The End of the Beginning

All of a sudden we have reached the end of Play Sandbox.

Really, of course, it is just the end of the beginning. The six teams have each created a proof of concept for their product and we will be asking questions together over the next few weeks about where they go next; where should they show it, how might they fund the next stage, what is the right business model for what they have made and who else they should they now be working with?  We are creating films of the projects and of the process overall that we look forward to sharing soon. The Play Sandbox research team are also pulling together the evidence they have collected about our approach to R&D with children and we will be publishing their findings in the coming months. My instincts tell me that we have done something interesting, something that is greater than the sum of its extroadinary parts which we and others might learn from. This is a stage of our work that is full of excitement and promise.

But it is also a bit sad. It is a moment of fragmentation; when the messy, chaotic, shared experience of learning and making fast together stops and people set off in different directions. As May (of Teleportation Tent, now Luminous Laboratory) said to me recently, it is a process that is 'pleasurably, painfully intellectual' and I miss it already. This Sandbox has been unique for its inclusion of Young Coaches, a change that has brought with it producing challenges to do with relationships, logistics, language, ethics and catering (seriously, catering is a biggy). Most importantly however, it has infused our ideas, workshops and conversations with a duty of care that has occasionally limited us but much, much more often has propelled us forward to greater more ambitious things.

It has been hugely important that our enagagement with the Young Coaches is meaningful and rich despite the short timescale and experimental approach and the whole cohort has risen to that challenge beautifully. Today I am posting thank you cards to them, each with new top trump skills chosen by the teams that recognnise their unique contributions.

We celebrated the end of Play Sandbox on a recent Saturday afternoon with a work in progress show for the friends of REACT. It was a brilliant party that gave people the chance to meet the teams and play with the early prototypes. The Pervasive Media Studio was taken over by the projects; with a swing in the event space, a teepee in the meeting room and games in our reception. It was fantastic to welcome a family audience to the Studio and an opportunity for the teams to test their work with a new but gentle audience.

As you can see from the photos, the Play Sandbox projects are an incredible set of products in the making that I hope the teams are very, very proud of. Each of them has a playful appeal and a depth of meaning that makes them hugely compelling. They are a credit to the willingness of their creators to step beyond their comfort zone, take risks and work openly. Taken together I think they prove the potential of digital technology to create subtle, social, healthy and imaginative experiences for our children.