Getting started with Bikes and Bloomers

Hardcore Victorian velocipedestriennes. Source:

I’m now a couple of days into joining the Bikes and Bloomers team at Goldsmiths College in their highly infectious quest to investigate the designs Victorian women developed in order to adapt very proper attire so it was functional – and still proper – whilst riding bicycles.

We’re talking the 1890s here: skirts were full length, corsets de rigueur and heaven forbid a limb should be identifiable.

Sociologist Kat Jungnickel and the team have been digging around in patent archives and have selected some interesting designs that they’re now starting to reconstruct from the descriptions and diagrams given.

One of the patents we’re focusing in on: an improved skirt available also as a cape for lady cyclists

It’s a wonderfully interdisciplinary project and the office table seems to mostly look something like this:

Technical drawings, fabric swatches, sticky notes, paper-clip-and-string proto-mechanisms, notebooks and yes, ahem, maybe the occasional snack. What’s not to like?

Whilst the others keep busy with adapting sewing pattern blocks, automating a 5’8″ wooden mannequin, lusting over reflective tweeds and figuring out what it all means with respect to mobilities and gendered bodies, I’ve been given the mission of developing a guided tour style cycle ride that incorporates relevant locations around central London and weaves together key themes from the research.


Kat already has some nice ideas involving pocketses and my early research has brought up a lovely link to a professional cyclist sister-in-law to one of the patentees – it’s clear this is going to have to be an exercise in self-restraint as much as anything else.

We’re optimistic we can rein in our curiosity and excitements though: keep an eye out for a date for the ride sometime in April.

Andy Broomfield’s photos of Drift

I love finding other people’s photos of my projects, because I only ever see the action from a limited viewpoint (on this occasion I hardly saw any of it at all!).

Really nice then to see Andy Broomfield‘s spottings of interactions happening between Drifters, players and bystanders at the Sandpit last weekend.


(Click through and zoom in to the largest size for best location-and-spectacle results!)



Documentation of Drift at Holland Park

We spent yesterday afternoon moving around Holland Park in a Leisurely manner. Well, I didn’t, I was busy telling people about odd characters and how to attach vibrating sashes to their arms, but these guys did:

Drift at Holland Park

Drift at Holland Park

Thanks to everyone who took part in the playtesting and to Ant, Lucy and Emily for being the Drifters. Thanks too for all the great feedback – lots of very useful comments and I particularly liked that one person said that Drift had prompted him to explore unfamiliar parts of the park.

My photos are in this Flickr set:

Unfortunately I don’t really have any record of the interactions between players and Drifters, so if anyone has photos of any of those I’d be really grateful if you could email them to me or share a link or something…

Since the Sandpit was themed around movement and spectacle, I’ve also run the data collected during the game through Howard Rickett’s code (from the Ikon Postmarks group) to get a visualisation of how it took shape over time. The resolution isn’t great by the time it’s been through screen capture and Movie Maker, but it gives a sense of the drift unfolded…

Drift at the Holland Park Sandpit

Holland Park

Holland Park by HerryLawford on Flickr

There are unusual characters drifting around Holland Park. A person of your skills will have no trouble identifying the three in question.

A person of your skills who is also wearing a sash will be able to feel the messages one of the drifters is broadcasting…

bzzzzz, bzzzzzz, bzzzzz, bzzzzz, bzzzzzz ~ I’m in the open

bzzz, bzzz ~ I’ve sought somewhere more sheltered

bzzzzz, bzzzzzz, bzzzzz ~ I’m somewhere in between

Observe the drifters as they move and try and deduce which one is broadcasting about the space they are in. Don’t hang around too long though, because the one broadcasting will change!

These three are all about the drift. They will be watching for the sash-wearers who can hear them – they have something for you – but if you move too fast they will scatter. Likewise, if too many sashes close in on them at once they will make their escape.

Move slowly and smoothly; approach the drifter you think is broadcasting and gracefully offer them a gift. If they approve, and are the broadcaster, they may offer you something in return.

