The sun was shining, and the streets were full of colour. Not always what you would associate with strolling about Belfast city centre, but that was my experience yesterday.
There was a parade of the trade unions, marking May Day, with a brass band and a peaceful, colourful ensemble of participants. Music was emanating from City Hall, where runners were pouring in to collect their numbers for tomorrow’s Belfast City Marathon. And in various locations, street performers on hand for the Festival of Fools were entertaining passers-by with everything from sword-swallowing to comedy acrobatics.
Enough to prompt reflection, if one were inclined, on the wonder of being alive. In our everyday lives we might feel we have serious business to attend to, whether it is work or family commitments, and that there just isn’t enough time for playfulness or physical exercise.
On Wednesday this week, Activism from the Kitchen Table (AKT) is providing another opportunity to think about the value – indeed the seriousness – of prioritising play in our lives. The event takes place on Wednesday 5 May from 6.30-9.30 p.m. at All Soul’s Hall on Elmwood Avenue in Belfast. A crèche will be available.
The evening will feature plenty of chances to ask questions, such as:
Have we lost our ability to play? To take the risk of being vulnerable? To stare in wonder at the sunset? To be curious in conversation? To subvert the politics of the powerful with non-productive, creative embodied playfulness?
The night kicks off with food, tea and coffee and then there will be small group conversations around themes such as:
- being playful in everyday life,
- subversive humour,
- clown doctors,
- and the spirituality of play.
AKT is an initiative of the Corrymeela community. On the AKT website, it’s described as,
… a loose network of women and men with a common interest in engaging with contemporary social and ethical issues at the level of education, conversation, debate which informs local action. We have a shared sense that in the Belfast area there is a need for people of faith to have spaces where cross pollination could occur. We hope that these spaces might offer opportunities for the meeting of minds and hearts in ways that facilitate AKTion as people galvanise themselves and organise to support one another in on-going social action and social change.
In Belfast, we’re living in a society that’s not only transitioning from a violent conflict, but is suffering all the shocks of the global economic crisis as well as the stresses and pressures of the West’s consumerist, work-worshipping ethos.
Meaningful social change can’t happen unless people are committed to living counter-culturally, and I suspect playfulness can and should be a big part of that. I’m curious about the kinds of conversations that are going to take place on Wednesday. Come along and join the conversation.