Ready to play?

Play’s the thing in park at Ottawa International Children’s Children’s Festival

By Bruce Deachman, OTTAWA CITIZEN May 27, 2013

Play’s the thing in park at Ottawa International Children’s Children’s Festival

From left to right, Jeffrey Salmon, Sarah Gelbard (bottom), Kelly Gillelan and Katelyn Lucas comprise Impromptu Playground, an offshoot of yowLAB, a loose affiliation of about 50 Carleton University architecture grads and other urban planner and artist types, most in their 20s and 30s.

Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger , Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa International Children’s Festival

May 28 to June 2

Ticket information: 613-241-0999;

OTTAWA — In a frictionless world, the novel playground set up at the Ottawa International Children’s Festival would resemble some fantastic and perpetual clockwork. Imagine 150 yoga balls of different sizes and colours, each tethered by a two-foot rope to a 10-foot-high “reed” made from flexible plumbing tubing. The balls are positioned so that when you kick one, it rolls in an arc into another, which then bounces into a third, and so on and so forth. The playground is called Dynamic Maze.

“It’s generous and playful,” says festival director Catherine O’Grady. “And it’s unique. You’re not going to find 150 balls that you can just run through and bounce on and kick about anywhere else in the city.

“I love that there are no rules, and it’s so unique that kids will actually be inventing the experience for the very first time.”

O’Grady, who’s been programming the festival since 2001, is confident that children will eagerly jump in and play. She just hopes that their parents and other adults attending can throw off their what-are-you-supposed-to-do? reticence and hop in, too.

The irony here is that the group that designed the playground, a quartet that collectively calls itself Impromptu Playground, was formed in 2011 with the idea of providing urban play areas for adults — guerrilla-style pop-up “parks” that simply appear one day and, depending on the reaction of various officials and authorities, disappear almost as quickly.

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