If they disapprove of your non-driftyness, or you have guessed incorrectly, you will not receive anything back.

You have two chances. Good looking and good luck.

This Sunday we’ll be playing Drift in Holland Park as part of the Hide&Seek Sandpit event being run for the InTRANSIT Festival of Arts

The event is free and takes place between 2 and 5:30pm. Come and join us on the Orangery Lawn (near the café) for an afternoon of fun linked to the theme of movement and spectacle: “processions down pathways, walking tours, memories, hiding, scurrying, running, pondering and much more.”

There’s more information on the Hide&Seek website and there’s also a Facebook event doodad.

Weatherproofing homebrew GPS kit (part 2)

Holland Park Umbrella

By taping it to the underside of an umbrella. On a gloriously sunny afternoon.

This afternoon I spent an hour wandering around the picnic-ers and sunbathers in Holland Park whilst carrying an umbrella.

During that time one child exclaimed loud enough and close enough for me to engage him in conversation (and an explanation); one woman gave me a look and a smile; and two men who had just thrown a stone at a pigeon told me it wasn’t raining. The latter also got an explanation.

On this occasion, the explanation has something to do with this.

Holland Park umbrella

Hide&Seek 4: Gype and etcetera

All the other stuff that happened as part of the Hide&Seek festival was great, but the highlights of the day for me were what happened after the festival had officially finished.

The hardcore gamers loitered around for half an hour or so, not yet ready to concede that it was time to wrap up and go home. A few people were constructing a board game from rules appropriated from different parts of the festival, the stewards were starting to take down the banners and one of the iglab Simons was pootling around on a little orange bike…

Then somebody suggested KerPlunk and half a dozen of us huddled in the corner playing with straws and marbles. One round of KerPlunk (Just for the record, Simon and I won!) was enough to bridge the transition and then suddenly everyone was properly back into game-playing mode and it was clear none of us would be going home just yet.


I also remember that it was we who invented the well-known and widespread national game of Gype. All sorts of variations and complications were invented in connection with Gype. There was Land Gype and Water Gype. I myself cut out and coloured pieces of cardboard of mysterious and significant shapes, the instruments of Table Gype; a game for the little ones. It was even duly settled what disease threatened the over-assiduous player; he tended to suffer from Gype’s Ear. My friends and I introduced allusions to the fashionable sport in our articles; Bentley successfully passed one through the Daily News and I through some other paper. Everything was in order and going forward; except the game itself, which has not yet been invented. Autobiography_(Chesterton)/Chapter_X

Simon had been proposing a motion that we played Gype since before KerPlunk and, after explaining a bit about the rules (not dissimilar to those of Mornington Crescent), that now took off.

I also had to take off at this point because I desperately needed to take on board more fluids. When I got back from the bar the game was in full swing with 2 pieces of A5 paper, three dice of a sort that I didn’t recognise and the counters from a chequers set.

I haven’t got any photos of this first round of Gype – I was too busy tending to my drink – but you’ll just have to take it from me that it was an awesome thing to watch. These were people who take playing very seriously indeed, given free reign to make it up as they went along. Dare I say there was an element of competition there too…?

Watching it, there was no way you could tell that it was being fabricated on the spot. At one point one of the players drew a distinction between Land Gype and Water Gype in such a matter-of-fact way that I had real difficulty in sorting out fact from fiction. Seriously: probably not until an hour or so later …and now I see the two different Gypes are mentioned in that quote above. Now I don’t know what to think!

I finished my drink and got re-absorbed into the group of players. Another strange position to be in as you try and dream up a creative move for your turn, but the landscape keeps shifting so much after the moves made by previous players that it becomes all but impossible to do anything but wait and then react spontaneously when it’s your go. I found out later, via Jane’s post, that this had been designated a game of Speed Gype. I’m not sure if this was just a follow on from the Speed KerPlunk we had been playing before, but it’s a really nice tweak to keep the pace up and get the creativity flowing nice and fast without too much analysis.

