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Free Making Workshop with Gemma Latham and Seagulls Reuse

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Flotsam and Jetsam in Playbox01 #1

The Playful Anywhere Playbox 01 was craned into place for a week’s residency at Cardigan Fields, Kirkstall today. Until Sunday 5th June we’ll be collecting information from local people about the Boxing Day 2015 floods to feed into the design of our floating artwork Caddis as well as making, playing and connecting with the site at Leeds Industrial Museum.

Our visitors today added more story ships to our message in a bottle, made Lego models of Kirkstall, stitched boat bunting on our almost 100 year old sewing machine, crafted caddis fly larvae, played Pooh sticks on the River Aire and of course took a break to hula hoop too. A chilly but playful day!

Our container also features a pop-up tourist information bureau with information about the area exhibited in all kinds of creative ways by local children from Year 3 of Kirkstall Valley Primary School. The class will also be helping to design and make pieces of Caddis with Gemma Latham next week and taking a boat trip on the canal at the end of June. We are delighted to be teaming up with the school in such a creative way.

Thanks to our lovely hauliers, Cramscene, our hosts at the site Land Securities, our neighbours at Leeds Industrial Museum for their support and partnership and finally to our funders Leeds Inspired.

Tomorrow we welcome local craft and recycling heroes, Seagulls for some mosaic making with a LED twist!


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CRAFT, MAKE, PLAY at Cardigan Fields

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Who cleans up BEFORE the party?

Team Kirkstall, thats who! On Saturday 28th May 2016 the first clean-up along the River Aire in Kirkstall will take place, re- marshalling the volunteers who did such a remarkably fabulous job pulling together in the days and weeks after Boxing Day to help businesses and individuals who were flooded be the highest ever recorded levels in the River Aire.

Flotsam and Jetsam will be at the thank you party that follows the clean up to gather some thoughts of those who played a part in the community response, in a playful way of course. Pop down and join in with our spin the bottle game, Caddis crafts or make a dream boat to record your hopes for what will emerge from the floods.

Our lead artist, Gemma Latham will be out and about during the flood clean up collecting interesting items to be incorporated in to our floating work of art, “Caddis”. If you have any interesting (smallish) items that the floods washed your way and you would like to contribute, get in touch!.



All Aboard!

Flotsam and Jetsam is the umbrella name we give to Playful Anywhere projects that are about water or take place on water. Our first Flotsam and Jetsam project is called “Caddis “ and will take place in summer 2016 aboard boats provided by our partner organisation, Safe Anchor Trust.

Caddis will take stories, data and objects from the area of West Leeds affected by Storm Desmond floods on Boxing Day 2015 and, working with artist Gemma Latham, build a giant artwork on the front of a canal boat. We will have an open invitation for you to come aboard the boats for a trip on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to share your story of the floods if you have one and to make a part of Caddis.

We have funding from Leeds City Council via Leeds Inspired to deliver a spectacular project on the canal rooted in the community and reflecting the experience of a place 6 months on from a record-breaking flood event.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam

The legacy we build upon…

Since 2011 Playful Anywhere’s Marie Millward and her Bramley neighbour Fran Graham instigated and ran four week-long mini canal festivals in West Leeds called All Hands on Deck. Last year, All Hands on Deck took over 1000 local residents on free boat-trips in just 5 days in March 2015. In previous years All Hands on Deck has worked wity local people and artists to create a giant fish sculpture, a floating cinema, a boat transformed into a camera obscura, rubber duck bunting (with hats knitted on-board by local knitters), music, drawing, painting, geocaching, an edible narrow-boat covered in rhubarb, lettuce and herbs. Always fun and always free to participate in, All Hands on Deck has involved West Leeds residents from 0 to 101 years in a playful week on the water.

For 2016 we have taken the opportunity to build on the legacy of All Hands on Deck to create a Playful Anywhere project using the same boats and the same ethos of local people getting a free opportunity to get onto the water to relax, explore or get creative.

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Playbox in Seacroft at LS14 Trust

12-4pm Sunday 12th June – Seacroft. LS14 Trust

Would you like put play at the heart of your neighbourhood?

