Microgames in Neighbourhoods: Part 2, Liverpool

The second part of Microgames for Neighbourhoods took place in Liverpool, June 27-30.

Three days later after the events in Athens, on Wednesday June 27, Karsten (the games specialist) and Angeliki (as “the rapporteuse”, this time) arrived in Liverpool to meet with Kate, their host. Kate, a member of our Microgames prototype, is a co-founder and now CEO of We Make Places in Liverpool, “a Community Interest Company, writing, living and delivering a manifesto for change across the built environment”. She invited us to participate in their weekend of events inside and outside the Liverpool Central Library, (re)presenting and performing our Microgames for neighborhoods prototype.

Thursday June 28, 2018

10:30-12:00: Meeting with Kate at “Coffee + Fandisha”, a cosy cafe in the Baltic Triangle of Liverpool, close to the HQ studio of We Make Places. Karsten goes shopping and comes back with dice, chinese fortune cookies and chinese food boxes. He explains the “If I Were Your Neighbour” game. We also get the chance to discuss about living conditions in Liverpool, Big Issue, the UK magazine created to support and sold by homeless people locally. The Big Issue have invested in We Make Places project Urban Workbench which we will visit later; a social investment made not just on the basis of repaying the capital, but also on the basis of the social impact of the project. Two other social investors, RBS Community & Social Capital and The Key Fund have made similar investments in Urban Workbench. We also take time to understand how the creative community has shaped the area of Liverpool known as ‘the Baltic Triangle’.

12:30-14:00: At the “Urban Workbench”, the woodworking space of We Make Places. Guided by Kate’s husband, Steve Threlfall, and their associate Angelo, we learn about their concept activity and amazing wooden products. Urban Workbench is a community learning programme for people aged 15-70, mainly focusing on rehab, DIY practices, social inclusion and integration.

15:00-20:00: Back to the Baltic Triangle. At the office, Kate, Karsten and Angeliki discuss the format and the perspectives of their Microgames prototype, the Games cluster to be initiated within the MitOst environment and the network of experts in games that needs to be formed. They concentrate on the games for Liverpool MakeFest on Saturday. Kate explains that the event will include:

● Presentation of furniture created at Urban Workbench
● A workshop for children to build a birdhouse
● A speakeasy kiosk for locals to take the floor and express themselves on DIY culture.
● And, of course, Microgames for Neighborhoods.

“There are impostors of the voice of the city, like the municipality or the police”, Kate points out. “So I would like the voice of the city to be heard through these games”. After 5 hours of intensive collective work, two microgames are described, designed and created.

We further developed the concept of ‘If I Were Your Neighbour’ which is a game we want to test more in our own communities and for the MakeFest event tomorrow, we create a memory game What’s Important to Me – ready to be used on Saturday!

Friday, June 29, 2018

10.30-16:00: At the Liverpool Central Library, this year’s Maverick City Symposium has just started. It is bringing together artists, curators and practitioners to explore the themes of playfulness in cities, permission and the use of public space. Artists and Activists from Europe and the USA met with local practitioners and community members to discuss community-led projects from cities and communities around the world.

Besides Karsten, invited to give a speech on Microgames for Neighborhoods and his experience out of testing them in multiple urban contexts across Europe, there is also:
● Kazz Morohashi an American/Japanese artist based in the UK, describing her “Go Walkeez” project, familiarising young kids with museums content and cultural heritage;
● Ryan Swanson, a creator and a place maker, also from the USA, presenting his award-winning design firm The Urban Conga, and their many playful interventions in difficult city environments;
● Andrew Small, a sculptor from Liverpool, shared an interesting presentation of his artistic work and urban interventions;
● And of course, (our) Kate Stewart, representing We make places and describing her latest initiative #IWantSpace.

Two round tables co-ordinated by Kate and Steve, gave the floor to the audience in an attempt to explore further in depth different aspects of the projects initiated by the symposium guests.

These conversations then adjourned to a local pub with food and drink and continued into the night with both the speakers and the audience members involved.

The Maverick City speakers
The Maverick City speakers
Saturday, June 30, 2018

After a late finish on Friday, continuing our conversations about cities and communities into the early hours, we were back up early the following day – with Angeliki returning to her family in Athens and Karsten joining Kate and the We Make Places team at Liverpool MakeFest. For this day the stunning central library in Liverpool was taken over by makers and inventors of all kinds, sharing their knowledge and their passions with the citizens and visitors to this great international city.

Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool Central Library

It is amazing to see this £50m new development which has been built around the historic Picton Reading Room and Hornby Rooms, full of life and activity. The traditional image of a library in the UK is of a place to be silent – this building defies that on a daily basis and today for this event, there was activity everywhere.

The Microgames hub was set up in a small marquee at the entrance to the main Library and it was here that Karsten engaged with Liverpool’s citizens and daytrippers of all ages – creating a day long memory game that explored self identity and the most important item to participants.

Our challenges in this setting were different to in Athens, as we had a transient audience to engage with who were keen to take part in more than one of the many activities on offer at MakeFest.

Having said that, our wonderful workshop leader Karsten was able to keep everyone’s attention and they eagerly took part in the game, and the self reflection that is a key component of it.

Perhaps the genius of What’s Important to Me, is that the participant does not necessarily enter the game knowing the answer to this question……they are asked to draw two quick sketches – the first is a self portrait, the second is a drawing of the thing that is the most important to them in their life. By using the same colours to create both images on small square cards they create a ‘pair’ (a kind of diptych). The next players to the game are presented with a series of squares that are face down and they have to turn them over one at a time to make a pair – they can only have two images turned face up at one time. As they reveal the images, those around them tell, or learn, the stories – “ah yes, this is Steve, he really loves his bike” and so they must remember where steve’s portrait is and try to find a bike to match with it.

What's Important to Me cards
What's Important to Me cards

The games works well in this transient setting, however we are also interested in how it works in specific communities and through the work that We Make Places is doing in neighbourhoods Kate will be trialling it in other settings over the next few months and feeding back the outcomes into our prototyping process.

The team will also be working to finalise the concept of If I Were Your Neighbour and will test that in various communities too.

Missed the beginning of this story?

Read the first part of the story about the first Mircogames event in Athens.

Read more