Playful public artist Sayraphim Lothian, playwright Robert Reid and Freeplay Director, Paul Callaghan met in 2011 at a series of workshops hosted in Melbourne by Tassos Stephens, Co-Director of the UK based playful company, Coney.
A lot of other people who were interested in play were at these workshops and met each other too. Some of them feature in our story as we go along.
Lothian, Reid and Callaghan hosted some workshops of their own, investigating and experimenting with play. All kinds of people were invited to and came along to these workshops, held in the basement cellar of a pub in North Melbourne. Game designer and comedian Ben McKenzie was one of the first people invited to these workshops. Out of these unnecessarily clandestine meetings, Pop Up Playground emerged.
In September/October 2011 Pop Up Playground first presented a range of new games from international designers for two Saturday’s as part of the Freeplay Game.Play exhibition at the NGV Studios in Federation Square.
The following March, as part of the 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Pop Up Playground presented four nights of large scale conversational games based loosely on the traditional game of Mafia.
In June they presented This is a Door, a three day carnival of new games, at Theatre Works as part of their Selected Works program; in September they presented Spycatcher at the Melbourne Fringe Festival Club; and in November they presented The Curse at The Village Festival.
In 2013 Pop Up Playground remounted Spycatcher at the Bally on High and presented Fresh Air, an international festival of New Games and Constructive Play, in February at Federation Square. The same month they also premiered their immersive street game, The Curse, at the Queens Hall of the State Library, Swanston street and St Paul’s Cathedral as part of White Night 2013.
For mid year 2013, Pop Up Playground presented Focal Point at the State Library of Victoria as part of the Centenary of the Dome celebrations; The League of Extraordinary Nations at the Carlton Courthouse theatre; and Generations at The Owl and Pussy Cat Theatre.
At the end of 2013, Pop Up Playground hosted This is a Door 2013, a festival of New Games and Play, around St. Kilda and the City of Port Phillip, including remounting The Curse at Luna Park for Halloween and returning to Theatre Works to host another three day This is a Door playroom at the end of November.