Playing with Movement: From Democratic Desire to Communicating for Change

Playing with Movement. Image by Owen Turner, United By Design.

30th October, 4-5pm

As part of York Design Week, we collaborated with Owen Turner of United by Design to develop a playful workshop seeking to expand the repertoires through which we can think about, talk about and imagine the future of movement in York.

The blurb for the event stated:

York’s conversation about transport is stuck. There is a danger we circle back time and time again to the same debate that is always in danger of becoming reduced to cars v bikes. New thinking is needed – and we need your help.

In this fast paced and playful workshop we’ll generate a creative archive of ideas, images and feelings from people of all ages that can be drawn on in future public engagement processes in order to change the dynamics of transport conversation.

We’ll work with what is shared – that people who live in York want movement around the city to be quick, feel like freedom, to be safe, to be easy and convenient and to give us a feeling of being in control. Expanding these ideas we’ll use colour, drawing, emojis, photographs and objects collating them as we go along into a public online archive.

We opened up the discussions by asking: What makes good movement? In three words.

A variety of responses where shared from with a group of people who wanted movement to be ‘easy’, ‘nippy’ and ‘efficient’ and crucially appropriate the journey. And others who were interested in ‘calm’, wanted to be able to make ‘spontaneous’ choices or event be ‘slow’ and ‘inefficient’. The ideas of ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’ recurred, which had also figured in discussions in My Castle Gateway and My York Central.

A word cloud of responses to the question: What makes good movement? In three words.

Reimagine Ideas

We then went on to reimagine five very common ideas about movement. Spending five minutes on each and moving on quickly but with the aim of gather everything together so we can see what we’ve all contributed at the end.

You can browse the archive ideas we produced here.

Idea 1: Quick and Slow

We asked: What colour is quick? What colour is slow?

What colours are quick?
What colours are slow?

Ideas 2: Free

We asked: In one line, describe a time you felt free…

Summer – always summer – walking in France or even just the fields around York

On Eday (island), Orkney, with limited options to get off!

Letting go of everyday cares because there’s nothing you can do about them. 

Walking in open countryside

Walking in the middle of the North York Moors – no extraneous noise, no light pollution

Laying on my back in an upland French field beneath the blue sky

Camping on the commons, owning the space

Surfing in the North Sea
Snowboarding and looking out to snow capped mountains, blue sky, fresh cold air
Running through the city or countryside (exploring)

Descending an Alp, crossing countries by bike, under pedal power alone

Wild swimming in France

Idea 3: Safe

We asked: Draw how being safe feels.

How being safe feels…

Idea 4: Easy / Convenient

We asked: Pick an emoji that represents ‘easy’ or ‘convenient’

Idea 5: In control

We asked: Find an object that makes you feel in control.

An object that makes you feel in control.

Final Reflections

While the aim of the workshop was to rapidly expand our ways of making sense of movement rather than synthesis or drawing things together neatly, we ended the workshop by asking… 

  • If there was anything that surprises you?
  • If you think there is anything here that will be useful for developing the conversation about movement in York?

Part of what was important about the workshop was using the occasion of York Design Week to try something new in terms of workshop format. In particular to collaborate with Owen Turner to explore practically how to reimagine the conversation about transport in terms of the York Design Week themes of ‘play’ and ‘make space’.

A couple of weeks on from the workshop we reflected on what we’d taken away from the experience.

Helen Graham:

Talking about transport in York usually happens in very particular and often polarising ways. What worked was very rapidly expanding and extending what movement is to include colours, feelings, images and memories. The power lay in approaching something you think is very familiar from many different directions and through different people’s eyes and finding it might not be the same thing at all. What I’d be keen to do next is think how this method might work with different people and linked directly to our ongoing work in My Castle Gateway and My York Central. Big thanks to Owen for the inspiration, prompts and creative energy.

Phil Bixby:

I get around a lot by walking, and also riding a bike – which I do for pleasure as well as utility. I love buses and (used to) use them often, and I also drive when I need to – I’m a double-car-user as I own a car but am also member of a car club. So when people start arguing about conflict between modes of travel, I’m riding a lot of horses at the same time. We need to draw the discussion back to a more wide-angle view of what we want in our cities and how those cities enable us to have these things – interaction, health, activity, utility, joy. We won’t get there by arguing over detail of any one mode of transport – including the downsides of cars. Can we look more at the qualities of experience, at the words we use to build narrative? Can we do this in a way which is loose, and fun, and accepts it’s part of a long-term conversation? Nice work Owen, in nudging us (and all the participants too, probably) out of our comfort zone.

Owen Turner:

Having the opportunity of working on new things is always really exciting. Working with incredibly experienced and wise people also is really satisfying. Being able to collaborate on an area of work that is open to change and new ways of working to develop new outputs from familiar starting points to give insightful perspectives and views from a range of individuals. Working with Helen and Phil on the workshop was a wonderful experience around a topic that we can all feed into and have an impact on – making it as accessible as possible. Thinking differently, using playfulness, creativity and strategy to a workshop scenario was so very satisfying!