The Social Playground was a giant interactive landscape we designed as part of Knowledge Lives Everywhere. A fully co-authored exhibition at Liverpool’s FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), it featured projects, installations and photography created by communities working with artists.
Since 2003, FACT has collaborated with a diverse range of people, from social housing tenants and youth groups to schools and hospital patients, engaging them in art and creative technology through pioneering programmes. Knowledge Lives Everywhere placed this work at the heart of FACT’s building to celebrate and showcase the breadth and scale of the organisation’s often-unseen world.
We designed and built the Social Playground in collaboration with local community groups. Through a series of workshops, they identified the main issues and interests that they were exploring collectively and responded to our challenge of designing a structure that related to these issues.
The final overarching concept was based around egg rolling, a traditional British game where families decorate hard boiled eggs and roll them down local hills and slopes at Easter. In the Social Playground, visitors could race wooden eggs down and around seven unique structures, each one of which had been uniquely designed to represent and display work by the various groups from FACT’s Collaboration Programme.
The resulting structures offered a fun, engaging and powerful overview of the stimulating and enlightening work FACT supports and generates in the local community. They included: an immersive wildlife soundscape designed to improve mental wellbeing; a new community meeting space/‘lounge’ created using the familiar interiors of a beloved former pub; a graffiti-billboard illustrated with young people’s creative visions for the future of their city; and a ‘Communi-Tree’ with branches displaying eco-products designed by students from a local Academy.
“Galleries and museums are not just about objects; they are about the people who use them: students, children, researchers, schools, older people, families. This exhibition is about giving a platform to our schools, young people and community programmes and demonstrating the role of the 21st-century arts centre in community cohesion, civic engagement, well-being and lifelong learning. Visitors to the galleries should expect to experience a social playground – where the emphasis is on open invitation, not private view!”
Mike Stubbs, Former Director/CEO of FACT
“Thank you so much for all your hard work throughout this whole process – I think I speak for the entire team when I say we’ve found the whole process really fantastic and we’re all really pleased with the outcome, and the feedback from all of the groups has been great also. We’ve had brilliant figures so we’re on course to be one of FACT’s busiest exhibitions.”
Patrick Fox, Former Programme Manager at FACT
“Aberrant delivered a number of workshops with both staff and participants to extract the ideas and concepts that form our Collaborations and Engagement Programme. They worked across a range of ages and interests and successfully delivered excellent workshops that engaged all parties in both lively discussion and creative activity, inviting them to make their own designs. The outcome of the consultation and the resulting exhibition was very successful and captured many of the issues that had come forward from the participants and staff. We found them very flexible to work with and they were very open to our ideas and input.”
Kathryn Dempsey, Head of Collaboration Programme at FACT
FACT, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology