Did you know that there are massive public pillow fights, soap bubble battles and giant games of capture the flag taking place in cities and towns across North America? Ever wondered just who is behind all this brilliant madness? Chances are, the answer is Newmindspace.
Newmindspace is Kevin Bracken and Lori Kufner, two fun-loving artists and public space advocates. Together, they have organized more than 85 free, outdoor events in Toronto, New York City, Vancouver, San Francisco and Montreal. Their events gather hundreds and sometimes thousands of grown men and women and give them a chance to play like little kids.
This month, the AGB caught up with Kevin to get his two cents on how to pack more play into our daily lives.
All Good Blog: You and Lori have been hosting events since 2005, can you talk about how you two came up with Newmindspace?
Kevin Bracken: Lori and I were students together at the University of Toronto. We came up with this idea to write messages for strangers and leave them around campus for people to find.
We decided to do the messages on a bigger scale, so we organized a massive Easter Egg hunt on the street. We had plastic eggs filled with messages, like fortune cookies. Lots of people came and took pictures of the hunt and they’d ask when our next event would be. We hadn’t planned on throwing events, but clearly there was a hunger and a need for play on a large scale.
Our next event was Capture the Flag. That was a favourite game from childhood, so it seemed like a natural next step. Also, the bubble battles. Bubbles are just such a universal thing that all people take to. If you start blowing bubbles in a big city, you’ll be able to hear the word for “bubbles” in so many different languages.
But our most successful event by far has been the pillow fight. Pillow fights were always a favourite slumber party activity, so again, it seemed like a fun thing to do on a large scale. And that’s how we came up with International Pillow Fight Day, which takes every year on the first Sunday in April.
AGB: Why is play important?
KB: There is no one reason why play is important. For us though, it’s all about living a life of joy. People come to our events and it’s unadulterated fun. We don’t try to push any specific agenda.
AGB: Tell us about the urban playground movement.
KB: Around 2006 we started getting emails. People were organizing things like freeze tag and games that made use of smartphones — there was all kinds of interesting stuff happening. People would email asking us when we were coming to Dublin. And then other people would email something like, “Oh hey I’m doing a zombie crawl in Dublin. So we’d connect them.
We created a private mailing list for all the people throwing events so they would have a network to reach out to. The “Urban Playground Movement” is an expression we coined. It refers to all the people organizing and taking part in these events that make use of the public space in your city.
AGB: How does play create community?
KB: Play ties into our feelings about public space. So much socializing in North America takes place in private spaces: movies, bars; we’re separated by class and taste. But in Europe and Asia, there’s a lot more socializing in public; more people have to interact with the public.
Public space movement has really embraced play. It just breaks down barriers and improves public spaces and the quality of a city. We’re breaking free of the insular way of life in North America.
AGB: What advice would you give someone wanting more fun in their life?
KB: Every city has a community you can tap into. It’s just a matter of finding the right mailing list. Email is still the best way to find out about events. The way to start is just jump down the rabbit hole. The Pillow Fight Day site is a good start.
Keep an eye out on Newmindspace’s website for future events!