April 27, 2014#

PhotoFun – Playful Sociable Photography

When kids are young playing is easy, it comes naturally to them, the world is simply a three dimensional game board set out for them to create on and have as much fun as possible.  As they edge towards and into high school and then onwards towards adulthood this changes and as adults how many of us look at the world around us as our playgrounds?  I’m quite lucky in many ways in that I have never really lost my sense of wonder at all that goes on around me and I also regularly ride a bike which is one of the most playful ways to explore and enjoy your surroundings that I know.

I’d never really thought of photography as being particularly playful but the placing of cameras on the phones in our pockets and the linking up to social media has changed that perception for me, together with a project that my kids and I have been doing over the last couple of years – namely getting them to pick themes and then using social media to invite others to interpret the theme in any way they want.  What started off as an idea sat in a cafe chatting to one of my kids has mushroomed into something unexpectedly joyful.

Two years ago, back in that cafe one of my kids picked up the magazine I was reading and said “I really like that”, pointing to the photo theme that appears on the inside back cover of the Guardian newspaper each week.  It was a few weeks before the start of the summer holidays and like most parents I was planning various things that we could do over the six week break.  ”We could do something like that” says I “We could come up with our own themes and play around seeing how we could interpret them”.  Then she surprised me by suggesting that they would come up with the themes, six themes one for each week, and that I should use my twitter account to see if other people were interested and I should blog the results at the end of each week.

I’d not been writing the blog very long at this point, but was really enjoying in, and was very new to twitter as well which was surprising me greatly in a very positive way as I had up until that point dismissed it purely as the banal wittering of idiots.  I’d taken the plunge (ok dangled my toe in the water) into social media as I was well aware that my children were growing up in a very different world to when I was a child and social media was going to play a part whether I liked it or not.  I therefore thought I’d have a bit of a play with it and see what it was all about before they did.  The idea of using it to play our photofun game seemed ideal.

So off we went, #summerphotofun was launched and to be honest I felt a bit like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams – if I tweet it will they respond?  Amazingly people picked it up and suddenly photos started popping up in my timeline much to my, and especially my kids surprise.  One of the first was from Sydney !  ”Who do you know in Australia Dad?”  ”er no one” and this was followed by photos from people all over the place.  All the best play I think teaches you stuff and this was a fantastic real life demonstration of how you can build a community of people interested in what you are doing but perhaps most importantly how quickly you can spread an idea or a photo.  Last summer as well as the themes we took this idea a stage further and tried to see if, over the six weeks we could get a photo representing the themes from an A-Z of countries or places and amazingly we managed it.

At the end of each week I pulled all the photos together and collated them all in a blog post.  We have done this over the last two summers but also cover most of the other holidays (#halftermphotofun #decemberphotofun #easterphotofun etc) as well as throwing in the odd ad hoc #weeekendphotofun when we fancy it.  All the results are over on my blog if you are interested in having a look.  The results are always really interesting, the kids have consistently picked good themes and the interpretations are great, no matter what we think people will come up with they always surprise us, young and old alike take part and you do not necessarily know who has taken what.  The photo at the top was a playful interpretation that someone sent in for the theme Together.

Having a camera phone in my pocket has helped me to view the city I live in in a different way as I go hunting for whatever the theme the kids have come up with, circles or colours for example.  This interaction with the world around me has made me view things in a more playful way and has helped us as a family to continue to play together, this has continued through the fantastic community of people who share their own interpretations and play along with us.  If you fancy playing along then do join in, all are welcome.



February 1, 2013#

Take the red pill…

…and you stay in Wonderland.

The term ‘augmented reality’ (AR for short) has become more mainstream as app and game developers embrace it, especially on mobiles. It is the stuff of sci-fi, and has been for quite some time, but it’s looking more and more real every day. AR is a live view of the real world that has additional information via computer-generated input, such as GPS, sounds, and graphics. Generally, AR works in real time so you get instant feedback and it changes as you use it.

That’s about as technical as I’m going to get. The easiest real world example that I can think of is a city guide. You hold up your phone with camera and GPS switched on and it pings information like restaurants, hotels, sights and attractions. Museums and galleries are increasingly getting in to an AR offering for their extensive collections of paintings and artifacts, and I’ve experienced the London Zoo app for myself which gives you animal facts and uses location data to show you where the nearest zoo facilities are.

AR has it’s practical uses, so now I want to talk about the unusual and the playful!

