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14 June 2015

Playable City comes to Tokyo

The Playable City starts conversations around what we would like to see in the cities of the future. Clare Reddington, Creative Director Watershed, talks about taking the concept to Tokyo, the home of so many cinematic versions of the future.

I have never walked down a red carpet before. The popping of camera flashes and the cheering of the crowds are usually the preserve of films. But in Japan creative technologists are heroes too. In April, a little to our surprise, Sam Hill of PAN Studio and I suddenly found ourselves trotting down a red carpet, as part of the launch of Roppongi Art night.

We were in Tokyo with British Council – to develop and share projects around Playable City– a programme of work featuring an annual Playable Award, a biennial conference and a programme of global labs and commissions, set up by Watershed three years ago.

Playable City® seeks to put people and play at the heart of the Future City. It is a framework to think differently about the city, generating social dialogue and creating shared experiences through play. Visible, democratic, surprising, inclusive – it re-uses the city infrastructure to create connections – person to person and person to city. By transforming city spaces into places of unexpected interaction, the Playable City starts conversations around what we would like to see in the cities of the future.

British Council Japan were a partner in our first Playable City Sprint and the British Council’s Creative Economy team been hugely supportive throughout the journey – supporting business model development and commissioning us to deliver a significant programme of work in Recife, Brazil last year. It was therefore extremely exciting to be back in Japan, staging Hello Lamp Post (the 2014 Award Winner by PAN Studio) and developing plans for Playable City Tokyo to launch at the end of the year.

A city is not one thing - cities around the world have very different attitudes to working, travelling, living and playing. However, all over the world governments and tech companies ARE investing in smart systems for cities, using communication networks and sensors to join up services, collect data and make efficiencies. Playable City asks us to imagine how we might use these same technologies to make our cities more liveable, hopeful and collaborative. In order to fully explore the possibilities, it is vital we listen and share these questions with people across the world – and where more perfect to do that than in Tokyo? The home of so many cinematic visions of the future. A place where there is much to learn from as well as much to share.

Roppongi Art Night, an annual all-night art extravaganza that brings out crowds in their thousands, is a great reminder of the scale and ambition of projects in this city. This year Seiichi Saito, director of Rhizomatiks joined the project in the role of Media Art Director and his massive, glittering art trucks paraded the city all night, inviting conversation and exploring the possibilities of technology. Despite a crazy schedule, Seiichi joined Pan Studio and I on stage at a packed Playable City panel event, and also helped us stage our first Japanese workshop, where 40 local creatives took to the idea rapidly - generating their own original and engaging Playable City ideas.

The workshop, and the staging of Hello Lamp Post at Roppongi Art Night, were the first events in a series that will run over the summer and throughout the autumn, building dialogue between the UK and Japan around Playable City. Working closely with Rhizomatiks and British Council Japan, we are looking to to launch a Japanese Playable City Award programme that will develop up until 2020 – when Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games. I can’t wait to experience how Tokyo shapes and develops our notion of a Playable City and the exchange of ideas and projects that will follow. I hope there might be a few more red carpets too.

Clare Reddington 2015, @clarered

Urbanimals was announced last week as the 2015 Playable City Award winner. Follow their story here