Chalk Noughts & Crosses #OnePlayThing.jpg

All you need is a stick of chalk…

#oneplaything is a positive movement that encourages engagement with space through playful interventions. Anyone can make #oneplaything interventions, all you need is a stick of chalk. You simply write or draw invitations or instructions to play in public places. We know that approaching the world in a more playful way is good for our for wellbeing. This is a simple, but effective, positive intervention we can make for ourselves and others.

Pavement Crown #OnePlayThing.jpg

Here’s a little background about where is came from. Towards the end of Counterplay Festival 2017 a conversation come up about how to keep playing - how to actively keep this magnificent, international group of people, who are all committed to play, connected in between play festivals.

Initially the (re)playbox came into being- a kind of chain letter parcel full of playful invitations to act on and share. It was great fun and provided reminders to play, but the activities still felt somewhat separate, they were individual acts- maybe undertaken by a few folk together, but still isolated acts linked by the format and a blog. It didn’t have momentum to continue and eventually tailed off.

A few months later Becky- one of my new best friends ( I was still very excitable) and now Mufti board member- got in touch about hosting a mini Counterplay in Leeds. They had been awarded Leeds 2020 funding and Emma Bearman (Playful Anywhere) was going to host a get together in the autumn- would I like to come? YES!!

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It was a smallish together- maybe 30 or so people at Leeds Museum. I took our Roman board games. Many familiar faces were there, plus a few new ones. Initial games were played with feathers and wool; colourful over-the-top name badges made and sessions were mooted for each day. On Saturday afternoon, Gabi Linde of Play in Siegen introduced us to the League of Creative Interventionists, an American organisation, built of chapters who used art and playfulness for social good. She talked about interventions, and invited us to make our own in response to the question that themed the weekend: How do we make Leeds more playful?’

A group of us headed out on reconnaissance. Within 10 footsteps we came across a prominent, square, brass plaque. In big official letters it stated:: ‘By Laws. No Busking, No Trading, No Skateboarding’ (and on and on.) A sign- literally! Immediately we set out to create a set of new ‘Play Laws’ in response.

They started off as instructions, almost demands: ‘Don’t walk on the cracks (there are crocodiles)’  ‘High Five a Stranger’ ‘Hop 5 times’ . We chalked them on the pavement in front of the town hall.

High Five #OnePlayThing.jpg

We enlisted ourselves as ‘Playguards’, standing at the end of the chalked area in colourful wigs informing the public of the new laws. Pretty soon however, we realised we had created a obstacle in ourselves so retreated to higher ground. Sitting on the steps overlooking the civic square, we quickly noticed the change in peoples engagement. Many ignored it, but more and more did stop and play. Some simply read instructions and smiled, others meandered over the course we had set doing one or two actions. By removing our physical presence people could investigate under their own terms. One middle aged man who looked very grumpy actually went through every step. It turned out to be his birthday and he was alone. He played his way through the course for personal enjoyment. The chalking graduated from simple instructions to invitations to engage in the world more playfully. Questions were posed rather than tasks set.

At the end of the day we came back to the conversation of how to keep connected and #oneplaything was born. We suggested that we could all create tiny acts of shared playfulness with a piece of chalk and there were many other ways to make simple interventions for strangers. We would commit to offering interventions this way and share them visa Social Media #oneplaything

Lynn Parker @toadrick has been the most prominent advocate of #oneplaything, chalking on an almost daily basis. I have used the format in almost every piece of work I have made since, particularly as a way to quickly engage people in playing in and with built landscapes. Considering ‘instruction vs invitation’ is hugely helpful in general. It popped up most recently designing a workshop about Physical Activity Guidelines. If you want people to do more activity, you can order them, or you can invite- some groups will respond better to one than the other. Inviting requires a little more creative thinking, - the posing of a question, the framing of a different perspective. A hole in a fence can become a porthole to another world, distant office workers can have secret narrative projected onto them, a happy memory can be lifted for the back of one's mind through simple written nudges, found by accident on one's way from A to B.

In the forthcoming Counterplay Festival (4-6th April, 2019- tickets still available) we will use #oneplaything as a way to draw disparate elements together and to report on play interventions that take place over the 3 days. We have made a short trailer and you can stay tuned to our social media for video newsflashes.  

That's it, off you go, grab some chalk or a paper and pen and intervene with with some playful acts of transformation!