Monday, 31 July 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017 - Montreal QC

By Morgan

The good people of The Lion and The Mouse run a summer camp in public green space that runs behind their building. It’s filled with tall grass, with little paths curling through and train tracks behind a border fence. Margaret and Gabby led us through to the Maples, a grove of two trees where children were playing. One sat among the dandelions, while another calmly pressed band-aids to her knee. The rest were moving through the trees, talking to one another in French and English.

One of the trees is tall and slender, while the other has low splayed branches. They seemed ideal for climbing on, offering gradations of height and challenge in the cool shade. I sat for awhile watching the children reach for their next handholds, their movements smooth and capable. One held the branch above his head and slowly stretched both legs into the open air. It struck me how much confidence he must have had, in the tree and his own body, all those slowly reaching limbs swaying together in a gentle breeze. I had no sense of rush or difficulty, only the strangest feeling of trees and children taking pleasure in each other.

In this sweet little location, the Lion and the Mouse are delivering beautiful practice. What’s more, their work is deeply rooted in their community. Staff reach out and talk with everyone - musicians, local residents, friends and family members, passersby, characters on the street. We saw this at the screening of The Land, where our usual post-film Q&A became instead a rich and rambling conversation.

This team should feel proud of the work they’re doing, and the experiences they’re making possible for children. We want to help highlight their gorgeous project, and encourage them to share their stories and pictures! Inspired by adventure playgrounds and forest schools, their work will grow in its own unique direction, organically from the soil of Mile End.

Follow us on our Canadian adventure using our Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour 2017: An Awesome Start in Canada

By Morgan

Well, we’ve had an awesome start to the tour.

First, you marvelous individuals brought us over the line of our crowdfunding goal.  One person was a particular friend to Pop-Ups, and we’d like to thank Queenie for her incredible generosity.  Now we can sleep indoors and eat in cafes, instead of the car-camping, dumpster-diving trip we’d feared (mostly joking).

We’ve also completed our first tour stop of Halifax, Nova Scotia, which included two workshops and one pop-up adventure playground.  In Halifax Central Library and The Pavilion on Halifax South Common, we met local parks and recreation staff, parents, pediatricians and other play advocates, to talk about play, risk and adventure.  The pop-up had a fantastic turnout - we estimated 300 people - and people stayed for ages to construct cars from cable reels, capes from yellow silk and, of course, forts from cardboard boxes.

"By far the best event I have attended with a group in 25 years of early childhood education"

All of this is thanks to the tireless and extraordinary efforts of Alex Smith, aka Mr Playgroundology and now the founder of CanadaPlays. He worked with local organizations, promoted these events on blogs and even appeared on TV! Since 2010, he’s been sharing images of inspirational places to play, and we couldn’t be happier that his neighborhood was the first stop on our cross-country map.

Plus, he makes the most amazing scallops.

There was a moment in the risk workshop that has stayed with us in the days since.  We always try to include time for participants to play, but when we tell them to get up, a look of fear crosses many faces.  As soon as we utter the words "audience participation", we can see them think, "oh no". But after a few minutes they act as children do. Some take time to warm up, while others throw themselves in. There’s a rising buzz of activity as some hang swings from the rafters and develop complex games, while others gather handfuls of materials and find a quiet corner all their own.

When we all come back together they seem refreshed, laughing with their neighbors and swaggering back to their seats. They seem relaxed in their bodies and sprawl across the plastic chairs. Often, they’re holding hats made of bottle caps or mobiles held together with zip ties.

“This is for my daughter,” one might say.  Or “my husband will laugh to see this”. But we know who it’s really for, and that’s what makes it beautiful.

Seeing their joy, hearing Alex’s raucous laughter, watching the faces of children absolutely absorbed in their play - all this has fueled us, for the next stages of our own journey.

Next stop, Montreal! We will be hosting an informal screening of The Land and popping up too! If you're in the area - come join us!

More information about our Canadian Tour can be found here, and our press release here. Follow us on facebook and twitter too if you'd like more playfulness!