As it happens, I was just planning how I would see if I could score some points by throwing the dice at each of the three counters in the central triangle formation when Simon, the player before me, used a tablecloth move.

Our reaction was similar to that in the video and, to an enthusiastic chorus of “GYPE!” Simon was declared the winner.

Fort Gype

Turns out Speed Gype was just the warm-up.

We then moved over to a court that had been marked out on the floor earlier in the festival (possibly for freemasons) and Fort Gype began.

Fort Gype follows the same sort of rules as Speed Gype, but utilising the cool Southbank Centre squidgy furniture to (we assumed) build a fort. Spectators from the last game joined us as players so we were probably up to about 20 players now.

the Gype players await

The opening moves were fairly straightforward placements of the furniture, with the occasional “lock-in” move thrown in for good measure.

lock in



Things got more interesting once there were more things to respond to. [How about starting a game of Fort Gype with randomly rolling a few items onto the ‘board’ to kick-start this process?] I was about 10th to make a move and, with my lime green seat-like-thingy I opted for an ‘entrapment’ move with one arm pinned under the furniture. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but the way things worked out I had an increasingly restricted view of what was going on!


From my not-so-much-of-a-vantage point I tried to take a photo every move. You can see the results here on this Flickr photoset.

raising the game

Gype upwards!

As the play progressed we started to build upwards and more and more people added themselves to the structure. I think this would be a really good aspect for Fort Gypers to investigate further: I mean, if you’ve got a bunch of people with squidgy furniture it’d be a shame not to incorporate more bodies, right?! OK, OK thinking like that blatantly goes against the fundamentals of Gype! Still, I would have liked to have played a few rounds to see how things got refined.

Eventually the inevitable happened and the tower collapsed: thereby signalling the end of the game. This was good because then we didn’t feel so bad when the member of Southbank staff came over and informed us how expensive the squidgy furniture was and, sorry to be the bad guy, but would we mind stopping abusing it please…? Fair enough!


The third bus

There was no escaping it: the festival had drawn to an end and it was time to relocate. After a lot of conferring the general plan seemed to be food and then more games. Several people stated the need for showers before anything else happened and so we arranged to meet an hour later in the middle of Westminster Bridge. By this stage we knew that locating food was not going to be a straightforward matter and would involve getting on the third bus and then, whilst on the bus, figuring out the rules that would allow us to then get off the bus…

I told you these were hardcore gamers.

The last train

Unfortunately for me, the last train back to Brum on a Sunday is horribly early so I had to say my farewells before everybody had even reconvened on the bridge.

Whilst the others got up to whatever banana-assisted adventures their journey took them on, I had my own trials awaiting me: “the train is to long, can you all move forward a carriage please”; delays in leaving Marylebone; the train in front hitting livestock…

Sat in the foyer of Banbury railway station waiting for the replacement coaches to arrive at 1am felt so incredibly desolate compared to the atmosphere I had left a few hours before. The stark difference in attitudes between the pissed-off travellers and the Stag-chasing gamers was huge.

I wanted to suggest a game of Gype or Werewolf, but thought I’d get lynched. For real.

Hide&Seek 3: and the rest

I’ve already written 2 posts about the now somewhat distant Hide&Seek Festival of social games but there’s still a shed-load of goodness to cover so I’m going to blitz it here and hopefully get most of the important bits into the annals.

I’m warning you now: it was a busy day…

Let’s try for a chronological approach so I don’t miss stuff (and also because that finishes somewhere around Fort Gype and that’s a damn good way to finish!).

Cruel 2 B Kind

I missed out on Cruel 2 B Kind due to Twitter flakiness, which was a pain in the bum but there you go. I arrived in the kill zone at 12 on the dot and strolled around a bit hoping to be the victim (or at least a witness) of an assassination by one of the following methods:

  • A: Serenade your victim pleasantly.
  • B: Compliment their eyes.
  • C: Mistake them for somebody famous (be nice, no famous serial killers or Jade Goody please).