Lets look at games. The latest handheld consoles from Nintendo and Sony came with ‘AR cards’, which is just one way of using the technology in games. Each card has a black and white pattern on it (simpler than a QR code but very similar) that the game software would recognise and then display something, like a character, a vehicle, etc. With the Wonderbook, even the Playstation Move has been given an AR offering. There are a few limitations to AR cards – if you move the cards too fast or too far away from the camera, the images can be dropped, and of course you need to use the cards. As the technology advances and developers get more savvy, you can play AR games without the cards. These are just a small example of what’s out there.

AR doesn’t have to be visual. Zombies Run lets you experience a zombie apocalypse through your headphones. Based on your location, you will hear the haunting sounds of zombies and if you take a wrong turn, the sounds get louder. Every time you play, you contribute to your survival base and game stats. The Inception app is similar in that you plug your headphones in and experience something different depending on where you are, what time of day it is, and even how much ambient sound or light is around you.

With all that in mind, doesn’t it sound cool? The next step in AR will be interacting with the experiences. So perhaps you could create your own creatures in a game, choose where they might appear ‘in the wild’, upload the information and then other people can search out your creature. Or imagine a city guide made by its residents (yes, I do know that could go horribly wrong…). How about a map made by your loved ones, where they can leave messages for you to listen to when you walk past a significant location?

AR has great potential to unleash some creativity and perhaps convey some important messages.

January 28, 2013#

Hack and slash, the safe kind

The word ‘hacking’ usually conjures images of socially inept teenagers hidden away in their bedrooms, eyes glued to their softly glowing computer screens. So let me offer an alternative image, one that still includes a few computer bits but also embraces the average person who isn’t a code genius. Imagine that hacking isn’t about breaking in to advanced computer security systems but re-purposing something that already exists. Breaking something apart and putting it back together in a totally new way, to do something different.

That might be stretching the definition a bit but stay with me on this. My first two examples are very much hands-on. I’ll start with Makey Makey. Successfully funded via Kickstarter, this clever bit of kit is now available commercially (although it is coming from the US so there’s a hefty shipping fee) and allows you to make an input device out of pretty much anything.

Even a banana? Yes, a banana. What about a drawing? Yup, a drawing too. Even a- YES! ANYTHING!

It’s also very user friendly in that all the mind-bending code has been sorted for you. Plug in, attach your input, and use it. Their website has the fullest example of uses, compatible software and materials but a great way to discover is just to play with it.

Next, we have Makedo. These funky little doodads are available in the UK and come as ‘free play’ kits or ‘guided’ kits, where you have a set project to work with, i.e. a robot. Marketed at kids and schools, I know many an adult that would love this in their personal toy box too. Much like Makey Makey, the fun is in the exploring and seeing how things work and what they do. Anyone want to make GIANT jointed cardboard monsters? Just me?

What I like about these pieces of kit is the encouragement. If given something like this to play with, who wouldn’t? Even the most dry of bankers might enjoy constructing their own cardboard kingdom or creating a musical staircase. Its accessible. It encourages people to explore their world and its boundaries.

Onto some real hacking now. Arduino is an open-source project that encompasses software and hardware and is designed specifically for creating interactivity. Varying degrees of code knowledge is required but the community surrounding Arduino is generally very helpful. This is a cracking article about just a handful of uses for the platform, care of Computer Arts.

Got a sweet tooth? Then Raspberry Pi might be more your flavour. Developed as a means to bring computing and programming to kids of the world, the capable little machine has found itself being used for all sorts of mischief and prototyping. I’ve not had enough experience with it myself to accurately say what it can do but this is a great article with examples. The first person to build me an arcade cabinet with a Raspberry Pi will get a life time supply of home-made cakes (and my baking ROCKS!).

Whilst Arduino and Raspberry Pi might require more knowledge, they might provide more potential for playfulness, especially as we are living in a digital age. Buddy up to the geek in your life, gather some bright minds, and see what you can do with it ;)

January 20, 2013#

Pop Up Play

Ah yes, that word. That word that gets thrown about and attached to anything, even if it isn’t a real pop up. It’s trendy. It’s fashionable. Hell – even some of the big brands have done pop ups. But what can a pop up do for a playful city?

Firstly, we need to set the record straight on what a pop up actually is, and to do that I’m using some sage words from the Poppa of Pop Ups – Dan Thompson.

