Thoughts on play: a blog reflecting on the Connected Communities funded Games for All day at Unity Hubb, Ward End, Birmingham

What games did you play when you were growing up? Hop-scotch? Marbles? Skipping? Operation? Monopoly? Scrabble? Draughts? Mandala? Do you know how to play cat’s cradle? Can you remember any rhyming clapping games? Can you make a paper fortune teller or chatterbox? (If not have a go

Hodeghill Blog Pic

These were some of many activities on offer at Unity Hubb’s Games for All day on June 14th 2015 in Ward End. Family groups attended with children and grandparents, the road was closed off and a giant skipping game took place in the middle of a street usually busy with traffic. Neighbours brought chairs outside and sat watching. Some joined in. Older ladies from Pakistani backgrounds started to reminisce about their childhood whilst making rag dolls out of fabric scraps. They played marbles for the first time in decades. There were craft activities, someone did henna hand patterns and there were modern games like Playstation too. Participants were mostly of Pakistani heritage but there were Afro-Caribbean families, some white English and one Irish family.

Everyone knows (or has known) how to play. You don’t need expensive games or equipment. In one area, some everyday items had been set out on a grassy area for children to play with such as tyres and wooden pieces for building and creating spaces.

We had more than 250 people attend from Pakistani, English, Afro-Caribbean and Irish backgrounds. The staff at the centre and playworkers were from a range of backgrounds and this helped to promote a sense of unity and cohesion. Members of the local community brought out chairs and joined in with activities or watched.

For the week before and during the festival week, the suitcase for artefacts was displayed and visitors were asked to bring in items for display which signified an important aspect of their lives. People brought in old comics, old board games, marbles, a record, bangles, sequins, a tapestry and plaque. (Rashta Butt, Centre Manager, Unity Hubb)

In a community where it tends to be difficult to promote participation in intercultural and intergenerational projects, this free public event was ground-breaking and began a process of reminiscences and stimulated discussions around leisure and cultural changes, migration stories. And, ultimately and perhaps most importantly, people had fun! Sometimes when we are busy considering the complex meaning and construction of notions of well-being we forget that fun and laughter is absolutely essential and deeply life enhancing. And it breaks down barriers too…