So, you may have already seen that we’ll be running a series of game events in London this summer – and that we’re calling on YOU YES YOU to be involved: to play things, to make things, to help us improve, to invite other people to come along, to wave flags or plot or hide or run or draw or throw balloons from distant balconies.
The whole series of events will be particularly exploring the theme of games with audiences: games that are fun to play as well as to watch, games that beguile passers-by and turn them into participants. Each Sandpit will have a different approach to this underlying idea, but it’s a thread that will run throughout the year, culminating in a weekend-long festival.
On Friday 25 May, we’ll be at the Southbank Centre from 6:30-10:00. We’ll be playing games inspired by sports and game shows. New sports, competitive commentators, quizzes, challenges and more – sports and game shows do amazingly well already at being games that people like watching, and we’re eager to learn from them! Tell us you’re coming on the Facebook event here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in making a game – because the timing’s so tight on this one, we’d love to hear from you ASAP… for the May Sandpit we’ll need at least an initial contact by 12 noon on Friday 11 May.
On Monday 18 June we’ll be at the Southbank Centre from 6:30-10:00 again, and we’re particularly interested in exploring performance – games that inspire performance from players, or involve performers that players respond to or interact with. Get players to sing? Hide a choir under a table? A movement game where playing well looks like dancing? Something else entirely? You tell us – the deadline for this one is 1 June, but the sooner the better.
On Sunday 15 July we’ll be in Holland Park in the afternoon, as part of Kensington and Chelsea’s InTRANSIT festival. We’ll be playing games focused on movement and spectacle. A picnic game, a deckchair game, a guided tour with a twist, walking games, something where people run with huge swathes of fabric down the paths? We don’t know yet.
And in August we’ll be thinking about games for families (though of course you don’t have to be a family to come). How can adults and children play together? What sort of games work best for groups with impatient tiny people who don’t want to hang around for twenty minutes waiting for the scheduled start time? How can disparate groups of players, from lots of different ages, play the same thing?
Then from 14-16 September we’ll be back in the Southbank Centre, for the Hide&Seek Weekender, combining some of the best games to emerge from the Sandpits with exciting work from around the world.
And of course, there’ll be a few games that don’t fit any of these themes – a game that’s played around an educational lecture? A game played entirely in the dark, with night vision goggles for spectators? Only time will tell.
The Nitty-Gritty Details For Artists and Designers
So, if you want to play, that’s all pretty straightforward: turn up, find out what the games are, take part.
If you’re interested in making games, you probably need a bit more information. We had a discussion group on 2 May, with notes available here, and you can read on now for an outline of how it works, and what’s different from previous years…
How it works
If you haven’t made a game for a Sandpit before, here’s how it works:
We circulate details of the event – that’s this blog post, here. You read it, and have a think. Maybe you have a fully-formed design. Maybe you have an idea. Maybe you’re interested but don’t have an idea yet, and aren’t sure what a game idea even looks like. These are all fine! Email email@example.com and say you’re interested, and we can talk about what you’d like to do and work out whether it’s a good match for the Sandpit.
If it is, we’ll talk through the game with you as much as we need to, looking at how it works and poking and prodding at it until you’re sure it’s an idea you’re happy with, and we’re confident that it will work as a game. This could be anything from a five-minute phone call to a series of meetings where we all scribble on bits of paper and frown and say “but is it fun?” a lot. We’ll also talk about budget – the fees are small, but they exist, along with support for production costs.
Then we figure out what the needs of each game are – does it require a particular space? Some people to help run it? Furniture, sound, a chat with someone who understands biochemistry? – and sort out the logistics: where, when, with what stuff? There’s usually a mix of games that players can drop into whenever they like, and scheduled games that take place at a certain time (which often run more than once).
On the day, players come along and play drop-in games, and sign up to a few different scheduled games. We gather them at the appropriate time and hand them over to artists/designers (or facilitators, if the game’s being run by someone else). And then they’re in your hands.
And the end of the Sandpit doesn’t need to be the end of the game. One of the things we value about the Sandpit is that it can act as a development and testing ground for games that go on to all sorts of different things – games that were originally developed at the Sandpit have run at Soho Theatre, Latitude, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Come Out and Play, Igfest, You Are GO!, the V&A, BAC, Supersonic, local councils, festivals, for private clients and pretty much all sorts of places.
What’s different from before?
If you have made a Sandpit game before, here’s what we think is different, though this could change following the discussion group:
We want to make the events feel more approachable to newcomers – they have to stay fun and friendly and exciting and cluttered and colourful, but we want to make sure that people who just turn up – not really knowing what’s going on – have something to do and an easy way in, that nobody who’s interested ends up feeling like a stranger at a party. The focus on audience-friendly play is part of how we want to address this.
We want to work harder on helping more games to have a life after the Sandpit – whether that’s getting the rules online and picked up by other players, developing the game further at future Hide&Seek events, or working with other organisations and venues to run games that get a further life after the Sandpit.
Budgets will remain small – it’s still a development event – but there’s a bit more flexibility about how they’re structured, and how they meet the needs of an individual game. We’re interested in developing some games over more than one Sandpit, or working on some games that are explicitly intended for the Weekender and making sure they get played and expanded across the summer.
And finally – Sandpits have been growing over the last four years, but there’s only so many games we can fit into an evening, especially since we really want to let some games develop over more than one event. So where previously we’ve tried to fit every new game idea into a Sandpit, we don’t think we’re going to be able to do that this year. Of course we’re still going to try to have loads of different games from loads of different artists and makers, but we probably won’t be able to include everything, much as we’d like to.
We think these are the right changes to make, based on feedback from past years, the increasing numbers of games around London, and what we loved about other people’s festivals and events. We hope they sound okay to you too.
What to do
If you’re interested in running games at any of the currently scheduled Sandpits, please get in touch! With an idea, or just an impulse… because it’s almost the end of April, it’d be particularly great to hear about anything you’d be interested in running in May, but do get in touch about any other ideas as well! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re really excited about this years’ events and hope to hear from you soon, and to start playing.
Picture by Andrew Birley, of Rosie Fairchild’s “I Say”.