CounterPlay ‘17 is over, it’s been several days, and I’m only slowly catching my breath. It was a wild and crazy ride, and all the impressions still need more time to settle. We considered this to be the most ambitious festival yet, and we expected it to be playful and chaotic, but we honestly had no idea how it would be received. I mean, how could we? It’s all so dependant on the community and the willingness to participate. We insist that we must organise the festival in ways that mirrors the openness of play, which inevitably also leads to unpredictable results, or what Gwen Gordon so brilliantly labelled “magnificent mayhem” (a new tagline, maybe?):

In the situation above, I honestly didn’t have a clue what was going on, but it was glorious. I loved it and it captured so much of what we could ever hope to achieve.

At this point, the community clearly felt like a safe space, where everyone could participate and contribute, where all kinds of thoughts, ideas and experiments would be welcomed and elaborated upon, where the silly had been completely intertwined with the serious, the personal, the deeply emotional. It was hilarious, sure, but it was much more than that, and it seemed to resonate profoundly.

I experienced many more of these situations, and I believe that we have shown how play and a playful mindset enables new ways of being and living together. When a group of people join each other in a playful atmosphere, the realm of the possible expands drastically. More things can happen, simply because people are more open, say yes to more, unleash their imagination, show a greater sense of empathy, are more courageous and willing to take risks – or in other words: people play along.

Throughout all this, it felt like more people than ever were eager to contribute to the continued expansion of the global play community. This is truly encouraging and heartwarming, as the purpose of CounterPlay has always been closely tied to the community. There was this one person, who said that she was deeply moved by realizing that we have agency and power to change the world simply by fighting for play together. This beautifully captures the essence of our ambitions, and perhaps the strongest sentiment I carry with me after the festival: the change we can cause together is significant:

Seeing the play community as a whole is relevant, as it transcends the limitations of any one person or organization, who can only do so much to improve the conditions for play to thrive in society. As a global community, on the other hand, we have the potential and power to utterly transform the role of play in the world.

My dizzy head is spinning with ideas, so many experiments I’d like to make, and adventures I want to embark upon with this community. It will take some time to fully crystallize, but a few things stand out already. They’re all revolving around the general suggestion that we need more activities throughout the year.

  • Local meetups & interventions – someone mentioned a sort of CounterPlayX (inspired by TEDx), where local “charters” build on what we have learned from the festival (I personally love the idea about CounterPlay as some sort of travelling circus).
  • Podcast – as a way to capture and share some longer conversations with people in the play community.
  • Online play forum – as a space for ongoing conversations about play in the community.
  • Publications – after making “The Power of Play – Voices from the Play Community”, I’d love to create more publications of all kinds.

It’s important to stress that these things can obviously only happen, if some of you are keen to play along (and most of it also requires us to secure additional funding).

For now, consider what you would like to do to create more opportunities for yourself and others to live a more playful life. If you have ideas, let me know in the comments.

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Mathias Poulsen

I think a playful mindset is essential for us to live better lives together. I organise the CounterPlay Festival to cultivate a #playfulsociety.

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