Unearthing Play in the Everyday

don't cut the trees down Go Fishing watching the world go by

Canterbury – Abbots Mill Gardens

22nd April 2015

I have a foot made of plywood.

It’s not a model of a foot, it’s more the shape of a footprint. It’s big too, probably about (UK) size 18 or maybe even bigger.

I draw around it with chalk on pavements and paths where people walk but cars won’t run me over and I ask people to write words or thoughts or messages on, in or around their very own footprint. This continues a tradition in walking arts practice and academic writing about walking that characterises the pedestrian act as the writing of a story or history. Think about it: every time you walk somewhere things happen and, in a way, a story is created with you at the centre of it.

chance encounters and lovely chats

I physically wrote all bar two of the messages but only one of them was my own thought.  All the rest came from other people’s minds; I just wrote it out for them because they were too busy.

Anyway, I was in Abbots Mill Garden waiting to see if anyone would ask what I was doing or show any interest but interest was thin on the ground so I started engaging people directly by asking: “Have you got a playful message for the city?”

A girl walking her dog didn’t know what to write so I mentioned the man and the fish I met yesterday. She said “what the big one?” “Yes!” I said. The fish is famous! The man was not that big. I was glad I stayed. N.b. If you don’t know about the famous fish, have a look at my previous post 🙂

I'm really glad you're alive

Three small children (of about seven years old) did stop and read everything though. They were amazed: “His feet are massive!” they said of the footprint outline. I said that “they are the feet of the city.” I meant it to be ironic but it sounded pretentious and was probably too metaphorical for seven year olds… but I do like the idea of a giant walking the streets and leaving playful thoughts with each step.

A young father in Wincheap, which is an area of Canterbury, gave me the idea for the footrpint. I was chalking some letters on a tarmac footpath so that people’s feet spelled out words as they stepped on the letters. He said “you should have a step and then do a letter in each step.” I didn’t know what he meant at first but then I twigged. It was, and is, a great idea, so now I carry this big plywood foot around with me and it gets chalk dust all in my backpack.

Canterbury: A Contradictory City



Inebriated and very lovely fellow in Abbots Mill Garden:


Him: Excuse me, are you taking photographs?
Me: No I’m texting my sister actually
Him: Just cos there’s this mad fish over there
Me: Is there really?
Him: Yeah, do you wanna come see?
Me: Yeah alright
Him: Do you know fish?
Me: No, not really, I’m not a fisherman
Him: I dunno if it’s a pond fish or a coy carp or what but it’s there every day. Are you from Canterbury?
Me: Not originally but I live here now
Him: Well if you come down here tomorrow or whenever you’ll see. I saw you with your phone and i thought you might want to take a picture of it. I would if i had a/my phone. I dunno if it’s laying eggs or dying.
Me: But it’s not dead, it moved!
Him: Yeah, it moves! I’ve been throwing things at it, I’m not cruel… And it changes colour. It looks like – I dunno what it looks like to you but do you see a gold head?
Me: Yeah
Him: And a gold… Spike?
Me: Yeah
Him: And sometimes all its fins and all over its body goes gold as well and sometimes it’s just brown and muddy looking. It’s camouflage I suppose.


He went off looking for a bin to put his empty cans in. I think he has thrown pennies at the fish, judging by the shiny pennies lying around it. Perhaps the fish sometimes looks muddy because it gets covered in the silt that it is rooting around in?

It was a great little conversation and really brightened up my day.