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Let Them Play: The Art Collective encouraging you to play more

Meet Let Them Play, the new art collective encouraging people to go back to their childish roots and integrate more play into everyday life. Meg Firth talks to co-founders Melissa, Caela and Misha about the future of the collective and on the creative scene in the North.

Highlighting the importance of creativity, Let Them Play create inclusive and interactive spaces for all to enjoy. Their first event, ‘Starting Steps’, transformed Hyde Park Book Club’s basement into a playground of music, interactive art and like-minded people. Usually a space where sweaty gigs reach capacity and pints are lobbed across the floor, Let Them Play converted the room into a space where you could spend the evening playing with building blocks, drawing with friendly strangers and listening to the open decks DJs. It was a celebration of creative thinking: “We all believe that creative thinking is important, and should be integrated more with everyday life,” the co-founders explain. “We found that we were drawn to rethinking event spaces because, as students, these are the public spaces we visit the most. We experiment with encouraging play and active engagement within these spaces”.

The minds behind Let Them Play met while studying at the University of Leeds. Moving in together, they realised they shared the same enthusiasm for art-making and the processes involved in curating spaces for creative engagement. With a refreshing community feel, the collective fits in well with the thriving creative scene in Leeds: “Leeds is an incredible place to be living as a young creative person - especially since we originally come from larger, more densely populated cities,” Let Them Play reflect. “It feels like there are a lot more space and opportunity to experiment with our ideas. The best thing for our project is that people are really open to collaborating and there’s a collective energy that we have found really encouraging, especially as new additions to the scene”.

Compared to larger metropolitan cities, such as London, Leeds has a unique collaborative quality, where young creatives are eager to meet each other, share ideas and create spaces that celebrate this ethos of communal creativity. The three are quick to recognise some of the many creative spaces that are unique to the city: “Inkwell Arts is a charitable organisation dedicated to using the arts for mental wellbeing. The work they do in Chapel Alperton is amazing. There’s also Freehold Projects, which is a temporary space ran by Fine Art graduates in the centre of Leeds that offers free exhibition spaces for artists. In terms of music and events, the work done by Sable radio, Equaliser, Brudenell Groove and Love Muscle have had the most impact on our ideas for Let Them Play”.

Inclusivity and accessibility umbrella Let Them Play’s ethos as they strive to create spaces where anyone can come for a relaxed evening of play. Melissa explains: “We feel that club culture can have an exclusive, one-dimensional feel to it. Let Them Play aims to create a more inclusive, interactive environment that allows people to have experiences outside of the normalised boundaries of the standard club night. We are also keen to move outside of the university bubble and attract people of all ages in living in Leeds”.

When art and the scenes that surround it can often feel elitist and exclusionary, Let Them Play provide young artists with the confidence to showcase their work without fear of critique or judgement. As Melissa explains, “Creativity contributes to a sense of confidence that is completely independent. It pushes the people to learn and relearn things, consider different perspectives and develop a critical voice - all while exploring the things that interest you the most, with no rules or restrictions”.

With Let Them Play, it is lovely to see people going back to their childish roots and playing with their creativity without any pressure of expectations. Melissa expresses that the collective are eager to host more events similar to their ‘Starting Steps’ launch night: “We are going to continue to use simple activities that allow people to engage with art and making in a relaxed environment. We’re interested in anything that requires a hands-on approach! We’re considering what could be done with engagements involving Leeds-based artists”.

Leeds is certainly not short of artists, illustrators and makers who are keen to share their craft with others. With co-founders Melissa and Caela venturing abroad to Germany and the Netherlands in the next year, it is exciting to think of Let Them Play’s ethos spreading beyond Leeds. With hopes to host more events in the coming year, keep an eye out and an evening free for Let Them Play.

Meg Firth

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