Human Beings are Hard-Wired to Play

Want to have a go at writing, or refresh your writing skills? Can’t figure out how to develop to the next level? Have you ever considered using creative play?

Now I know what you're thinking. What is creative play? 

Creative play is a zone of imagination and flow. It allows you to become more spontaneous and react more instinctively. You stop thinking about thinking. You see familiar things with fresh eyes. You generate ideas and make new, unexpected connections. Play unlocks creativity and generates ideas. It encourages wonder and curiosity, connection and reflection. Play re-energises and reinvents, and allows you to see the familiar anew. It allows you to improvise and this takes your work to new places... And yes, creative play is for adults.

Interested in trying these techniques with professionals? Start by saying ‘yes’ and come to the Yorkshire Dales to be inspired! This August here at the Joinery, we’re holding a retreat with Playful Being  so you can discover how to use creative play to enhance your creative writing. Find out more here.

Unlock your ideas, boost your confidence and get more play into your life. 

Playful Being is run by Mel Taylor and Jess Penrose.

Mel has a background in education and outreach. Since 2013, she has been leading workshops and pursuing creative projects, including writing, comedy improv and clown training. 

Jessica has been involved in participatory arts for over 16 years – from setting up an arts centre to training artists to work with communities. She also now writes content for websites and other publications, as well as occasional forays into poetry.

Mel and Jessica setup Playful Being in 2013, and facilitate play workshops and interventions in the UK and Europe. As well as Settle Stories, creative partners have included Ilkley Literature Festival, Playful Leeds and Write On, Cambridge. Playful Being is part of an international play movement, contributing to the CounterPlay Festival in Denmark and Playin’ Siegen in Germany. Before they join us here for retreat we caught up with them to find out what inspired them, who their idols are and to find out more about playfulness. 

Q - What/who is your biggest inspiration?

We came to play through participatory arts, and particularly improv, so our first improv teacher, Clare Kerrison, was a big inspiration. Other inspiring play practitioners and thinkers include the late Bernie de Koven, and Mathias Poulsen, the founder of CounterPlay  (see below).  

Q - Why is it important that we as adults continue to be playful?

Human beings are hard-wired to play, but as we grow up most of us start to censor ourselves and each other. We may still ‘play’, but there has to be a legitimate reason – such as keeping fit or entertaining our children. It’s so important for adults to play just for themselves – it can have a big impact on well-being, and it’s fun!

Q - Who is your artistic idol?

Mel – somebody I really admire is Bristol-based performer and clown tutor Holly Stoppit. I love the work she is doing on stage and in her classes because play and playfulness are at its heart.

Jess – We both love A L Kennedy’s writing on writing, as it has an irreverent playfulness. I’m also really enjoying Canadian band Walk Off the Earth – a bunch of highly talented musicians who are inventive and playful in how they make and perform music, using kazoos or giant guitars or bits of plastic tubing. 

Q - Do you prefer to collaborate on new ideas or do your best ideas come from deep thinking?

We work really well together because we have different styles but a shared vision of play and its importance. Our best ideas usually come from us chatting and bouncing stuff around, often while we are out walking – there is something about moving and fresh air that helps with the creative thought process. 

Q - What is your favourite moment you have experienced within creativity and playfulness?

Ooh, so many to choose from! It really comes down to seeing a group of adults who’ve only just met each other laughing uncontrollably and connecting creatively through play  –  all that energy and joy is hugely uplifting every time it happens. 

On a personal level, we both find play is a brilliant route into our own creative projects, particularly writing. 

Q - Having set up your company in 2013, where did you get the idea of title for ‘Playful Being’?

The name Playful Being came to us very easily – we both love words and enjoy the name’s multiple meanings. For us, it is important that the name has energy while also suggesting something more contemplative and present.  

Q - What do you love about creative play?

Its power and transformative potential, and the freedom it gives you to explore, expand and discover. 

Q - When did you discover a career opportunity for creative play?

We both knew we wanted more creativity and play in our lives – when we started talking to people about creative play and offering workshops, we found we weren’t alone. We’ve tapped into a whole movement that is about putting play and playfulness into the heart of everyday life. There are festivals and conferences springing up in the UK and across Europe – we found CounterPlay in Denmark particularly inspiring – and there’s always plenty of lively debate and idea sharing online for us to draw on.

Mel and Jess will be running their 'Creative Play & Writing Retreat' from Fri 10th-Sun 12th of August. During the retreat you will be:

-Letting off steam in a mindful way.

-Using your body, your voice, your senses, your imagination. Being in the moment. Being yourself.

-Taking creative risks. Saying ‘yes, and’, instead of ‘yes, but.’ Trusting your instincts. Letting go of the need to get things ‘right’.

-Following the fun and seeing where it takes you.

This retreat is for you if:

-You want to try something different and have a willingness to free up your thinking.

-You are ready to shake up your writing routines and have some time out for yourself.

-You enjoy being with like-minded people and exploring your creativity.

What you’ll take away:

-A better understanding of how play and a playful approach can enrich and inspire your creative process and practices.

-Tips on how to keep being playful.

-Ideas to shape and develop.

Participant comments from previous Playful Being events:

'As a writer, I have found each session profoundly renewing, no less than revelatory!' Sarah, Hebden Bridge

'From the moment I walked into the room, I could sense that this workshop was going to be very different from other writing workshops I've been to. By the end, I felt different for having shed, for a short and precious time, the constraints of the usual.' - Liz, Ilkley

'The workshop allowed me to explore the unknown from a place of curiosity without judgement, and begin to reconnect with my voice.' Pernille, Otley

This is a non residential retreat, do take a look at the local accomodation offer via Visit Settle.



Written by placement student for Settle Stories, Olivia Coulthard