White Noise
Made in White City

Play: An Introduction

Cities adhere to unspoken rules. You stand on this side of the escalator; you pay this much for your train; you walk on the footpath at a pace that doesn’t irritate your fellow commuters. But what happens when play overturns the order of the everyday?

WORDS - Caroline O'Donoghue

At its best and most organic, play is a spontaneous break from the norm, a moment of senseless joy that anyone can participate in. Precede it with the word 'adult' or 'West End' and it becomes three times as expensive. As adults, play is often formalised and injected with irony. It's as if, in order to enjoy ourselves, it has to be self-conscious. “Do you want to go to the bar with the ball pit? Do you want to sleep over at the National Museum? Do you want a colouring book of Game of Thrones characters?”

Play in its purest form is easy to do, hard to monetise, and difficult to schedule. Play wriggles in your arms like an unruly animal. It thrives in the sidelines of cities, in the forgotten places where mischief is easily brewed. It’s different from leisure because it’s not intended to relax you. Play exists to inspire and invigorate us, and most of all, to remind us to not take ourselves so damn seriously.

White Noise is exploring play in all its forms this month. We speak to parkour practitioners about the subversiveness of reclaiming public spaces for fun over function, while Holly Gramazio, the director of Now Play This at Somerset House, reveals the difficult art of enticing members of the public into communal play. We challenge the notion of games and discuss the imprint the Olympics can leave on the psyche of the city, from the 1908 White City games to the fever of London 2012. We trace the cultural ripples of adult play, from red light districts to fetish clubs, and will join the Museum of London at their Play salon in August for talk of mischief and disobedient spaces.

Follow the series here. Have an idea about a project or place where play thrives? Drop us a line: hello@whitenoise.city.

chalk street play

chalk street play

chalk street playPhotos: Libsciterp on Flickr (licence).

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