March of the Robots Move into the Public Realm

Image courtesy of The Giant Robots Collective
Image courtesy of the Giant Robots Collective

Over the last couple of year’s there’s been a synergy between some of the themes discussed and challenged by both the Culture Vulture and Playful Leeds; this is of course related to the relationship Emma Bearman, previous chief tweeter of the Culture Vulture and lead playmaker of Playful Leeds, has held across the two and whilst Emma has moved on to focus on Playful Leeds’ March of the Robots programme, it’s no surprise that the cross over continues.

For those who may not have come across Playful Leeds or realised that March of the Robots is born from the company, Playful Leeds is an organisation that is exploring play and playfulness for all ages across Leeds. There was a rather ambitious event a couple of years ago that took place in the old Borders store which encouraged us all to think about our city spaces differently and consider both the little and bigger changes we could make to realise ambitions of creating a child friendly city.

I have fond memories of the event including ideas of bridges that were redesigned to look and sound like the keys of a piano where you could create a little tune as you made your daily commute home to areas such as Brewery Wharf, ideas of seating that were more than concrete blocks and enthusiasm for there to be more public art across the city where we wouldn’t have to be afraid to do more than look at it.

Since that event, ideas have been simmering away and a number of events have been held by Playful Leeds, both within the March of the Robots programme and under other guises. The March of the Robots programme has been using the theme of robots to encourage play, tinkering and confidence in technology through workshops and events without the pressure of massive outcomes or jargon and so far it’s had some great feedback from those that have taken part.

If you follow The Culture Vulture on Twitter you will have certainly come across a retweet about the programme and some of the videos that have captured little ones creating HUGE cardboard robots, Doodlebots that draw for you and other robots made out of materials that tend to be easy to access; a debate about whether cities should be mapped within games such as Minecraft and acknowledgement that robots seem to be a pretty hefty theme at the moment (even the new Postman Pat film in getting in on the robot action!).

It now feels as though March of the Robots is about to move onto its next phase, a phase where the robots start emerging on a much greater level and we realise more than ever that city engagement doesn’t have to take place in the city centre, nor should the city centre necessarily be the initial focus.

This Sunday, guests Paul Bonomini (the man behind the WEEE Man in the Eden Project) and the Giant Robots Collective (who were behind those amazing climbing robots which were sited on the Hayward Gallery a couple of years ago) are visiting the city to discuss how they have approached public art, to discuss what’s gone well and the issues they’ve had, and to inspire others to consider what public art in the city could look like.

Paul and the Giant Robots won’t just be here to get our hopes up about what we could do and leave us without an outlet to allow something to happen, they’ll be in the city, in Armley, to launch the March of the Robots 3 Public Art Community Junkbot Commissions which are being supported by Leeds Inspired.

I don’t want to give too much away because it’ll be far more interesting to learn about the commissions from Playful Leeds but the Junkbots are to be large-scale, eye-catching, made from found materials and reclaimed materials, AND form something that represents the community they’re from. By removing the sole focus from the city centre to encourage the representation of 3 different communities across the city, I’d hope that we uncover some of those lesser known stories that haven’t been amplified before.

The talk from Paul and The Giant Robots Collective isn’t just for those interested in the commission, all are welcome and those wishing to get their hands dirty making robots right away can accompany March of the Robots to Charlie Cake Park to create Star Wars inspired ‘bots from materials salvaged by SCRAP Leeds from 1pm.

To read more about the event and register you attendance to the talk from 10am, the Star Wars robot building from 1pm, or both, visit the March of the Robots website.

Kay is new to the March of the Robots project team and has the job of ensuring that others know about the events taking place across the programme.