Author Archives: Malcolm

Bristol Old Vic Families Project

We’ve been designing and delivering play sessions to engage young children and their families in the heritage and history of Bristol Old Vic Theatre. We prototyped in late 2017, then ran 8 sessions in the summer term, all at St Pauls Nursery School and Children’s Centre.

In a very basic, boiled down form, we’ve been thinking about this subject as ‘Theatre’ and ‘The Olden Days’,  so we framed each session around elements that could apply to traditional indoor theatre. We thought about elements that would have been used in Bristol Old Vic to tell stories over the years. Things that were different to us telling a story in the classroom, or reading a book-

  • Scenery
  • Sound
  • Lighting
  • Costume
  • Props and objects

then recreating those elements through play in the classroom. It’s been quite a funny head-and-toe up-side-down exercise, because as grown ups making theatre we use children’s play to, well, make up plays so reversing that back down to explain theatre is rather topsy turvy!

Each week we set up a craft activity set around an element- hat making, shadows, painted backdrops, rainsticks and shakers- then left space for the children to explore. Inevitably stories began to develop and we followed impulses to go on journeys following trains, firefighters, cats, trees and children on madcap adventures!

Old objects from the propstore continued to play a big part in the sessions- children love exploring the items, with hands, mouths, ears and noses. Some were a little familiar, others completely foreign. There were also objects that created stories with parents:

  • picking up a set of bellows, a Somalian father explained that they used large bellows in his country for the fire, that he had a bog set and would get them next time he returned there.
  • playing with a tin loudspeaker, two women explained that they used those to listen for animals while hunting or to call to others across outdoor spaces.

again and again objects that we had one relationship to were shown to have very different stories to our players.

Lighting was a particularly interesting session. We blacked out the room and played with torches and shadows. Instantly the (usually rowdy) room became hushed and the whole hour was whispered! The group played more slowly, and explored the room and the objects in a completely different rhythm, even tip-toeing and moving differently.

The SS Great Britain were kind enough to lend us costumes and we all had a great time (parents  included) dressing up and becoming other people. The had a sort of puppet theatre built, that could be the box office, ice cream counter or tuck shop and this almost always became the stage for a final ‘show’ by the children.

One of the most lovely elements that we added into this set of workshops was ‘a walk to the theatre’. To round off the hour, we would go outside and imagine ourselves by Bristol Bridge. Using words and actions we would paint the characters and the atmosphere of the bridge in 1766, of the boats and harbour, then we would go on a journey along cobbled streets, past wonky pubs and eventually to the stage door. Repetition was a strong part of our workshops- each session would only change a little each week, and the walk was a lovely way to play the same game and cement the session. We would layer the story with sounds, actions and noises- running away form a bucket of slops; gasping at the sight of an elephant, handing our tickets to the usher. Finally, on the last week, we brought the children into town and did the walk for real. We found this to be a magical way of layering the past onto the present and something we intend to develop further. Lo-fi augmented reality if you like.

We’re excited to be continuing the work this Autumn. Thanks to St Pauls Nursery School and Children’s Centre and of course the Bristol Old Vic for inviting us to play with them!


links to campaign and support groups

We thought it might be useful to list links to campaign and support groups. This is the beginning of a long list of groups working to support housing and conservation rights. Please add in the comments box below.

Work with us!

We’re always interested in hearing from people who want to collaborate with us.

We work with performers, designers, makers, builders, inventors, creative technologists, theatre makers, workshops leaders, musicians, game designers, game players……. if you’d like to get involved, make a game with us or through us, or have some other idea of playing with us, get in touch…

Board members

We’re also always interested in hearing from people who would like to help steer and shape Mufti Games. If you’d like to volunteer time to support and develop this brilliant play organisation, please do get in touch 

Day 4, Newbury, New Bury or Newboroughy?


In the hope of sounding like a BBC community fundraiser, I’ll call Thursday ‘The Big Make’ . This update is brought to you by Sue Perkins, James Cordon and Flowella Benjamin. 

We started off deciding exactly which 6 interruptions we would try out with the public on Friday.

We knuckled down to:

‘Octopus’ – a development agency working with local think-tanks to find innovative ways to build more housing in Newboroughy. These include treehouse studios over burial plots, apartment blocks within roundabouts and the private renovation of a beloved heritage landmark.

Side note: We appropriated a Ferguson design for the roundabout idea, superimposing Lennox House into Robin Hood Roundabout. Lennox House was designed by John MacGregor- ‘The Artichoke’ in 1935. Built for London housing associations, it consists of 35 floats over a central atrium. Originally the atrium was to be a covered market that would subsidise the residential, but a planning law changed and it ended up having to be all housing. 

‘Location, Location, Location’ – audio installations giving estate agent tours of unique properties, including a sewer, an alleyway and a bin. 

‘House Sitting’ – an on street gameshow based on actual property prices where sitting tight earns you the big bucks.

‘Lego Legislation’ – a game where developers compete to pitch for land. 5 years is sped up to 5 minutes and that pesky legislation just keeps on changing!! (thanks to Liz Beth or LB Planning for all the help on this one)

‘NewBury’- Place-making meets Art Attack, a community co-creation task playing with the idea of a perfect town. We use chalk, building blocks and creative tech to play in an ever changing space.

‘Precarious and Proud’ a throne set up on the high street dedicated to celebrating those not-on-the-property-ladder, raising awareness about the lack of rent caps. People can have their photo taken on the throne and we hold an awards ceremony later in the day. 

It was a really long, but absolutely brilliant day of recording, writing, designing and making. The gang was absolutely terrific, it is so wonderful to have such  check team on this project. Everyone 100% reliable and pulling some brilliant stuff out of the bag. I won’t harp on, have a look at the pictures and I’lll update you on the public sharing next week. 

Day 3 at Newbury


We started the day playing with ideas of Ferguson’s Gang, who they were and what parallels we could find in ourselves and in modern housing campaigns. 

Subversive, playfulness, artists, radical and eccentric found collective identity and they feel a very fitting inspiration for this piece.

We looked at rituals the gang carried out at Stonehenge and created out own ‘Skiptual’ around a pile of resting metal on an industrial estate. We sang a drone, danced a Morris hop, worshipped then finally sacrificed property ‘particulars’ before ‘heading down the pub’. 

We welcomed Liz Beth of LB Planning into the gang after lunch. Liz brought me into work with her on the Hengrove and Whitchurch Park Neighbourhood Plan, where we built the Engagement Plane. Liz has worked in town planning and local government for most of her life and is now a freelance consultant working in neighbourhood planning. It was hugely exciting to bring in an expert. We’ve been playing with the gamification of complex legislation and so far had to be quite vague. With Liz’s input we were able to quickly make solid, playable experiences that engaged you in a process and (although very frustrating) were hugely fun to play. 

We played with ideas of nest eggs, using durational live art and real money; a city wide gameshow looking at the history of property value growth; set up a stall asking for consultation on unsuitable developments (with a hint of Monty Python); created a NEW Bury in a place-making meets Art Attack; played Sardines; made a ‘lego legislation challenge’ (the best game yet -thanks Liz!) and the ‘precarious and proud awards ceremony’. 


Few, another two days to go- now to refine, condense and sharpen the games, then take them out on to test on the High St! 

Stay tuned.

‘The Mouse’