Podcast: Treasures in phone boxes; street games and play in the city by Jana Wendler

Play is a fundamental part of our lives: we play to socialise, to discover the world, to learn, to have fun or simply to play – until a certain age. Then, play becomes exceptional: something to do in certain places, at certain times, with certain goals and in clear opposition to our ‘normal’, ‘working’ lives. I find this shift intriguing – what is it about play that makes it such an ambiguous practice? And what can we do to reclaim its openness and enchantment?

Jana Wendler and Play Fuel

These thoughts did not bring me to street games, they came much after – after my first surprising experience, stumbling around a story of magical talking forest animals on a Saturday night in Manchester back in 2010. The event captured me: not only the excitement of the story but the way it wove in and out of the more common night time city activities. It seemed to create and reveal another city, the memories of which would linger much beyond the game itself.

Since then I have been playing, creating and thinking about street games, in projects ranging from satirical social commentary to science communication to pedagogical innovation. I am interested in the spaces they create and the questions they provoke. Play in public space is visible and social, but also unique for each player. And somewhere in between, it leaves little gaps for surprise and learning which we can choose to follow.

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