In Melbourne, On Travel

Coney’s been playing in Melbourne recently. I’d visited in January to speak at Transmedia Victoria, a conference organised by Christy Dena. The reception from various people and organisations to that presentation and the adventure-making workshop also ran, and the general feeling I had being in this place encouraged me to think about returning, not just to pick up conversations with the likes of the State Library Victoria – with whom we are now brilliantly co-developing an adventure-in-learning aimed at disadvantaged schools all over Victoria – but also to leap into a line of investigation about how Coney and its work might travel.

 

If a piece is responsive, shouldn’t it remake itself in every place in which it finds itself? This is certainly true for The Loveliness Principle, which pervades a.n.other event or place and which necessarily has to be rebuilt to fit, but processes might be discovered (or a wheel reinvented) to apply to other pieces like A Small Town Anywhere. And Coney itself actively recruits anyone who is game but especially artists, makers and players to join its Secret Society (or secret-ish, given that I just let it slip here;) making play, so how would it work to seed a chapter here that might – if we were lucky – identify a few people who could later become part of teams helping remake stuff to happen over there. Given that teams on our projects often work online when not in the same time and same place, could we set things up to later facilitate remotely? If that means fewer people travelling, that’s more sustainable. But what then is the relationship between what remote teams make and the originally co-authored version and its team, indeed what does that co-authored material look like to make responsive remaking most possible?

 

All of this has bubbled into research and development over here now superbly supported by The Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

But in the meantime to Melbourne. The British Council generously supported my travel. And so posted to a very few people in advance with a request to circulate was this fictional classified advert

 

Which even made it into an online magazine (although understandably given Coney’s somewhat elusive profile, they didn’t get everything right about is)

 

The programme was a repeated series of workshops that did what it said on the tin, training anyone game in the ways of being a playful secret agent, some indoors being theory through gameplay, and some out on the streets of central Melbourne putting it into practice. Amazingly, everything having been wrangled by email from 10,500 miles distance, there were more offers of space than needed from very many generous places; sessions ended up being hosted by Arts House, the State Library Victoria, Headquarters,, and the Uniting Church in Australia. Even more amazingly, 53 people from quite diverse backgrounds took part over the week, and blew my expectations and any pretence at expertise out the water with their enthusiasm and brilliance. Some personal highlights include the tournament game of Lemon Jousting (two wooden spoons, a lemon on one of them, don’t lose your lemon), the proliferating quality of lovely things reverse pickpocketed whether on the streets or in the room (or in my bag, every single session ;), and a leafy display by an anonymous agent that another agent photographed on the streets.

 

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And resulting in a thriving chapter of the Secret Society. For my final weekend as a farewell, I helped organise a Playday – an open space to play and make through play that Coney runs in the UK as a gathering of the Society – mirroring another happening in London later that day. And this has now kicked off as a locally-organised event for the first weekend of every month (mail melbourne@coneyhq.org if you’re over there and interested), one happening yesterday with a few contributions delivered from us in London. All this reflecting how things may generally develop for the Society everywhere.

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But in this cornucopia… quite a few opportunities to remake The Loveliness Principle out there in various settings (including a ferry) and a plethora of agents interested in helping remake it, a truly lovely new piece A Moment In Yarn (made by Sayraphim Lothian representing Coney here) inspired by the principle of loveliness, some excellent interviews with diverse locals about their experiences of community conducted by Maia Tarrell which are helping illuminate how Small Town may develop, a cheekily but brilliantly created Small Town Game run by Harry Lee in a suburban house, endless conversations about interesting stuff with interesting people. And teams across two hemispheres for Coney and the State Library Victoria now developing our adventure-in-learning based on this beauteous book. Plenty learning to digest for the ongoing travelling question. A great four weeks in a lovely city.

[Coney here represented by Tassos Stevens]

 

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