Come and discover our shipping container, Playbox, and explore the potential of what it could do for your community.

We’ve been piloing Playbox in green spaces, parks, carparks, public spaces and neighbourhoods since 2014.

It is currently in Armley and will be moving to Seacroft, in partnership with LS14 Trust. During its residence there we’re hosting a practical open day and workshop and we would love you to join us. Could Playbox be a way for you to make the place near where you live even better for the community to come together, through food, play, creativity, sports, or just hanging out.

Your experience of running events and working with the community matters less than a desire to create a positive environment where you live. Together we can create a place where you can make good stuff happen, develop new friendships and relationships, and bring out the best in the people and place where you live.

The day will involve a friendly sharing brunch, followed by practical sessions on doing stuff with the public in public places, such as health and safety, safeguarding, insurance, through to sharing of ideas for events, activities, connecting the community and how you fund your community’s desires.

The event is free of charge and you can book spaces for up to 4 people. We ask that you bring a dish to share at brunch and any ideas and questions you may have.

Even if you decide that a Playbox is not for you, you should come out of it with heaps of great ideas, new connections, and a sense of how to go about developing the place you live to be a great place to grow up and grow old in together.


Please register here for your free place. 

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Past Projects

Little Robots

Playful Public Consultation
Past Projects

Creative Consultation

Fun in the sun
Past Projects

March of the Robots

107 participatory events in 64 locations in just over a year engaging 7000 participants in making robots. From Cardboard to Code

Civic Commission




Playbox01 at The British Art Show

A week in the life of Playbox 01 by Playful Leeds
We knew the community in Armley had loved the residency of Playbox01 in Charlie Cake Park over the 6 months we were there together, but when the hauliers Cramscene came to take it to Leeds Art Gallery for October half term we did not expect children to cry at its departure. (We’ll be back Lia don’t worry),
Playbox01 is our prototype, a 20ft shipping container, which we acquired during our year long civic engagement project March of the Robots. We turned it into a roving robot lab and took it across Leeds in 2014 to where people were rather than expect them to come to us. It dropped in on shopping centres, playgrounds, schools, car parks, older people residential centres before landing in the centre of Leeds.

This year we started with a big question mark…What can this robust box of tricks stimulate? We wanted it to enable playful connections in under used common land in Armley. We proceeded with minimum resource, spent time observing what happened in the park, before creating anything with the community. We put on events, BBQ’s, art activities, and opened the doors for play. From there developed a crowdfunding campaign to help create storage. We gained support from the Asda Foundation, and enjoyed masses of help from Kieran and the team at Three Create kitting towards the end of summer.

From Armley to Victoria Gardens in Leeds City Centre
So despite our hearts being wrenched we set out to play with the British Art Show, which tours every 5 years, this time Leeds Art Gallery has the honour of kicking off the show playing host to works by 42 artists.
Our plan was to sit opposite the gallery and invite people to talk to us, get creative, respond to their experience of visiting the British Art Show and connect to the wider cultural offer in Leeds including the Unfold programme across Leeds. There’s something about the Playbox which ignites the curiosity of passers-by, and more than connecting with us, it seems put people at ease and gets them talking to each other too. We facilitate the conditions to bring people together and see what emerges.

Making it up as we go along…
With no budget, we knew we had to create something good on a shoestring. We asked our friends if they’d like to play out with us during the week, and we were joined by the fantastic playmakers Stephanie Jefferies, Paul Jewison, Alison Booth, The Art Doctors and the enigmatic editor of the Culture Vulture, Phil Kirby. New art emporium Fred Aldous supported us with amazing art materials, and we raided the pound shops for inspiration.
Inspiration struck whilst in Wilkinsons hunting for post it notes in the form of Blox, their low cost version of Lego! Aha we’ll create a physical evaluation board to find out what people made of the British Art Show. Instead of a visitors book we’ll ask people to choose a coloured brick and set it down based on what the show made them FEEL…not think. Blue was COLD, Yellow bricks for LUKE WARM and RED bricks for LOVE!

We could not have imagined how this would have worked out so beautifully, both attracting passers by to enquire what it was all about, as much as seeing children running down the steps after they’d been to the British Art Show to share their appreciation in the form of bricks. As a conversation starter it was brilliant, some people were very specific about where they wanted to place their brick, like the gent who felt the inclined to place his blue on the outer edge of the board ‘This is not representative of the best of British Art’ he declared ‘don’t you have any black bricks?’ Other’s wanted to put their reds on the yellow section, because they felt they loved what they’d seen but needed more time to go back and linger. All in all the bricks piled up over the week, catalysed people to go into the gallery, as well as engaging those coming out. It gave Playful food for thought about how we collect data in interesting ways, and the opportunity 3D data can give not just us, but others who work with people, and collecting the metrics that matter….

Art Confessions were a simple way to get people thinking and sharing the way art makes them feel. Again this grew physically as the week went on, and allowed people private moments to chuckle, share, or converse. Some were a bit saucy, some a bit provocative, but all revealing. Art, and the curation of, has the power to make us feel all sorts of things, joy, anger, bemusement, indifference, and sometimes it renders us mute. We think it’s good to get it off your chest and onto our Playbox!

When the weather was clement Steph encouraged people to chalk on the paving slabs, initially drawing inspiration from Stuart Whipps’s The Kipper and the Corpse with Mini Mini cars to create recognisable city streetscapes. This playful permission setting sparked what became anarchic chalk drawing from children and adults alike. What joy to see people immersed in their creativity in the fresh air. Less joyful was the act of swashing the pictures away each evening.

Connecting through Play
Through the week we loved seeing how the Playbox allowed us to making connections by getting creative together. On the days when the sun shone people sat and created their art, talking with strangers whilst drawing for our gallery. One memorable moment involved a lady from Germany discovering with a lady from Bangalore that they shared a friend in common, and that friend happened to be the flatmate of the lady from Germany now living in Leeds. A little boy with a love of drawing tractors led to a chance encounter between an older agricultural engineer who used to run a Playbus in the 80’s with the boy’s grandmother, a retired head teacher who had his Playbus co-worker in common. You could not make these moments up!

When the rain came we hacked quacks! Not to be disheartened we took ourselves to Bargain and bought plastic ducks and see through brollies. We encouraged people to create secret messages, and light their ducks up from inside and then take them on a journey across Leeds with the aim of finding the best puddles and potholes. Sadly people became too attached, and took them home, but we did get to enjoy some pictures on Facebook of their bus top tours and trips to Liverpool!

Clear brollies acted a superb props to get people dancing and singing in the rain, borrowing from activities created on our final event in Armley* we asked people to decorate their ArtBrollies with glowsticks and stickers, and then did our best to encourage people to splash about in the rain. We were amazed by just how up for it people were.

Playful Potential – Connecting the Civic and Cultural in Leeds
Through the week we observed how people use Victoria Gardens, we became a stop off point for regulars, on their way to and from work. We were a sign poster to other bits of Leeds, We encountered day trippers who’d come from London for a day out, and people disappointed on Monday when they discover the gallery is closed. We were joined by a visiting orchestra on their way from the Radission to the Town Hall to perform Gershwin <picture> We helped people find the visitor information centre under the Art Gallery, and we got to know some of the people who find the civic buildings of Leeds offer comfort, and sanctuary We met people who take their children to the library whilst they complete their education, to people with no homes keeping out of the cold.

All in all it was a privilege to be asked by the British Art Show and Leeds Art Gallery to spend time with the public on Victoria Gardens, we learnt so much, and would love to return with Playbox when the gallery is closed for renovations to the roof in 2016 when the British Art Show moves onto Norwich on its Tour. Victoria Gardens has so much potential for play, for place and for connecting people to the city, the civic and cultural offer. We feel we just scratched the surface in the week we were there with Playbox. We know people loved to linger, they want to meet, to connect, to play. Imagine If we could put out some tables, stick on a brew, offer some blankets, brollies and maybe some cake, imagine the art of the possible…
*Abby Dix Mason, Charlie Mason and Maisie Zanzottera creators of ArtBrollies concept