To truly qualify as a pop up, a project should:

  • use an empty or under-used space
  • be time-limited, with clear start and end dates
  • not aim for permanence
  • be designed for ease of setup and removal
  • have the potential to transfer to another location
  • be in some way exclusive, distinct or special

Pop ups have been around for a while in some shape or another, mostly as artist’s installations or exhibitions in empty window displays or as those seasonal shops that come-and-go with the holidays. It’s only in recent years that they’ve made an impression on the general public, especially as the ‘High Street’ gets emptier.

Don’t be fooled in to thinking they are just for marketing purposes or as a way for a big brand to get bigger (although the term pop up is often abused in the search for more sales). At the 2009 London Design Festival, the Maker Difference letterpress studio appeared in an empty shop near Carnaby Street, giving people the chance to print on to a notebook that they could keep. And keeping it more local, the lovely folk behind Leeds Print Festival ran two pop up events over the summer – Pop-Up Print and the Pink Milkfloat. Staying in Leeds, Leeds Inspired set up their Travelling Shed of Curiosities in a growing creative hub in the city centre. The aim was to give people an experience, not a hard sell.

If you’d like a few big brand examples, there are a few stunning ones. Back in 2009, Marmite took their love-it-hate-it product around the world using pop up shops and cafes. They sold a myriad of Marmite products (catering for both the lovers and the haters) and served all kinds of Marmite-based foods. Coca-Cola weren’t content with a stationary space, so they used a truck for their pop up experience. And the popular ‘For Dummies’ books also used a portable solution by kitting out a mobile library and offering all kinds of workshops, from raising chickens to playing music instruments.

So, that brings me on to this important question – why are pop ups important for a playful city?

Looking past their uses for sales and marketing, even testing of businesses or products, the power of pop ups comes from their potential. A few of the examples listed above demonstrate how people can learn something new (letterpress printing) or have an experience that would brighten their otherwise dull day (Leeds Inspired). Pop ups in a city is a good, healthy sign of creativity. It means people have things they want to share, to teach, they have ideas that others might also find interesting. A pop up can showcase talent, it can also invite others to show theirs, like mini Britain’s Got Talent booths. Put a giant red button inside a space and see just how many people will walk up and push it to see what happens.

Pop ups are very transient. A city that can’t make room for them somewhere is a city destined to be cold, hard, and BORING ;)

Other good resources;
Empty Shops Network 
Pop Up Space
Pop Up City
Pop Up Business For Dummies – Dan Thompson

January 14, 2013#

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Okay, so this post is incredibly well timed as I watch huge fluffy flakes of snow fall outside. It also has some very useful bits and bobs for winter in general. Knock yourself out! (Don’t knock out any windows with snowballs though. Bad bad snowballs)

When It Snows

  • make a snowman
  • catch a snowflake on your tongue
  • look at a snowflake through a magnifying glass
  • make snow angels
  • go sledging
  • have a snowball fight (in a very open area!)

Sun Worshiping
If you’re brave, get up about 30-45 mins before sun rise and watch it on the horizon. Watch it set on the same day.

Look After Wildlife
Its no surprise that any sudden weather changes can affect wildlife. Most animals will have braced themselves for winter but those that don’t migrate or sleep will need some help. Pop down to your local canal or pond and feed the ducks. Bread, stale buns, fruit, and seeds are fab, as is proper ‘duck food’ from a pet shop. If you have a garden and a bird table, put out some grub for the little fellas! Kitchen scraps are always good as well as good quality bird seed and mixes. Keep the tables and feeders clean. EDIT: There’s now a recipe for a ‘fat cake’ for birds over here!

Its Brrrrrrracing!
This is not for the faint of heart. If you live near the coast, go for a refreshing dip in the sea. No, I haven’t gone loopy. You’ll be surprised. The sea retains a lot of energy from the summer sun so it will feel warmer than the brisk winter air. If you’re a wuss, like me, go for a swim in a swimming pool instead ;)

January 13, 2013#

A Playful Year Ahead

Did you make some New Year resolutions? Did they include getting fitter, drinking less, giving up smoking, learning something new? How about being more playful? Smiling more? Going on an adventure? Aww, no? Really? You’re missing out!

