Playing in Traffic: Community Building Through Urban Play

Cities should be fun and it should be in the way we play which is not the necessarily dependant on the way they are built

The video that I posted a couple of days ago highlighted the fact that this urban golfing thing is not something we invented.  We can’t even front hard like we stole it.  We were just the first couple of mutants community minded individuals to put it into a blog in Halifax (though I have never actually taken the time to check) so it has been getting some play; and so have we.  Take this as you will.  We take what we can get.

I will assert this: we are not the first people to hit a ball around the city with golf clubs.  I have been in contact with people who used to play with hockey sticks in the Quinpool area of Halifax (as was my roots except I tried it over on the Darkside).  Surely if things as complicated as calculus can be “invented” over and over (screw you both Newton and Leibniz antiquity had it millenniums before you) certainly the thought of hitting a ball through the sleepy Roman grid that comprise our cities (and most cities that have expanded since about 1785) tells me that some Scotsman at some point before us has hit a ball down the street with his buddies while cursing the crown (BTW you can get a good indication of how many Scottish or Irish descendants live in a city by the relative thickness of the “M” section of the phone book; in Halifax this section makes up roughly 3/4 of the book).

I am further going to express the fact that urban golf is a manner of urban play; and you can’t escape the need for play.  It is something that is fundamentally important to socialization and relaxation.

Play is a behaviour that is ubiquitous in the animal kingdom and something that we express from our earliest days (peek-a-boo!!!)  However our cities are ill suited for play.  The roman grid is more Caesar than Caligula when it comes to doing what feels good: it divides people into their squares (their private properties or “yards”) and conquers community. We are free to play in the limited space between the fences or between the front step and the street.  Beyond this there are regimented places for play (baseball fields, equestrian clubs, lawn bowling) most of public places belong to cars.  There are few imagination spaces left.

Cities are supposed to be moving to creative models (for arguments sake, I will bite my tongue on how much of this bullshit it takes to grow flowers) at a time when the education systems and mode of play has placed heavy bookends on variety of play and creative development.  By grade 4 kids are using PowerPoint… a far cry from the versatility of bristle board, glue and markers that allowed for extreme variety and potential for expression of creative capacity; play today through video games are repetitious and are the perfect training from moving grey faced children from the fenced yards to the padded walls of cubicles where repetition is eagerly traded for dreams deferred.

Now I am not going to say that urban golf or urban play is a panacea to the rife problems of our urban centres but I will say that closer attention to these factors and ensuring that they are at least considerations it is a move in the right direction.  I don’t believe that you have to change the physical nature of the city (though it would be a move in the right direction but it too expensive for such silly endeavours when schools and emergency shelters need to be built) rather than the way you look at it.  At night when we play it is fun, it brings people together to play and has been spreading like wildfire and has lead to new friendships, collaborative projects and professional contact that would have not happened without play: this is the nature of community connection at a personal level.  These acts of play are acts of community building and cohesion that can change the nature of a city.  It will be these little acts of reclamation not the obtuse “public consultations”, themselves that front representative when the fact is most of themare largely populated by the same people, that will change the way cities exist.  Action not reports change the path of humanity.

Video – Shoreditch Urban Open Golf Tournament in Britian: This is definitely deep, denser urban play and from this video it is hard to deny they own the streets.

So make your city your playground.  Open yourself to discovery and find fun wherever your gaze falls.  Regimented spaces cage the mind; caging the mind tethers the imagination and tethering the imagination makes slaves of our dreams.

Respect: P


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