THE LAND - Sometimes unkind, often daft and almost always muddy

As part of Wales Lab four artists adventure into the wilds of North Wales for five days. We were exploring fear and courage in a risk adverse society and the importance of taking risks as a young person. This is an extract from our adventures.  

The Land

“Sometimes unkind, often daft and almost always muddy” Polly Morland, Risk Wise

‘The Land’ is a playground in North Wales, set up by Claire Griffiths. The kids at ‘The Land’ are creators of their play space, they decide what goes up and what comes down. The space organically ebbs and flows to the beat of their drum. Because of this ‘The Land’ feels alive, dynamic and full of potential and possibility.

We walked through the gates and the first thing we encounter is a young boy striding past, pick axe in hand. There is a huge fire blazing at the back of the playground, tended by a play-worker and young 9 year old girl. The place looks like a shanty town crossed with a skip. The kids acknowledge our existence but really aren’t that interested in us. They are far more interested in building dens, running up, over and through the maze of pallets and we don’t blame them, it looks like a lot of fun.

 

There are normally no more than 3 play workers on duty at anyone time. They occur more like grounds keepers than land owners. They let the kids work out things for themselves and only ever step in if it looks like things are hazardous. They aren’t there to tell the kids off or tell them what to do. They remove hazardous nails and might help make a structure more secure. The rest is down to the kids. The four of us find this mind-blowing and very exciting! As a kid summersaults of a pile of tires , and one runs past with a hammer its hard to get one’s head around. ‘The Land’ has a raw, energised, untamed feel about it. The kids that are playing appear confident, loud and are having a blast. This is very much their kingdom.

Since appearing in the Guardian article Claire has had what she described as ‘tourists’ visiting the playground. Parents bringing their children to ‘The Land’ because they want their child to experience risk. ‘The Land’ isn’t a theme park. This is a play scheme that these kids have grown up with. What happens when a child new to this type of play encounters this environment? What examples of play, adventure and exploration of risk taking can we take in to theatrical/immersive experience to families totally new to this type of environment.

One 4 year old boy stands on the top of a concrete tube (you know the kind, the ones banned from playgrounds years ago for being to dangerous). He is about a meter off the ground. He’s looking down nervously at a mattress. His mum stands at the end of mattress not saying anything just watching. You can see by the look on his face that the drop for him looks like 100’s of meters. He asks ‘shall I’ to which his mum replies ‘it’s up to you’. He looks back down at the mattress. After a few more thoughtful moments he leaps off. His face lights up with a huge smile and he runs around to climb straight back up to jump again.

 

The four of us were overwhelmed and excited by this place and our short time here. Its full of potential, possibility, story and adventure. The idea of creating a world with pallets, tires, tubes, rope and mud that can be manipulated by cast and audience is a very exciting possibility. The potential is there to have an interactive installation that grows over a week as kids play, build, create. How can a narrative be woven in to this? How do we capture what excites us about being here? The materials, the mud, the quickness and ease that dens are built up and destroyed, the freedom and physical confidence the kids exhibit in their play, the absence of ‘gown ups’! We defiantly have more questions than answers which is very exciting.

Read the rest here...https://almostalwaysmuddy.wordpress.com/what-next/

with Kirsty Harris, Catrin Clarke, Gwen Scott.

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