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Cambridge City Council

13 play days, 4,500 players and 450 Playlaws suggested - but still time to suggest a Cambridge Playlaw

22 August 2023

OVER 13 days in June and July the Cambridge Playlaws team played with 4,500 people at the Playbox – a 20-foot shipping container full of fun which appeared in different Cambridge locations over five weekends – where people also shared stories of childhood play and created 450 suggested Playlaws.

There is still time to get involved in the project to co-create the Cambridge Playlaws, which will be displayed outdoors as plaques to prompt people to be playful as they go about their daily lives. Just visit the Playlaws website to share a memory of childhood play or to suggest a Playlaw before the deadline of 31 August.

The Cambridge Playlaws is a Cambridge City Council public art commission, with Cambridge Junction, social enterprise Playful Anywhere, and artist Pippa Hale, to create a set of Playlaws for Cambridge. From all of the Playlaws suggested at the Playbox events, at local junior school workshops, and via the project website, a final set of 10.6 Playlaws will be chosen to be publicly displayed. 

Cllr Mairéad Healy, Executive Councillor for Communities, said: “Opportunities to play out in public spaces have decreased dramatically around the country in the last 50 years. Now, outdoor play is often confined to dedicated playgrounds and multi-use games areas. The Cambridge Playlaws project encourages us to revisit or to find new ways to play. The Playbox sessions showed that people responded overwhelmingly positively to the invitation to play freely in their public spaces and that there is a real demand for this kind of play.”

Child with a giant bubble
Child jumping a rope
Child building a tower

Artist Pippa Hale said: “We’ve been amazed at how many people braved all weathers to come and play – from searing 32 degrees to torrential downpours! We had crafting, den building, giant bubbles, marble runs, lots of laughing, reminiscing about childhood play, and lots of ideas for Playlaws to help public spaces be more playful. The idea of the final Playlaws will be to help keep a playful spirit alive in Cambridge’s public places, and we want to hear as many ideas as possible for what would make a good Playlaw. Let us know via the website before the end of August.”

Emma Bearman, Director at social enterprise Playful Anywhere, said: “We met people of all ages, from Cambridge and from all across the world, people who live here and people who were just visiting – all coming together for open-ended play for hours at a time. Some people came back multiple times, and often helped us to pack away the Playbox at the end of the day. As part of the project we want to create a team of volunteer Play Agents to help inspire and facilitate opportunities for play in Cambridge in the future. Get in touch with us if you’re keen to encourage play and want to find out more.”

Hilary Cox Condron, a Cambridge-based artist who has been collaborating on the Playlaws project, said: “It's been wonderful to see so much creativity and imagination bubbling up, as connections were made, confidence grew and discussions for future plans and collaborations started to emerge. And listening to so many childhood stories of playing out has been a real reminder of how much we cherish the places we live – and that we all enjoy and deserve space for playfulness and creativity, whatever age we are! We’re keen to collect many more memories of how people played out as children, no matter where you grew up – please add your memories of play to the Playlaws website, or send them in the post.”

Everyone is welcome to share memories of play. Write to Cambridge Playlaws, c/o Cambridge Junction, Clifton Way, Cambridge, CB1 7GX; or email, or get in touch on social media (search for @cambridgeplaylaws on Facebook or Instagram, or @theplaylaws on Twitter).

The funding for Playlaws comes from a Section 106 developer agreement, and can only be spent on a public art project within a one-kilometre circular zone around Warren Close, in Petersfield ward. Once created, the Playlaws will be displayed as plaques in public places within the Warren Close circular zone.