2012 marked the start of Playful Leeds with the first event in a chilly January. We all gathered in Leeds City Museum, adults and kids alike, and basically ran amok with all sorts of building material as we designed our ideal den. From there we jumped to March when it was time to learn a thing or two from Scott Burnham and then turn our giddy gaze toward the streets of Leeds as we let loose our urban mischief. After that was our alliance with ASDA and our adventures around Leeds as we mapped unused playful opportunities around the city. People donned their thinking caps to then develop a project pitch, using the skills of the kind folk at ASDA and pairing them to an idea from an attendee. The last event of the year was Playspace Without Borders, perhaps the best event so far in terms of scope and commitment. Real ideas with real potential and grounding. People were asked to make these playful pledges, to do what they could to make these ideas a reality for the new year and beyond.

So, that’s a round-up of 2012 in play. I have a notion of whats in store for 2013 and its going to be a good’un ;) I can give you a teeny hint perhaps…beep-boop-beep-beeeeep-ZAP!

As for playful resolutions, here are a few to get you started;

- Join at least one ‘creative’ club. Stay open-minded about this too, you never know what ideas may come up or where inspiration strikes.
- Return to your childhood. Think of a game or activity you used to do a lot as a kid, and then grew out of. Re-invent it for adults.
- Start little and often. Being more playful doesn’t mean suddenly organising the best all-inclusive event. Start small, make sure you don’t step on toes, and enjoy it.
- Speak up! If you have ideas, show them to people. Get the ball rolling. If you don’t know where to start or who to contact, someone else might.
- Make someone smile. Need I say more? ;)

January 4, 2013#

Slides and Sandpits

Do you remember your hedonistic days as a child, running riot around a playground, pretending you were in the army as you scaled the nets, thought you were a monkey as you swung from ropes? No? Me neither, I think I fell off the swings too many times…

Playgrounds, ranging from the simple sweeping tarmac ocean to the elaborate adventure-makers, form some of the best memories of your childhood. Its where rivalries and friendships are made and broken, where you test your personal limits as you try to best your friends on the monkey bars or climbing nets, and most importantly, its somewhere you can switch off from school and home. The playground’s origin is somewhat of a mystery, starting with humble beginnings in the USA as ‘sand-gardens’ and supposedly the first playgrounds to exist were in Germany. Whatever the case, playgrounds rose to prominence particularly during the early 1900′s, and became important for children after the World Wars. Initially designed to teach children good manners, morals and sportsmanship, they’ve become important tools today in childhood fitness and wellbeing.

So, what makes a good playground? The kind of equipment found in a playground has certainly changed since I was a youngster (do I sound older than I actually am yet?) where me and my friends were seemingly content with swings, a slide, a carousel, and things like giant snakes and ladders and hopscotch grids painted on the floor. My favourite playground as a child was a fantastic wood-constructed fort with rope bridges, climbing walls, tunnels, hidden doors, and that staple of all adventure playgrounds – wood-chip on the ground.

According to Play England, the act of play is what children and young people do in their own time, whether thats staring in to space or being really active. They choose what to do, how to do it, and who to do it with. Making their own games or imaginary scenarios, with rules of their own making, is important for their development. Its also good for social interaction and learning how to BE social.

There are 10 suggested principles for a good playspace;

  • must be ‘bespoke’
  • in a good location
  • makes use of natural elements
  • provide a wide range of play experiences
  • accessible to both disabled and non-disabled children
  • must meet community needs
  • allow children of different ages to play together
  • allows opportunities to experience risk and challenge safely
  • sustainable and appropriately maintained
  • allow for change and evolution

For a more in-depth read, head over here. There are some fantastic points and things to get you thinking (more on that in a second).

So what about playgrounds for adults? Well, these things called ‘green gyms‘ have steadily popped up across the UK and are touted as two things – adult playgrounds, and exercise for people who don’t want to go to a gym. Whilst I whole-heartedly support them and what they’re trying to do…its not a playground is it? Look at the principles of good playspace design again. The green gym equipment is generally mass-produced to the same specifications, no matter where the final gym is located. There is no chance for imagination or game-making. Adults shouldn’t be afraid of the ‘don’t be so childish’ stigma. Games are for EVERYONE (and do not require alcohol to be fun).

Wouldn’t it be lovely for an adult playground that embraces its surroundings and tries to recapture some of that playfulness of your childhood?

Post your suggestions for your ideal playground. Can be for kids, adults, or all ages. Choose somewhere in Leeds that would benefit from it. Draw, doodle, write. Lets get some ideas flowing!

