Scotch Hoppers brings the simple joy of outdoor play to Merchant City Festival 2014
‘The fact that we can close a city street for ten days and invite people to play in it is quite powerful'
In an era when having the latest iPhone is top priority for many children, it’s hard to imagine that a piece of string and a stick of chalk ever passed muster. Yet whiling away the afternoon playing hop scotch / peevers / beds (whatever you called it) used to be a wholly acceptable leisure activity.
In a bid to dust off the childhood memories of adults, and to introduce today’s youngsters to the kind of fun that doesn’t require a screen, Brian Hartley has created Scotch Hoppers. Taking over Parnie Street in Glasgow’s Merchant City for ten days, Hartley and his team are giving young and old the chance to engage with traditional outdoor games, but with a new twist.
‘It’s unpredictable who will come along,’ he says, ‘but that was one of our interests in making the work – to try and create a variety of activities for different levels of physicality, interest and skill, and for people of all ages.’ Hartley anticipates people engaging with the games in small groups of friends and family, as individuals, or joining forces with strangers to create large groups.
Simplicity will be the key to much of the activity, with minimal need for materials and no complex rules. Keen to bring the natural world into an urban environment, Hartley has also commissioned special objects (a wood carver is making wooden spinning tops, for example), to bring ‘small, well-crafted, tactile objects’ back into our lives.
Open for public use each afternoon, Scotch Hoppers will also feature weekend performances to inspire the public to engage with the space. ‘The fact that we can close a street in the middle of the city for ten days, and invite people to play in it, is in itself quite powerful,’ says Hartley. ‘And I hope people will use it as a catalyst for sharing their own memories of childhood and playing.’
Parnie Street, Glasgow, Thu 24 Jul–Sun 3 Aug.