaching and learning hubs and supports a growing number of Master Teachers to champion the subject in schools.
The rapid increase in the usefulness of Robots’ will lead to a future where human labour is no longer required. Until then, join Dan for a frantic 20 min of robotic fun. Build a killer robot using Lego Mindstorms and watch it compete on the track and in the ring; Humans Need not apply.

Adam Clarke aka Wizard Keen @thecommonpeople
Adam Clarke is an artist and digital producer, and is also known as Wizard Keen (in the world of Minecraft), one of the starts of Stampy Long Nose’s Wonder Quest show. Through Wonder Quest and the creation of some of the most innovative Minecraft maps out there, Adam proves that video games are the perfect tool to educate about empathy and solve societal problems.
At Make Believe, Adam will be playing with conductive paint, Minecraft Swords and Makey Makey to show how tech can be used to connect the physical and digital worlds.

NettyPlays @Nettyplays & Tomohawk @tomohawk1989
Netty Plays and Tomohawk are gamers and Youtube stars, with over 300,000 subscribers between them! Their channels are filled to the brim with Minecraft livestreams and challenges, and regularly receive hundreds of thousands of views. Netty and Tom will be hosting our Minecraft Cafe, helping visitors to build new inventions in Minecraft.

Grimm & Co @GrimmAndCo
Grimm & Co, changing lives one story at a time. We are a literacy charity for children and young people aged 7 – 18. We take fun seriously and aim to motivate children to write, unleash their talents and build confidence. We champion the writer in every child and help children to ignite their imaginations. At Make Believe Grimm & Co be helping visitors to ‘unthink’ the world around them. In a world where we need to fuse the need to be more inventive with a need for ‘upcycling’ we’ll explore the repurposing of objects for new uses of the future, creating a ‘Big Book of Brainwaves and Ingenuities’ + a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ – a culmination of ideas gathered around the event.

DePuy Synthes
The DePuy Synthes Companies offer the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of orthopaedic and neuro products and services for joint reconstruction, trauma, spine, sports medicine, neuro, cranio-maxillofacial, power tools and biomaterials. At Make Believe we’ll be 3D printing a model of a jaw to show how 3D printing works and how it can be used to diagnose patients as well as build implants. The team will also be running an arthroscopic surgery simulation which shows how hard it can be to perform surgeries and how mobile phones may be used in the future.

Code Club @codeclub
At Code Club, we think all children should have the opportunity to learn to code, no matter who they are or where they come from. We support a nationwide network of volunteers and educators who run free coding clubs for children aged 9-11 to build and share their ideas, learning along the way. Ever wanted an orchestra of instruments but can’t afford much more than a recorder? Code Club will show you how to use your computer and some bananas to create a customisable piano! If music isn’t your thing, rebel against the Snapchat filters that make anyone look and good come to their diy Photo Booth to try on some digital silly hats & hair-styles. You can even tweet your photo to share with friends!

Catherine Jones @m_fkill
Catherine Jones is a creative engineer, digital artist, lover of LEDs, making things with code, computers and machines. At Make Believe Catherine will be making simple LED circuits made with conductive and insulating dough and Aluminium foil. Join her to try making traditional circuits in three dimensions!

Pimoroni @pimoroni
Pimoroni design, manufacture, and sell friendly products for Makers, Educators and Creatives. We make tech treasure for tinkerers. If you want to learn about electronics, we’ll help you to start. We are on a mission to make electronics attractive, to spread knowledge, fun, and ideas. At Make Believe Pimoroni will have kit for sale that might help you and your young Makers imagine what the future of technology might look like.

MicroBit @microbit_edu

The BBC Micro:bit is a pocket-sized codeable computer with motion detection, a built-in compass and Bluetooth technology, which was given free to every child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK in 2016.

Lucy Barker @BucyLarker
Lucy is an artist, creative producer and facilitator who works across lots of disciplines including film and animation. At Make Believe Lucy will invite young inventors to create stop motion animations to bring their ideas to life!

Les Pounder @bigles

Les is a maker and hacker who loves nothing more than taking apart electronics, toys and computers to build inventions. At Make Believe Les will encourage people to create a time machine that will take them to the Leeds of tomorrow using a Raspberry Pi! What will the future of Leeds look like?


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


BlogCurrent ProjectsFlotsam and Jetsam

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.

BlogeventsFlotsam and Jetsam

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?




BlogCurrent ProjectsFlotsam and Jetsam

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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