It wasn’t to be though so, pausing to take in Volume, I made my way to the Southbank Centre.


You know the silly seafront set-up where you put your face in a hole and take on someone else’s body? Well, sleevefacing is where you supply the body and a record sleeve provides the face…

I got coerced into this by one of the stewards (OK, OK, I asked him for his suggestion of what I should do first…) and although it took me a while, I did eventually get quite into it.

I was stood around for ages waiting for The Man With The Camera but it was interesting to watch others being arranged:



This would be awesome with a greater variety of props (or pehaps the other extreme and no props at all). Check out the Flickr pool for some cool examples of some very pre-meditated sleevefaces. However, you have been warned: it’s very addictive…

I had my trusty brown anorak with me, so I opted for a bit of Tony Hancock:

tony hancock

There is a sleeveface website and I also believe I’ve seen some sleeveface-style billboards around town too…

And I Saw

Lists? Compiling lists of noticed things? Lists? Did somebody say lists? Noticing stuff?

Bit of a no-brainer really, of course I was going to wander over to this table and find out what was going on.

And I Saw… describes itself as being a bit like a treasure hunt. And I spy. The difference being that you play by SMS, some of the things you are seeking are mobile, new things are being added all the time and you yourself are being sought.

On joining the game you are given a large sticker with a unique code number on it. You are then sent out into the game zone to seek out other stickers. When you find them you have to text the number on that sticker to the And I Saw… phone number. Because you’ve already registered your number, some automagicery calculates who has seen the most items, which items have been seen the most and which players have been seen the most.

Inside the Southbank Centre was a good place to start because lots of people playing the indoor games were already stickered-up. I was about to head out for the outdoor area (between the London Eye and the OXO tower when I met Lionel Richie again and we got chatting.

We ended up walking together looking for stickers and having a really good discussion about the application of games in our respective fields of work (I think she worked in an adult training sort of context, but I can’t really remember now…) and analysing how And I Saw… was modifying our usual behaviour. This was particularly evident in her case because she was a Londoner and a frequent visitor to the Southbank area.

and i saw...

The things that really worked for me (luckily I have unlimited texts with my phone contract) were a) the way looking for a particular object/objects completely changed the way I engaged with my surroundings and b) the encounters we had with the other seekers playing the game. It was a really nice mechanism for going up to random strangers, sharing a quick exchange and then moving on. I also very much liked the way that most players were developing their own little rituals around what they did when they found a sticker. Most people had fallen into the routine of photographing each location, but others were taking it further and taking photos with mascot toys etc etc.

I only discovered the And I Saw… website fairly recently: turns out I was the 4th most seen player, but only saw a rather pathetic 20 items (compared to angelsk’s 60).

After an hour or so, Lionel and I happened to end up by The Eye as the Cruel 2 B Kind assassins had their end of game picnic. We hung out a bit, chatted, heard tales of trying to assassinate non-players, tales of mass team serenades and generally helped eat the chocolate cup-cakes before they melted in the sun (well, it would be rude not to…).


I then had a bit of a gap before the start of The Lost Sport of Olympia and went off in search of padding.

I’ve been lusting over mscapes for a couple of years now, but not had a chance to try it out so, when I returned back to the hub in the Southbank Centre and saw that the mscapes table seemed up and running, I jumped at the chance to sample Duncan Speakman‘s Always Something Somewhere Else.

Despite a few technical hiccups at the start, I can only reiterate what the people on the video at the previous link said: a beautifully haunting, in-your-own-world experience. I particularly remember the point at which the voice of the narrator invited me to find some stone and I reached out to place my hand on a pillar of the Thames-side architecture…



I’d been keeping watch for Momus’ transposed tour, London-as-Tokyo all afternoon, so it was a tough call when I came across them part-way through Always Something Somewhere Else, but I did have to turn off the iPaq and listen to some beautifully wonky descriptions of wherever it was that we were.

Here’s a short extract of them taking about mobile phones and then going off on one about “chotto”.

