A month in Sweden with Boho

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It’s the beginning of February 2016. For a few of my own quiet reasons, it’s taken me a while to really get my head around planning this year, and now it’s upon me, I’m realising how crazy intense it’s going to be. But in good ways, I think. I hope.

2016 is a big year of Boho stuff. After a huge push in 2014 to get to London and finish Best Festival Ever, it felt like 2015 was a down year, at least for the BFE project. We did the first Australian season at the Street Theatre in Canberra, and also some corporate and private gigs, but no new developments of new work. And that was good, we needed that down-time, and it got us excited to get started on something new. And that’s now.

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A few weeks ago, the BFE crew (myself, Muttley, Nikki, Rachel and Nathan) jumped on a plane to London to spend a week with Forum for the Future‘s Systems Innovations Lab. We’ve been chatting with Forum for a while – they do incredible work using systems thinking to help businesses and large organisations tackle sustainability challenges. We developed Best Festival Ever as a tool for organisations like Forum to use in their work – and now we’re hoping to be able to create something more specifically for them.

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So we shared BFE with some of their partners, ran a game design workshop with them, and had some good days hanging with like-minded people.

Then to Sweden, for a month-long development with Miljoverkstan, an NGO based in Stockholm. We’re here to build a new game, in the systems-science-meets-interactive-performance format of Best Festival Ever, but based on the Flaten nature reserve south of Stockholm.

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Flaten is a lake, surrounded by beautiful forest (oaks, pine, spruce, trees 500 years old or more), and a place where a lot of different groups intersect – swimmers and dogwalkers, itinerant workers camping in caravan parks, squatter camps in the forest, the nearby suburb of Skarpnack… Miljoverkstan want to try to capture some of the complexity of this system, and they want to do it through a game. So they’ve invited Boho over, to map the system with them and turn it into a game experience, a platform for learning and conversation.

We’re working in Miljoverkstan’s office in Flaten, a beautiful cabin on the shores of this icy lake (which I walked across on the way to work last week!). It’s a pretty stunning location to be in, and I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere like it.

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The first week was spent in meetings, some preliminary resilience assessment mapping, performing Best Festival to a group of teens from a high school in Karrtop. Important work, but a bit fragmented, and we were all a bit dazed and sick, flying straight into the Swedish winter.

This last week – our second week of work – things started moving quicker, going deeper. A few days with just the five of us, in the fun creative phase of turning our research into a systems model, then making games. 11 of them so far, all terrible, but good to test our skills, generate material and be sure we still know how to do it.

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On Friday we built a loop of five mini-games – games that each took inputs from each other and spat out outputs – in a mirror of our ‘Bateman’s Vegas’ effort from University College London in 2012.

By the end of this month, we’ll have completed our systems mapping R&D and settled on a broad format for the work, as well as creating some placeholder games. And then we come back in August and October to finish it off, and present it for the first time to a Swedish audience. This is a big project, with a short timeframe, and that’s pretty intimidating, but it’s exciting, too. And it feels like exactly what we’ve been working towards all this time, a practical application of all the things we learned making Best Festival Ever.

Plus it’s beautiful here.

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(This was just a brief outline of the project – if you’re interested, we’ve got a really active project blog maintained by the five of us, diving deep into the creation of this work.)

All the pretty nature pics in this post are by Nikki Kennedy. The London ones I think I took, and Rachel Roberts took the Deer and the Fish shot.