December 28, 2012#

Mischief Making

‘Urban intervention’ is a term that is much bandied about at the moment, with many variations and definitions, and if you’re anything like my partner you might think it’s a pretentious term for basically just mucking about in public.

Which is why I prefer ‘urban mischief’ ;)

So what is urban mischief? Well this video will give you a good place to start and shows what can happen in Leeds in a single day with a tiny budget. There is no hard and fast definition for what urban mischief can be (which is a good thing) but it commonly uses public spaces, responds to the environment, and has an element of interaction or engagement. It can be big or small and is usually temporary (although there is often scope for it to BECOME permanent). It must also not be disruptive in a bad way, i.e. potentially breaking the law or causing harm.

So what can be done when you get up to urban mischief? Here are a few examples and places to look;
urbantoychest has many projects to its name, perhaps the biggest being the Snapper project. Set in cities and suburbs, passers-by are invited to take photos of their view from where the cameras are mounted.
- Pop Up City has a whole category devoted to interventions, as well as being an excellent resource for inspiration.
- Scott Burnham is the lovely chap who lead the Playful Leeds urban mischief day and has some interesting thoughts on what a city scape can be.

There is one more unifying aspect to urban mischief – it must be playful of course! The best interventions are those that leave a lasting impression, a smile in the mind. And an intervention needn’t be big and flashy. It can be as simple as planting some seeds in unusual places, crowd-sourcing a map of the area, creating origami installations, or doing a ‘book leave-behind.’

Here are a couple of great urban mischief activities that anyone can do from The Guerilla Art Kit by Keri Smith (seriously, get this book);

playful leeds, tiger tea, illustration showing a book bouncing from hand to hand place to place
Book Leave-behinds
- using sticky labels or your own printed book plates, leave a message in a book that basically says ‘This book used to belong to me. I enjoyed it greatly and now want someone else to enjoy it too. Please read it or pass it on.’
- if you want to track the book, leave your email address or other safe form of communication
- leave the book somewhere public (always ask permission if it’s inside a coffee shop, etc)

playful leeds, tiger tea, illustration of a 'you are awesome' ticket
Alternative Coupon Poster
- create a minimal ‘coupon poster’ that simply says ‘please take one’
- for the tearaway coupons, make up your own inspirational give-aways such as ‘this coupon entitles you to one free day to do whatever you want’ or ‘this coupon entitles you to unlimited day dreams throughout the day’
- put your poster up amongst others like it

playful leeds, tiger tea, illustration of everyday items brought to life with expressions
Making ‘Friends’
- using some blank sticker paper or circular sticky labels, draw eyes
- stick them on to inanimate objects like parking meters, bus stops, pretty much anywhere you could see a ‘face’ or character

This idea of urban mischief is not a new one but has perhaps taken on greater power and greater accessibility in recent years, perhaps due to fewer opportunities for artists to be seen or perhaps because people have more to say and want to be heard. Whatever the case, these little moments of urban mischief are here to stay.

Enjoy them!

December 9, 2012#

All work and no play…

When I was little, I wanted to work in animation. I’d spend my after-school hours watching the best that TV had to offer (at that time, it was treasures like ‘Arrgh! Real Monsters’ and ‘Rugrats’). Part of the appeal was the workplace. When Nickelodeon was king of cartoons in my childhood, they would some times show small clips of life ‘behind the scenes’ at the studios. Grown ups running around a colourful building with NERF guns, walls plastered with sketches, and meeting rooms full of gadgets and toys. Yep. That was a workplace.

Many years later, more and more companies are seeing the benefits of having a creative space for their employees. That stereotype of offices being monotonous, grid-like, soul destroying, and designed to restrict dissension is slowly being shattered. The creative additions might only be small at first – larger social areas, an open-plan layout, a sparkly foyer – but are good signs towards bigger and brighter changes. And these changes can make a HUGE difference to how people work. Colour stimulates better than white or grey. Curves are more organic than straight lines and harsh angles. And sometimes the downright weird is perfect inspiration.

Don’t be fooled in to thinking that only ‘creative’ companies will benefit from a creative workspace. Below are some funky work spaces that set the bar high;

Okay, so I just had to include Pixar here. What did you expect from an animation nut? ;)

creative office spaceWould you think this is an IT office? No? Neither did I.

Red Bull
I would expect no less of Red Bull, sponsors/creators of such mayhem as the Flugtag, to have funky offices. Although angular, and going against every fibre of my being that craves weird curvy motifs, its a beautiful space.

