Playing the city

Remember when TMI and VisitBritain commissioned Henley Centre to forecast UK leisure break trends, for the Newcastle Convention back in 2005? Henley described the “Naked City” or “Urban Safari” scenario: future visitors going deep into cultures and sub-cultures, with expert guides, or using the city as a backdrop to gaming or treasure-hunting experiences.

Since then we’ve seen the rise of fascinating Freerunning and Parkour. And now this week the scaling of the Blackpool Tower by what the Times calls “urban climbers” (complete with safety gear, cleaning fluid, and an open cheque book to compensate for any damage – these guys don’t want to be seen as vandals).

For a legit and less dangerous version of “playing” the city, I love the idea of Shoot Liverpool. Last weekend saw teams of people roaming the city’s street with a challenge: to take photos which tell the story of the Pied Piper in 3 hours. The results will be on show at the OpenEye Gallery in the Ropewalks, from this Tuesday. And then of course there’s David Byrne’s playing the building, at the Roundhouse – with an invitation to play your own building and upload it to YouTube.

Which all makes me think that place shaping and experiential place marketing has never been more interesting – or more challenging!