If you are signed up to our next Playful Leeds Playspace event September 13th, you may have received something in the post by now (providing you supplied your address). But before you go into Leeds with your bounty, where are you going to try and spend it?
Both have a lovely gift for the first five who turn up clutching a Playful Leeds stamped poundage.
Even if you turn up after the first five have been redeemed, fear not as they’ve little rewards for you anyway. So nothing to lose and everything to play for!
Watch this space as more join playful retailers join in the fun…
The next playful person to come under the watchful gaze of the Playful Leeds spotlight is somebody very modest, yet producing great playful work. He wouldn’t blow his own trumpet so we thought we would. He says he’s too busy earning a crust to be playful in Leeds, but don’t be fooled. He keeps us entertained and informed about playful design and interactive games on Twitter and he’s great fun in real life too.
What’s your name then?
My name is Dean Vipond, I’m a freelance graphic and interaction designer, and my Twitter handle is, erm, @DeanVipond
What are you playing at right now?
Work-wise, I’ve been designing badges which use conductive paint and LEDs for a conference – really good fun! I’m also in the middle of redesigning the website for Unlimited Theatre – a fantastic, and playful theatre company based at West Yorkshire Playhouse. Outside of work, my daughter is seriously into Duplo, and my son has just levelled-up to Lego, so I’m doing lots of building!
Why do you think play is important?
Because life would be very dull without it, especially once you reach adulthood, and mortgages, the news and house chores threaten to take up all your free time. Look how many people play Angry Birds or do Sudoku on their commute. They’re filling up the dull parts of their lives with play.
How does a playful place make you feel? Where have you been that has made you feel that way?
The single most fun place I think I’ve ever been is the Forbidden Corner in North Yorkshire. It’s utterly insane, and a testament to one person’s eccentric mores, over and above a committee decision of what is ‘fun’. It’s kind of like a theme park, but without any rides – just a bunch of interconnected scenarios for you to explore. It’s like Alice In Wonderland, crossed with (eccentric ’80s computer game) Jet Set Willy. I went a good few years ago, before I was a parent, with my cousin and her (then 8-year-old) daughter. It was fun enough for me, but the vicarious awe and wonder our young companion felt was amazing to see.
How playful do you think Leeds is?
Well in terms of a general place, I don’t think Leeds city centre is very playful at all, unless you consider the big chess boards outside the library, which I always thought were pretty cool. It’s always felt like a very condensed, commercial centre. I worked in Leeds centre for many years, and the only things there were to do was spend money. The art gallery was too far away to visit during a lunch break, so darts in the pub was as playful as I ever got as a Leeds citizen.
The recent Brothers Quay event showed a glimmer of what was possible with the place though, if organised well, but even then it felt (understandably) orchestrated, rather than a sense of playfulness that’s part of the city’s DNA.
However, I don’t think play for play’s sake is necessarily a useful approach. It’s a bit like saying, ‘HAVE FUN NOW! GO ON!‘. As an interaction designer, I think in terms of people’s tasks – what they need to do at any given time. How can we make those tasks more fun or enjoyable? How can going to the shops be made more fun? How can we add a little levity to the mundane stuff people have to do?
If you were gifted three wishes to make Leeds more playful what would you like to see and where in Leeds?
Wish 1: A bit more open space, right in the centre, that could support a number of functions. A sandpit is a great metaphor – you can be diligent and sit making sandcastles, or you can go right the other way, and roll around like an idiot in it. So a giant, existential sandpit, please!
Wish 2: For someone to do something really clever and fun with all the empty shops in Leeds centre – something that connects them all, maybe. I’m not sure what that might be – that’s for the genie to figure out.
Wish 3: A network of tubes (like in Futurama), that can get you from Holbeck, to Clarence Dock, and up to the museums
What benefits do you think there would be to Leeds being more playful?
I read somewhere that road rage attacks usually happen after the attacker has suffered a number of minor irritations on the road, before one that makes them snap. Can a city do the opposite, and present a number of minor, subtle amusements, that build a sense of happiness in a person?
Do you do something that contributes to Leeds being more playful?
Right now, I don’t do anything that makes Leeds more playful. I’ve got bills to pay!
Do you feel it’s a worthwhile use of time to attempt to make Leeds a more playful place, and how would you like to be part of that movement?
In terms of Leeds centre, then it’s definitely a worthwhile exercise. It’s full of empty shops, and all that seems to be happening is that more are being built. If it was seen less as such a doggedly commercial centre, and a bit more as somewhere where you can just go, without having a wallet full of cash to do so, then that would be nice. Fanciful maybe, but nice. I’d certainly like to help with ideas around that, if the opportunity arose.
Who do you think we need to involve to help realise our mission to have a more Playful Leeds to hang out, grow up in, tell our friends about, raise families, and of course work in?
Game makers, definitely – people who understand the theory/psychology of play, and how to make it work on a grand scale. The north is full of video game talent, for example. Leeds would be a great canvas for some of their ideas. Of course, none of this can really happen in a more permanent way without the involvement of town planners and the like. And a few wild cards too – remember what I said about the Forbidden Corner? We need a few people who are just a little bonkers to stop any initiatives becoming bland, and by-committee.
Whilst walking around Leeds City Centre I’ve been taking pictures of empty shops, forgotten spaces, street furniture, grassy verges, litter bins and other rather functional stuff.
Ahead of our Playspace event on 13th September, we’d like to collect as many tagged images of stuff which you think could have an imaginative solution applied to it. So empty shops, office buildings could be mapped, much like artists Conway & Young’s project of a couple of years back ‘92 Empty Shops’, where they asked the public to suggest alternate uses.
Imagine how street furniture and signage could look if creativity and imagination were applied at design stage. Justhow playful could the experience of navigating our city really be?
If you snap it tag it #whatcouldbe #Leeds and we’ll collate your images and thoughts.
Even if you’re not joining us, but you come across something you feel could have great potential then snap it and tag it. Our work is just starting…
Things that have made us smile this week
First up is Dom Hodgson. He’s sure to be interviewed for the site as soon as we can pin him down. Dom’s what you’d describe as giant bear of fun. He’s the founder of Think Visibility, which on the face of it could be another boring digital search engine optimisation conference. But not in Dom’s hands… This tweet sums up a Think Vis event (and Dom for that matter)
Finally home, 14 tubs of playdough, 3000 ball pool balls, 6 cardboard cutouts and 8 pots of jelly, not bad for an seo conference
— Dom Hodgson (@Thehodge) September 2, 2012
And Dom even does his own wedding differently…Watch this
We obviously want to go to this wedding, not sure how Heather would feel but I’m sure she’s used to randomers by now!
Dom also started a sweet shop, which is actually his office. And what’s even better is these sweets can be delivered to you at work. Which reminds us….