Saatchi & Saatchi
Another no-brainer really. Saatchi&Saatchi are responsible for some of the world’s best adverts, so they need a cool space to inspire them.

Skype’s creative offering of space is simple but sometimes the best ones are. Floating orbs of mystery and comfy colourful chairs. Sounds like a weird half-asleep dream. Perfect.

And this is just a small selection. I think companies, big and small, whether they are ‘creative’ businesses or not, need to start improving their work spaces. Bonuses and promises of promotion will only get so much loyalty from your employees, but you give them a place they ENJOY going to…well, do I need to spell it out?

I heard a good saying from an unusual source (Nathan Fillion on Castle, awesome show); ‘If you don’t wanna feel guilty playing when you’re working, get some work that feels like play’

December 1, 2012#

Adventure is Out There!

Was your childhood anything like the Famous Five books? Or at least did you pretend it was? I certainly did. A ride on my bike wasn’t a circuit around the neighbourhood – it was a trip around France. A walk through the woods was a chance to spot monsters or fairies (which became yetis and wolves when it snowed) and a hike amongst the lovely Peak District was an expedition in the Himalayas.

Sound familiar? What are your tales of thrilling adventure?

Playing outside is an activity met with fond nostalgia. For people of a certain age they can recall playing outdoors every day of the week, allowed to roam free as long as they were home in time for tea. Neighbourhoods were communities led by the friendships forged by children. Things like catching tadpoles and building dens in the nearby woods were common practice. And I see no reason why it should stop just because you’re all grown up now.

There are a number of good articles online (see below) that discuss the lack of outdoor play for children, so I’m not about to go into it when I have no expertise. Instead, I’m going to cherry pick my favourite activities from The Bumper Book of Nature by Stephen Moss and suggest a few things to get your inner explorer activated. Try to channel your inner Carl or Ellie (UP reference there) as you read the following list:

illustration, den made from sheets and chairs

Build a Den
A classic! Easier than eating pie, dens can be made at home, in the garden, or out in the woods with the right materials. Old bed sheets and duvets make great covering, a couple of pegs and string for fastening, and whatever old branches are handy.

illustration, bark rubbing

Make a Bark Rubbing
An odd one maybe but kids especially will enjoy this one. Any paper will do, and chunky wax crayons give the best coverage, but if you want to make something really special – get a white poster roll or DIY white lining paper, wrap around the tree and make the rubbing. Its great as a large-scale poster or as wrapping paper.

illustration, green churchyard

Go For a Walk in a Churchyard
I know this sounds a bit morbid, and might not be suitable for young children (older kids will love it though, especially after Paranorman and Frankenweenie), but is a great chance to see an undisturbed habitat right on your doorstep. Churchyards are quiet and can be home to rare flowers, fruit trees, wild animals like foxes and badgers, and birds. Go armed with a nature guide and see what you can spot. Or, if you’re the creative type, go with a camera or video camera and make some horror movies or spooky pictures.

illustration, a park with treasure locations

Go On a Treasure Hunt
Basically like an Easter-Egg Hunt but can be done throughout the year, weather permitting of course. You can either make it easy (no map, treasure hidden in plain sight in a designated area, like a public park) or hard (map with directions and clues) but should always be fun and challenging. If you want it more suitable for adults, set it at night, use torches, and have more grown-up items as treasure (a bottle of rum perhaps?).

illustration, cityscape with sparrowhawk hovering above

Go On a City Safari
Who says wildlife is only out in the countryside? Grab your gear and have a good look. Get a detailed map and plan your route to include any bits of nature that weave through the cityscape, such as canals, parks, rivers, etc. If you can, take a pair of binoculars with you and a camera so you can record your sightings. A nature guide will be handy too. You’ll be surprised what you can see – falcons have been seen over Manchester so you never know ;)

For those of you less inclined towards nature and all things wild, there are other kinds of city trails you can do. In Leeds there is the Owl Trail and a forthcoming ‘heritage trail.’ In York, there is the Cat Trail, and there are countless more trails in cities across the UK, many of them free.

Further Reading:
Getting back to nature… Ruth Stokes, Guardian 2010
Where do the children play? Adrian Voce, Guardian 2006 
Boys and girls come out to play? Yvonne Roberts, The Observer 2012
Love Outdoor Play
Wildlife in the City (Nottingham specific, but should be in EVERY city)