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Play and Creativity Festival, University of Winchester 5.4.19

Posted in Events

Reflective artworks on display
Reflective artworks on display

Writing PAD East Midlands has been out on tour, with two visits to the rather beautiful University of Winchester campus in the space of a week…

After a stimulating day of Lego© Serious Play© and reunions with old friends at Learn-Engage-Play I was back in Winchester last Friday for the last day of their Festival of Play and Creativity.  This event, now in its third year, is the brainchild of Alison James and Tina Newman (pictured in the Festival marquee).

Alison James and Tina Newman
Alison James and Tina Newman

I was there to try out Mindful Lego© in a new environment (unfortunately rain prevented actual outdoor Lego© !).  It was interesting to hear the reflections of participants, who compared the look and feel of the white/clear Lego© to the more usual brightly-coloured bricks used in an earlier workshop.  Comments about the smaller, white Architectural Lego© pieces feeling “softer” and “flowing through the hands like water” contrasted with another view that the largely angular white pieces felt “harsher” than the colourful Lego©, which contains some more rounded pieces.

It was a little challenging to create a contemplative atmosphere within the lively environment of the marquee, with other activities happening around me, but I loved the idea that it was possible to ‘drop in’ to a number of different tables featuring origami, jewellery-making and much more without having to commit to a timetabled session.

Unpacking the Mindful Lego suitcase
Unpacking the Mindful Lego© suitcase
Origami table
Origami table
Jewellery making
Jewellery making

Alison shared her passion for fungi with the intriguingly-titled: ‘What mushrooms can teach you about university’.  After a mushroom-themed quiz, demonstrating my woeful lack of Mycology (that’s the study of fungi to you and I) knowledge, Alison shared some of her own discoveries and reflections sparked by the magical world of mushrooms and encouraged us to do the same.  Different types of fungi require different eco systems to thrive, and much of their growth is hidden away underground: educational analogy anyone?

We often don’t notice interesting fungi lurking in dark corners unless we actively look for them, even though they may be all around us: a nice link to active looking that tied in rather well to my next creative experience of the day…

What mushrooms teach me about university learning
What mushrooms can teach you about university

I took part in a study by Paul Sowden, who is looking at the link between walking and creative thinking processes.  After filling out a questionnaire plus a creative thinking exercise, I was sent out on a walk and asked to send in photos of anything that interested me en route.  That was no problem, the tricky part was that I was also asked to complete a ‘creative caption’ for each photograph I sent: that was a little more challenging.

I chose to walk through the beautiful churchyard next to the campus, and found that the exercise made me pay much more attention to my surroundings.  I also noted that my levels of wellbeing had increased, and I certainly felt more relaxed about the post-walk creative-thinking exercise, although I’ll leave the researchers to decide whether my creative thinking had been enhanced!  This exercise chimed with my growing interest in mindfulness, and will add a creative focus into some planned mindful walking activities.

Spotted on my creative walk
Spotted on my creative walk

To wrap up the day I was invited to join a collaborative activity involving staff and students, the aim being to build the ‘University of the future’ using only sustainable materials.  Tina facilitated this session, where we created structures using newspaper ‘rods’ held together with masking tape (another lovely idea that I plan to steal).  Once our structure was built, we added luggage labels highlighting key aspects of our ‘Future university’, using the institution’s strategic priorities as prompts.

Building the university of the future
Building the University of the future

This festival had a lovely, relaxed and collaborative feel: it was great to see students and staff working together on this creative endeavour.  I came back with lots of new ideas, reflections on my own practice, not to mention a few interesting facts about mushrooms!

For more about the Play & Creativity Festival, visit

Alison’s blog, featuring mushrooms, Lego and more can be found at

Have a lovely Easter break everyone, back soon,



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