The Northwest’s programme for the Cultural Olympiad supports the London 2012 core values of Welcoming the World, Inspiring Young People and Generating a Legacy and is being shaped by a curatorial focus on one central vision and message – WE PLAY.

The term WE PLAY implies community, competition, participation, creativity, debate, connections and involvement.  WE PLAY to connect, collaborate and celebrate and ultimately to learn and to innovate. Play is an activity common to the fields of culture, sport and education and tourism and business sectors. Play drives innovation culture across many fields. It is also inclusive and accessible to people from all walks of life.  There are many types of play. For example attunement play, body play and movement, object play, social play, imaginative and pretend play, storytelling and narrative play, transformative and integrative play. Through play we can all progress.

The truly great advances of this generation will be made by those who can make outrageous connections. And only a mind which knows how to play can do that” Nagle Jackson

The theme of play is being explored through three programme strands:

Northwest Programme Strands

Body and Economy – This NW programme strand seeks to ignite debate, research and new collaborations around  physical, social and technological concepts of the human body in the  global economy of the 21st century through a focus on leading edge research cultures  of film/new media, health/science and disability.  With human enhancement of the body being one of the big themes of the 21st century, what do we mean by fair play, respect and excellence?

Play and Space – This NW programme strand seeks to develop and consolidate the region’s growing reputation as a centre for excellence in outdoor performance, events and street arts through animating social and public spaces across the region. Given the increasing role that art and creativity plays in regeneration, community development and social inclusion, what do we mean by taking part?

Routes and Trails – This NW programme strand  seeks to link young people to the region’s heritage, landscape and cultural attractions through making links between culture and sport/physical activity and contemporary/historical cultures. In a society increasingly in movement and motion, what and where is our place on the map?

Creative Programmer Role

My role as the NW Creative Programmer is to develop, shape and curate a series of  local and regional events and projects for the Cultural Olympiad programme in the Northwest.  This work involves developing, identifying and recommending regional projects for the London2012  Inspire Programme which is UK wide and spans a range of sectors including culture and the development, direction and commissioning of major programmes of work for WE PLAY – the Northwest’s unique contribution to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and legacy programme.

Northwest Legacy Programme

Legacy Trust UK investment of £3.02 million in the Northwest gave us the opportunity to develop the regional legacy programme for the 2012 games  focussed on generating a legacy of structural development ie new programmes and partnerships going forward post 2012.

Titled, WE PLAY, this four year stategic project consists of three major programmes – one for each of the Northwest programme strands – led by new regional partnerships inspired by 2012.

The programmes are Abandon Normal Devices (Body and Economy strand), Lakes Alive (Play and Space strand) and Blaze (Routes and Trails strand). These programmes and their various projects and events form part of the Cultural Olympaid through the Inspire programme. For more information see page – WE PLAY and also WE PLAY PR video link in posts)

North West Inspire programme

The London 2012 Inspire programme  enables a wider range of local and  regional projects inspired by 2012 to be associated with 2012 and presented as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Projects are curated on an ongoing basis, with the regional themes providing a focus for decision making and programme coherence.   See  Inspire Programme.


Building towards 2012, our programme will culminate in a region wide  global celebration of play  which will enable NW citizens and visitors to the Northwest to enjoy and engage in an olympic experience that is trans-generational, trans-cultural and trans-regional.

This 2012 year celebration and programme is envisaged as a framework for  extending cultural participation in 2012 through a campaign inviting people to commit to play for 2012 and a region wide platform for promoting and showcasing a wide range of 2012 inspired culture events that the public can take part in and  special commissions and highlights from the WE PLAY legacy Programmes.

Background to Northwest vision and theme – Why WE PLAY?

The development of this creative concept is rooted in the belief that play is the next big global revolution, so it is a concept that goes way beyond cultural programming to be part of contributing to a shift in new (global) consciousness around the potential of human life and future for humanity. The two words WE PLAY are a statement – about a new way of living and being for the world – and the annual legacy programmes and others in development are the conveyers of this message in concrete, practical and manifest ways.The NW pioneered the industrial revolution globally and the play revolution is the next big thing that will change the world. What better platform is there than the Olympics to launch a new revolution from the Northwest?

Some key things about play.

Play is a fundamental component of human nature which allowed humans to develop as social and corporate beings.

We play to advance the culture of play for the benefit of all humanity

Play is an unrealized power that can transform our social and economic lives

Our success as an innovation culture rests on recognizing the importance of play

Play is an everyday public action

Play unites the three pillars of olympism which are culture, education and sport

The Olympics straddles the corporate and the community and so does play

Only a mind that knows how to play can make outrageous connections and it is only though new connections that society advances

Does your body and your mind know how to play?

Play is the way to personal health and wellbeing, social harmony and economic progress.

Play is accessible to every body on the planet – no spectator’s only participants

Play is found in creative, physical and social activity, in all forms of learning, experimentation and debate

The games is a lived shared experience and celebration of our humanity – the rewards of play

Vision of the National Institute for Play in California

We envision a near term future where all existing scientific research related to human play — currently scattered across a range of scientific disciplines and only partially identified as human-play-related — is integrated and the field of Human Play is a credentialed discipline in the scientific community. We envision a longer term future in which the science of Human play enables individuals, parents, teachers, leaders, and organizations to harness the power of play to create transformational differences in their individual, family, school and organizational lives. A future in which school systems have used the knowledge of play to topple the current morass in K-12 education and a future in which public and private sector leaders have used play practices to reform organizational policies and create organizations capable of producing innovative products and services. The National Institute for Play believes that as play is woven into the fabric of social practices, we will dramatically transform our personal health <> , our relationships <> , the education <>  we provide our children and the capacity of our corporations to innovate <> .

Play and Health

Play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these play by-products are indices of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility. A life or a culture devoid of or deficient in play exists as a heightened major public health risk factor. The prevalence of depression, stress related diseases, interpersonal violence, the addictions, and other health and well being problems can be linked, like a deficiency disease, to the prolonged deprivation of play.

Play and relationships

Play refreshes a long-term adult-adult relationship; some of the hallmarks of its refreshing, oxygenating action are: humor, the enjoyment of novelty, the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies, the enjoyment of mutual storytelling, the capacity to openly divulge imagination and fantasies, These playful communications and interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy.

Play and education

Play is a catalyst for learning at any age. The science of play is validating what gifted educators such as Alice Meckler, Ph.D., Vivian Paley, Sharma Lowman and Kathy Hirsch-Passé have long been practicing and advocating. When students have fun at learning, they continue to pursue it for its own sake. It is how nature assured us how to learn about the world and our places in it. At any age, play acts to retain and enhance meaningful context, and optimizes the learning process. All gifted parents, master teachers, and wise executives know this. There is general consensus that education is in trouble, that skills and drills – no child left behind, diminished recess, art and music curricular designs leave students and teachers unsatisfied and not having much fun. Long-term studies under way indicate that play-based learning with playful teachers heightens overall long term performance.

Play and Corporate innovation

Corporate attitudes about play-on-the-job vary immensely. But, the knowledge and ethic to support play-based practices that create innovative, problem solving work teams are virtually non-existent in organizations today. Executives running organizations do not have the information to understand the true nature of play. Even those who have a natural appreciation and temperament for the benefits of play see play and work as separate. Some believe that play is the opposite of work. Yet science already provides data to show that playful ways of work lead to more creative, adaptable workers and teams

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