On pigs Ears, Mound Envy and Walking Backwards or refections on Play Cambridge Now or Never!

We are finally getting round to reviewing some of the photos and the comments participants generously shared with us during Play Cambridge Now or Never! event last week.

The walk was structured around a series of prompts – to play- to think or imagine possibilities or playscapes out of reach…

We started the walk at the station, which was busy on a Saturday afternoon. After playing ‘Cambridge Chopsticks’ on the shutters, we slipped through a tiny alleyway to the much quieter new development. The paths were lined with ‘pig ears’ – they really are called that and tea metal shapes embedded in the raised surfaces- there to prevent skateboarders from using them. We asked for alternative uses for the pigs ears.



Here are some of the ideas offered: ‘….can polish shoes on them…use as lemon squeezers…shape leaves with them…use to cool down your hands…make a musical instrument out of them…use as massage tool….make into a decorative construction for putting knitted flowers around…re-purposed ex-military metal ware and finally….make music out of them (with chopsticks!)’ so we hope architects who incorporate these into their designs in future will take note!

Before  leaving the new development we also asked participants to line up around the light fittings and play ‘Light Whispers’ – which  is an adaptation of chinese whispers played publicly and reflecting on play itself…



We head across the road via a tree lined avenue to another new development where we tell people about the ‘Feral Play’ area we cannot reach today and stop at the highly designed play area for some ‘Free Play’.



The Bowling Green across the road sparkles after the recent rains and participants line up to share thoughts on ‘Bowling for All Play’ before we head on towards Hobson’s Brook.


 When we reach the water we tell participants about an invitation we’ve received by mail to anyone walking that day while the G20 meetings in Brisbane are held. to create boats in memory of the asylum seekers.

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The next prompt we offer is called ‘Walk Backwards to Move Forward’ and we ask that it be done in silence…the group attracts attention from passers by many seem very taken with the experience as one participant writes in her booklet; ‘I will remember the view receding instead of coming towards me’.

Our nearly final stop is by a ‘Mound and Tree Trunk’ where participants are invited to form two circles, one around the mound to shout out sounds thy hear and the other around the trunk to shout out things they see. Here are some of the drawings we found in the booklets;

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We proceed to our near final and final stop- both in two different older housing estates, where a circle, grassy areas, a tree and a swing still provide spaces for play. Here we have tea and exchange thoughts before the afternoon draws to a close…

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Participants reflect on their experiences in the booklets. Their observations often echo ours- here are some of them; ‘Have been surprised at how compliant and willing to take part I and everyone else has been – surprisingly unquestioning.’ which is lucky really…or [its] a chance to see bits of Cambridge I’ve skirted around before.’ or ‘a lovely way to discover the city a new in a playful way. Rethinking the use of objects we take for granted.’ and  an ‘Opportunity not to race about during the day to day.’ as well as ‘Chance to chat with strangers’…

We are grateful to everyone who took part and to Ivy and Chan who took the wonderful pictures. Its been an amazing afternoon of play and imagining…As one participant said:

‘Imagine if…We had lots of social spaces. Maybe [there would be] less loneliness…’ and we are reminded of the billboard at the start of our walk which promises a sociable space…


2 thoughts on “On pigs Ears, Mound Envy and Walking Backwards or refections on Play Cambridge Now or Never!”

  1. Helen and Idit – I had a very entertaining and thought-provoking afternoon – thank you very much. I have been prompted to walk unfamiliar routes and to be more aware of where I am going and what i am seeing. Hope the research continues to go well, Nicola

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