Photo credits: Pippa Hale (left and centre) and Sally Molineaux (right).
We and the Cambridge Junction commissioned new public art in 2021 to explore the theme of playfulness.
The intention was to change how people see the world around them. We wanted to promote physical activity by helping people to find new ways to engage with the built and natural environment.
We invite you to share your memories of playing out in the past and to suggest new ideas for play. Pin your memories or ideas to a location in Cambridge on the Cambridge Playlaws digital map.
The artists are now developing a set of poetic, permissive, funny or fanciful ‘playlaws’ with the help of Cambridge residents.
The playlaws are intended to encourage people to reconnect with their playful selves. The idea is to help people remember how they played in the past and bring them together to play in the future.
The playlaws will be displayed as aluminium plaques in public places within a 1km circular zone around Warren Close, near the train station.
There will be 10 complete plaques and 0.6 of a plaque that will be just over half-legible.
The playlaws will also be available on a new website, which will also highlight contributions to the project.
Events to help create the playlaws
The artists have already run workshops at local primary schools, where they enlisted children’s help to devise playful challenges.
In the summer, they will hold a series of outdoor events where you can play (or reminisce about how you used to play) and imagine what play might look like in the future.
These ‘playbox’ events will take place at:
- Cambridge Leisure Park, from Saturday 17 to Sunday 18 June
- the green space behind the Clayton Hotel, from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 June
- Coleridge Recreation Ground, from Friday 30 June to Sunday 2 July
- Parker’s Piece, from Friday 7 to Sunday 9 July
- Parker's Piece, from Saturday 15 to Sunday 16 July
The creators also plan to build a network of ‘play agents’ – local people of any age or background who are open-minded, curious, responsive, imaginative, and like to play.
These agents will be asked to complete a series of challenges designed by children, the artists and other play agents.
For example, an idea suggested by a year 4 pupil at Morley Memorial Primary School is to ‘make a crazy hairstyle and sing “I eat sausages for a snack because they are green”’.
All of these activities will contribute to the creation of the final 10.6 playlaws.
The importance of play
Play is a basic human driver that, when suppressed, can lead to depression, anxiety, loneliness and isolation.
But public play opportunities have decreased dramatically around the country in the last 50 years. This is a result of a number of factors, including busier schedules, easy access to screens and the internet, increased traffic, and policy and bureaucracy.
Free play is now often confined to dedicated playgrounds and multi-use games areas.
We want projects like the Cambridge Playlaws to help people find new ways and places to play.
This public art commission is being paid for with Section 106 funds, also known as developer contributions. These funds are used to mitigate the impact of development on local communities and can only be spent on public art projects.
It is a requirement of the funding that it must be spent within a 1-kilometre circular zone around Warren Close.