Playing with the brand new PropsBox

On Saturday we offered the brand new refined and designed version of the PropsBox to families who joined us at Wysing’s Draw Me Play Me day.

Again it was lovely to see the children’s responses. Reassuring to see that the freshness and magic of the the first version of the props box, which we tried out so long ago at Kettle’s Yard, did not fade away. They still loved carrying it around (sometimes so thrilled to just carry it that opening it was not urgent…) and we still heard ‘wow’ and ‘oohs’ when they were opened.


Tomorrow we share it with the grown ups from galleries around the region. PropsBox now has a website of its own and will travel and get played with in we hope many more places.

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Getting Ready for ‘Starting with Play’

We’ve been very busy getting the ‘real’ propsbox ready in time for its launch on 12th October at Wysing Arts Centre in a conflab called STARTING WITH PLAY.

We’re working with Alan Perks from FITDESIGN in London and are very pleased and excited by the way its going.

We’ll also get a new website up for the props box soon and we’re planning a family workshop for the 6th Oct to trial the brand new propsbox – watch this space – we’ll post details as soon as we can.

Here are some images of the designs and work in progress. And to see the props box come to life- join us on 12th October- you can book at

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Wandering Further Afield

Many who join us for the Play Wysing days – mention the outdoors as rich source for increasing the engagement and participation. Seems like the map we have offered allows people to explore with ease what the site has to offer. And we are delighted that even teenagers seem to enjoy the combination of gallery artworks, props and the fields full of more artworks old and new, some even still in the making…


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The Imaginating Pod in Full Swing

As part of Play Wysing days- we also offer participants the ‘Imaginating Pod’- the  ‘art shed’ made of recycled wood that we have done up, re-labelled using one of the children’s invented names and equipped with big blackboard as well as reels and balls annotated with scores to play around the site.

The pod is a huge success and many people comment on it in their feedback saying they could have spent all day there, will bring a picnic next time and how lovely it is to have things that the children can touch and play with in physical way outside.

Much of the feedback we collect reminds us what an asset the outdoors are for Wysing. People love exploring the sites and some tell us the props are not necessary – the place is so rich in its own right, whilst others comment that good to have something to focus on. Some of the scores are more popular than others-  ‘Humming the Colours’ seems to be a success and is enjoyed by a family of teenagers too!



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Playing at Recollect

Currently  at Wysing Arts Centre is Recollect: A gallery exhibition exploring architecture, memory and experience. The families that turn up for our Play Wysing days are all intrigued to explore the show using the props. This time the props are in a bag which we designed to see  how it works instead of the box we tried out at Kettle’s Yard days.  We also made a map of the whole site, which is vast and as participants tell us ‘full of hidden treasures.’

Some of the children use the map to collect drawings of the different spaces, is empty circles that solicit their input. Lucy’s map is very detailed (see below). Many seem keen to take them home and carry on drawing there.

The props in the gallery offer a way into what could otherwise be, according to one mum a pretty difficult show to ‘get to grips with’. The children of course have no problem relating to the artworks, making up their own games and explaining  to the adults accompanying them what its all about- usually using the phono cups – one of the most popular of props!

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Can You Hear It Nice And Loud?

At the Play Wysing days – we get many more visitors than expected and the responses are so numerous and overwhelming -its hard to know where to start from….

Sebastian and Finlay come on the first day, straight after football practice. We wonder if they’ll have any energy left to play- well they did!! Its a typical (Cambridge) blustery day and after a short picnic they launch into the gallery and head on from there to explore the rest of the site.

When they get back and we ask how it went – they are keen to show us their video clips, made on site in response to it and featuring the props. Here’s our favourite- the story of the man of thunder, who created the Dome (which is really the Globe stage made by Andy Holden for a music festival last year) and for whom the Phono Cups are the prefect vehicle to make himself heard…

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Adults Playing with the Props Box at Firstsite Gallery


 The Props Box was invited along to an Early Arts session at Firstsite Gallery in Colchester, Essex on the 15th June 2012.

It was great to see it in action in yet another gallery setting. It was also the first time the Props Box was used by adults only. These were mostly artists, early years practitioners and gallery education facilitators.

Participants really took to playing in the gallery, mostly making up their own games- which is what we like to see!

The feedback was glowing with enthusiasm. The comments included: I was surprised that… ‘it was simple but different’

‘we created out own little world very    quickly’, ‘so many things happened communications wise’

People also told us what they’ll remember most from playing with the Props Box:


‘ lots of conversations, memories, familiar experiences, funny moments, connections.’ ,

‘being ‘allowed’ to use the space differently’. Some were reminded of ‘childhood pranks’ and others enjoyed the license to ‘not having to answer questions’ and being allowed to be ‘thinking rather than glancing’

Even the blue cord that binds the box together becomes a game as it often does with children….

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PLAY WYSING on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June – 2- 4 – JOIN US FOR FREE FAMILY WORKSHOPS

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Delightful Discoveries at Kettle’s Yard

Questioning and detailed looking are themes facilitated during Sunday’s family workshop by two props selected from the props box. The blindfoldmask and questions discs, each with one score, are given to families to explore the exhibition at Kettle’s Yard on the paintings of Alfred Wallis. In the gallery, half it’s usual size due to construction work, the props provoke an intimate level of looking between the 19 participants. This is built on through reading and sharing questions between the whole group.

The questions remain on the walls as we move into the education room and introduce a making session – giving information about Wallis’s working methods: his use of shaped cards, his colour palette as well as his work inspired by his experience as a sailor and fisherman… The activities are diverse and wonderful and we conclude by asking the children to tell us about their pieces.

Later on as we walk through the gallery, we encounter fascinated members of the public. They tell us how useful they think the questions are and even that they should stay on the wall as it helps them to understand the work.

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Messy Messy

Child-led tours, more questions and playing in the field.

The second family workshop is completely different to the first. The weather is glorious and the whole of Wysing is transformed into a vast research area for exploring contemporary art. Questions, popular in all the workshops, are proposed again using question discs alongside maps with provocations in the margins. Children lead the way and adults follow adding to the maps/leaving questions as they go.

The map provokes detailed observations and collaborative exploration. Questions include ‘why has amphis changed’ ‘what’s the metal thing in the field,’ and ‘why is this art?’

The shed/pod is ready and immediately taken over by a burst of creative energy. Names for this new space include ‘The Wooden Room, ‘A Place to do Art and Think’ and ‘Messy Messy.’ It becomes our base for the afternoon, from which families come and go, using the props, large red balls, reels and laminated scores to explore the site.

The phono cups are ever popular, with one family saying “the sound tube led us to look at more of the art areas.” The balls and reels are described as ‘fun,’ ‘bouncy’ and suitable to the scale of Wysing’s outdoor spaces, being ‘large things to roll around the space’.

Invented games/scores include using the phono-cups to “communicate to the universe” and “Become part of the exhibition by standing in front of the projector so your shadow is doing creative things. Someone can take a picture of your ‘artwork.’”

Again a sense of exploration and astonishment is conveyed through the feedback of one dad who says: “Normally I would just drive past … I just didn’t expect this to be here.” All want to come back for more.

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