Islington Word Festival: What we did this year

Our Head of Education, Emily Jost, tells the story of Pitch!t, the game we created with older people from the local area as part of Islington Word Festival 2017...

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  • Emily Jost
  • Education

Pitch!t launch

“Social, fun, creative, acceptance, encouragement” – participant feedback

We have had the pleasure of working on a number of projects as part of Islington Word Festival over the last few years. We created a story book with under-fives and their families in 2015 and worked with young adults leaving the care system to create book dioramas in 2016. This year we worked with older people from Islington on an ambitious project to create a card game for people of all ages to enjoy.

Playing games in week one

I booked two double acts of creative professionals to work with: Pencil & Help, a duo of illustrators who I’ve worked with since 2010, and Universal Boardgames a pair of inspirational games designers and players. The five of us came up with a plan to create the strategic play, themes and images for a card game that would be professionally produced. I then recruited participants through the wonderful Age UK Islington and a group of up to 11 fantastic participants came each week for five weeks to play games, laugh (a lot), create illustrations, decide on concepts, themes and strategy, get to know each other, drink tea and share stories and memories of Islington.

“I enjoyed the social side, meeting and interacting with new people in a welcoming, very friendly environment.”- participant feedback

Illustration Bingo

The game evolved over the weeks and it was really exciting to see it taking shape. Its themes are: Islington people and places; jobs and professions; and emotions or attributes. The group decided which Islington people and places should be included: we have Jeremy Corbyn, Edward Lear, Mary Wollstonecraft among many others. The places include Fonthill Road, The Island Queen pub and Bunhill Fields Cemetery. Jobs include lawyer, cleaner, milliner, taxi driver and even clairvoyant! Attributes and emotions are a wide range from excited to caring, irritated, confused and humble.

All of these became cards and were illustrated using some hilarious drawing games including illustration bingo – using brush and ink.

The game is played by three to six players who each take three profession cards. A people/place card and an emotions/attributes card are turned over, and each player in turn has to pitch why their profession links or solves the connection between the other two cards. Players must come up with - sometimes preposterous - connections. A judge in each round chooses the best pitch.

Testing a prototype in week five

“It was a privilege to be part of a professionally organised and executed project. This meant we could all just enjoy the heart of sharing and creating together” – Mem & Vicky, Universal Board Games

One of the real pleasures of working with the Word Festival organisers is that they love creative approaches, support risk-taking and really celebrate meaningful outcomes. We are now looking at ways to get this game into all the care homes of Islington as it is sociable, fun and promotes gentle reminiscence naturally. The jobs cards get people talking about their jobs and those of friends and families. The people and places cards are excellent at getting people to talk about Islington memories and opinions, and everyone can identify with the feelings cards.

We were very lucky to be able to launch the game officially at Cubitt’s Summer Ball – which is an annual fixture of Islington Word Festival. Participants, the creative teams and I spent time playing it with ball attendees who enjoyed it a lot.

More drawing games at the Cubitt Summer Ball launch of Pitch!t

Participants sharing the game at the Cubitt Summer Ball

In all my years of working on creative projects with groups of all ages, I can honestly say that working with this group has made me cry with laughter more than any other. Next step: to take this joy to care home residents across Islington.

“It was so nice being involved in the project and meeting you all, I hope there will be something again we can all do together”– Beryl Davies, Age UK Islington volunteer and participant

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