London as Tokyo from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Whilst Momus was holding forth confidently on a wide range of subjects it was worth taking a few moments to tune into the reactions of passers-by who weren’t aware of the context for London-as-Tokyo!

The Lost Sport of Olympia

It was as good as I had hoped. More here.

the lost sport of olympia

Stag Hunt

I had no idea (no pun/old joke intended) what this was about but the crowd that drifted back from the labyrinths just sort of evolved into the Stag Hunt crowd and I had no complaints… It turns out the game was massively oversubscribed, but we got around that by working in pairs.

pre Stag Hunt gathering

Stag Hunt rules

A sample ruleset for Stag Hunt is available on the Hide&Seek site or you can listen to/watch the rules as they were given to us on the day over on Vimeo. In brief: approach the stag with two other balloon-carrying team-mates and sweet-talk him into letting you tie one of the balloons onto his antlers. Team with the most balloons on antlers wins.

Once we’d organised ourselves into 4 teams there was a mad dash as, once we’d got a balloon per pair, we legged it outside to try and find the stag.

Purple Team

Stag Hunt

Stag Hunt from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Getting the first balloon onto the stag’s antlers was fairly straightforward, it was after we’d returned to the Southbank Centre, collected a new balloon and started out to try and find the stag again that things got really interesting…

By this time the stag had moved further away and the initial crowd had dispersed so we genuinely had no idea where to look inside a large playing area (10 mins walk from the Southbank Centre in any direction …except for the river). We occasionally saw clusters of balloons moving around, but nothing that suggested they knew where the stag was either!

We began to ask passers-by (in an incredibly deadpan manner) if they had “seen a man wearing a morning suit and a large white stag mask that people were tying balloons to”. We had an interesting range of responses including: the who-are-these-loonies look; grins; detailed information of what direction they had just come from; and, winding us up with false sightings. This is what really made Stag Hunt for me – the leakage of the game out to include ‘non’-players.

Alas, no-one had seen the stag but we continued to scout around and managed to collect a few more team members before we eentually found the stag again.

Stag Hunt

Time was running out now so there was a frantic succession of attempts to win the stag’s favour as he made his way back down the waterfront towards the Southbank Centre.

Often they involved ruthlessly employing the services of a small, cute child.

The rules were now being much more strictly enforced so there was a leap-frogging effect as threesomes located themselves in the stag’s path, at 5 pace intervals, poised ready to put their flattery tactics into action. It was fab. People were getting really creative! We had serenades, human pyramids, human letter-forms spelling out S T A G (didn’t work) and all sorts. I have no idea what the non-playing public in the area thought must have thought all these nutters with balloons must have been doing. Hopefully there are a few tourists who now believe this is a traditional Sunday-afternoon pursuit…

Stag Hunt points count

Anyway, when it came to the count we (the purple team) lost out on first place by one single balloon…

Anyhoo, I can genuinely say I was thoroughly glad I had taken part. Stag hunt: hilarious, exciting, creative and just plain silly. I would love to try variants of this game that allowed for greater use of tactics in locating and tracking the stag as well as, as Jane asked, interfering with the balloons of other teams.

Things wound up with a great photo-opportunity with a business card that had been planted in someone’s bag (presumably as a trail-head into some new ARG):


Not going home yet

Stag Hunt was officially the last event of the festival, although there were still pockets of activity and board game construction going on inside the building. Mostly though there were lots of people who know that they should go home now, but also that they really didn’t want to.

I know I promised you Gype, but I’ve decided to put that in a 4th, post-festival post

3 jokes

3 jokes told to me by a drunk Irish crack-addict whilst in London’s Hyde park:

  1. Why does Tiger Woods wear two condoms? In case he gets a hole in one.
  2. A meandering anecdote about going to the Bank of God. Punchline: Holy Spirit Bank of Christ.
  3. Someting to do with rescusitating a tank full of eels.


January 18th, 2007: Waiting for a friend outside the Serpentine Gallery, in quite strong winds.

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