Tag Archives: play

Pirate Playscapes

I ran the playscape workshop again recently, with our adopted families group. The sessions are always drop in and participants will come and go. The activities are designed for children and adults to do together whether that is parents and children, or prospective adopters who are volunteering at the sessions.

I stuck with the maritime theme again and focused more on pirates and pirate stories. We started small, making boats, eye patches and a desert island. We also played with maps and through about places you might find in a pirate story. Shipwreck was my favourite new addition!

Starting small allowed us to contain the exercise and allow our imaginations to roam in a contained space. Quite quickly we took the boats on an adventure and began to explore the outdoor space through the eyes of the boats. A bottle appeared and we wrote a message for it. Pirate R wanted palm trees so a request was put in the bottle, a stash place for the trees outlined and the bottle hung where passers by might find it.

As the number of participants grew, and the sun came out, we moved outdoors to build a pirate ship in the playground. As with earlier exercises we adapted the built play-space with scrap to make something new. Children identified an area with upright logs and we set-to creating a ship. Using tubes and sheeting we made the sails, we decorated the masts and people made a mask and a really brilliant hammock. One child made a telescope with stand, another noticed we had no wheel so arranged steering, we even had a treasure hold.

Once we focused on making the ship, all kinds of play evolved from the central space. Climbing, sailing, more messages in bottles, building, tying, swinging on hammock, lookout games, searching for new look outs, treasure burying and map making, different kinds of seascapes: a 2D one on the ground giving different perspective. The musicians came out too and we sang sea shanties on the ship. It was fascinating to see how easily so many different styles of play came out of the one space with just a few simple starting points. I also enjoyed the fact that things didn’t have to fit, size and perspective was irrelevant and the space shifted and changed to accommodate all the games and play.


Initial suggestions to built a world at the outset were really useful: pirate names, boats, places, modes of travel and communication, after that that the evolution felt quite free and natural. Having a starting point tool kit is useful and enough materials then to build a wide variety of landscapes and props. Built levels in the playground were useful, as opposed to a blank space.

I would like to try this as a durational piece next over a day or a weekend. I’d like to try to keep track of what was suggested by adults and children and what was suggested by me initially.



I have been really  interested in the medium of ‘playscapes’ of late. Creating a setting, that participants can play within, in their own way. The ‘activity’ is self guided or at least very free and loose. There is an invitation into the setting and activity that frames the context and gives people the permission to get involved and play.

Bocadalupa have been creating playscapes for the Harbour Festival for several years now and I invited them to share their ‘Bee garden’ with an adoptive families group I work IMG_6370with. The Bee Garden consisted of some loose ‘fencing’ to guide people into the space; a teepee containing loose parts objects- painted pebbles; bee costumes; ‘fairy doors’ containing bee facts and a space for making miniature gardens and seedbombs. A wheelbarrow contained soil with trowels and small bee friendly plants were provided along with other natural materials and Clay was also provided. IMG_6367




From the outset the space created was welcoming, calm and warm. It was a quiet setting by it’s very nature and throughout the afternoon children and adults came and created miniature gardens, read about bees and biodiversity, pottered within the teepee and enjoyed a relaxing, creative time. The gardens were a superb focus, each ‘gardener’ given a small cardboard box- a  3D picture frame to fill with their own unique little worlds. The bee costumes were quickly filled with small boys who spent the afternoon buzzing around on bikes to great delight, expanding the world of the bee garden to fill the whole outdoor space. Amy Rose, from Bocadalupa told me that even at Harbourside Festival, with thousands of people around, the Bee Garden was a calm, quiet space.  A wide variety of play experiences took place in our afternoon and that is the joy of playscapes- a few suggestions are made and the players will create their own content.

I was recently invited to run a workshop for a local youth charity. I was given free range with what the session might be so I decided to use it as an opportunity to develop playscapes with adults as a creative team-building exercise. I want to make my playscapes more overtly themed, or situated in a specific world, so I chose to work with a storybook maritime landscape. I arrived with a car load of junk from Scrapstore, split the group into small teams and handed out titles that fit the theme: Pirate Ship, Desert Island, Sea Monster, Galleon, Harbour, Whirlpool. Each team then set about creating their thing. Once everything was builtIMG_6404 the invitation was given. “What happens now?” I had hoped that a wonderful story would immediately unfold but the invitation did need a little more steering. “We have a pirate ship and a galleon. Who…” “The pirates attack the galleon!!” came the interjection, and we were off. A game unfolded between the different areas. Sailors were left on desert islands, treasure was robbed and sea monsters were fed with pirates. A final few made it to the harbour alive and started a new life, free from the terror of the high seas. It was a fun morning and the level of making from the players was brilliant. They were a very open, creative group and they really committed to the play so I’ll be interested to develop the ideas with less naturally outgoing participants. The play was less free flowing than I had imagined however and I’d like to run the same exercise with children and see if it is adult inhibition that creates obstacles or if other invitations are needed. Creating the space that we played in felt like a good thing, but I want to give much m
ore time to the playing within to allow for free, open play experiences to happen. I’m also considering supplying a loose maritime set and inviting people to play there for an afternoon.


ROMANS! features a Mini Colosseum playscape and I’m looking forward to seeing how people play within that world and physical invitations can be developed over time.



Developing ideas around play

I’m Malcolm of Mufti Games and I’ve created this blog to document observations and thinking I am doing around play.

I am currently a Leverhulme Art Scholar attached to Bristol Old Vic Ferment and I am concentrating on developing my practice around play in theatre and heritage settings. I’ll be writing about shows, events, exhibitions and everyday happenings that I see valuable to the play community. I’ll also note down musings I have about the state of play in our current climate.

I hope you enjoy what you read, please feel free to start a conversation below or get in touch with me directly.

“Every country, all kids play the same”

Full Circle

Today I visited Heroes Women’s Group which takes place every Thursday at Full Circle Family Centre in St Pauls. I went to talk to them about their memories of play for our Transforma-bin project.

Sood, Angela, Fatima and Belinda told stories about playing in fields, round blocks and up and down stairs. We talked about the differences in play now and what obstacles prevent outdoor play. We talked about free, unorganised play and more structured team games.  We were also lucky to be joined by Soloman who was on work experience. There was much said about video games being a barrier but we also talked about their benefits- how ‘you can be in your own world’. There was a wish for more local green space available to “roll down and stare up at the sky”. The group also feel that young people should be able to access sports teams in St Pauls- particularly Basketball. It was a really enjoyable afternoon and I look forward to talking to more groups about  memories of play.

You can listen to a short snippet of the group talking about wink murder and other games here:


If you are part of a group in Ashley, Easton or Lawrence Hill and you would like to share your memories for this project, please get in touch.



I popped into Scrapstore today – an

“Aladdin’s Cave of low-cost, varied and abundant scrap materials for creative play – safe surplus resources collected from business and industry.”

What I didn’t know was that they also have an in house Play Team and run all sorts of brilliant activities.

One particularly brilliant thing is their Playpod.

2012-03-22  playpod launch day 023_small

“The Scrapstore PlayPod® is a holistic process that works with the entire school community to change both the human and physical play environment transforming play at lunchtimes.”

I was really excited to find out about the activities, the Playpod and get tour of the play areas and warehouse space. We’ll be using materials from Scrapstore for our Transformabin workshops, (along with other bits and pieces) I cant wait to get Game Inventing!