I was flattered to be invited to speak at Play Wales’s SPIRIT conference last week where I ended up talking about freedom, the here and now, and democratic space. To my mind the three ideas are inextricably connected to each other.
Part of my talk took what might be called an ‘in principle’ critical stance towards Play Streets (whilst at the same time, perhaps paradoxically, affirming that if one was started in my street, I would happily help out). My comments about Play Streets did not meet with universal acclaim.
I have discussed Play Streets in an earlier article, and will return to the subject shortly. For now, I do not pursue the issue in depth.
In this article I emphasis again, or more precisely bang the drum for, valuing the here and now of immediate experience. Since a drum is now involved, I mean of course the HERE AND NOW! an area on which, so far as I can see, public policy is locked into silence.
This piece is something of a mixed bag, being in part drawn from the SPIRIT talk, part from previous articles notably the one on democratic space, and part further embellishments on the key themes. Let’s hope it works.
I began the conference talk thus:
I’ve had quite a bit of difficulty determining what to say today. In part it’s because, increasingly, I feel myself engaged in a series of repetitions – for example, about risk, about nature and play, about the Yuk Stuff, rubber IAS, and about a (wished-for) democratic public realm - saying again what is already known.
But my difficulty also stems from what might be called the internal rationale of so many conferences. That is, they aspire to inspire – that word ‘inspire’ appears in the SPIRIT publicity – and so, for example, toolkits and ‘good practice’ are promoted, examples of exemplary projects pointed at. And of course this can be very useful. But I fear I will be pointing the other way, sharing with you some of my discomforts, irritations and concerns. I sometimes describe myself as a ‘dismalist’. This means that where you see a silver lining, I see a cloud. I am your conference wet blanket.