Hello Lamp Post! wins £30,000 Playable City Award 2013

Watershed is delighted to announce Hello Lamp Post! by London-based experience design studio PAN, as the winner of Bristol’s first ever Playable City Award. Their idea was chosen from 93 applications from around the world and will be produced and installed in Bristol this summer, before being toured internationally.

Hello Lamp Post! invites audiences to tune in to the secret conversations of the city and communicate through lamp posts, bus stops, post boxes and other street furniture. Part game, part story, anyone can play by texting in a unique code found on the city’s familiar street objects.  

Lamp posts, bus stops and post boxes are the goosebumps of the city and so ubiquitous that they have become invisible. The ‘smart city’ approach is to augment them with technologies like digital displays, but Hello Lamp Post! seeks instead to make them playable, using existing city infrastructure to make an open, hospitable and playful experience which encourages people to notice and interact with what is around them.

The project will utilise the codes that city councils and public servants use to tell one object from another when a light bulb needs changing or a bus stop is in need of repair. For the first time, city dwellers will be able to use these codes too in order to play a game and tell a story.

Every post box in Bristol has a six figure code, every bollard has two, some of the benches have seven and the storm drains have 14. Text the word ‘Hello + the name of the object + its code’ to the special phone number and the item of street furniture will immediately text you back with a question. Will it be pleased to see you? Irritated at having been left in the rain? Or will it tell you a secret? The more you play, the more the hidden life of the city will be revealed.

The judges, musician Imogen Heap, Google's Tom Uglow and Claire Doherty of Situations selected PAN Studio for their interesting response to the theme of taking a playful approach to public spaces, which uses inanimate objects to trigger playful interactions.

Imogen Heap says: 'I love this for its whispers on the street, guardians in dark corners, humanising our cities' appendages whose eyes and ears now have a voice. Vessels for an ever evolving conversation, connecting us together. They were there all along!'

Tom Uglow says: ‘ Hello Lamp Post! stood out with a potential for both art and play using existing urban furniture. It points to a future made up of the physical objects already around us, the 'internet of things', and the underlying complexity is made simple and easy for people by just using SMS for this project. Poetry and technology combine to create subtle and playful reflections of the world we live in. It filled me with a childish delight.”

Claire Doherty says: “We were enchanted by this proposal and particularly loved the way it challenged the prevalence of mass-entertainment and spectacle, revealing an invisible 'soft city' - the exchanges and incidents that create a city's social fabric. It's rare to find a proposal which combines those intimate exchanges with the humour and playfulness of Hello Lamp Post!”

Ben Barker from PAN Studios says: “This is a huge surprise. When we saw the quality of the shortlist, with work from so many names that we respect, we never imagined being selected. We are really flattered and excited to continue to develop the idea with Watershed on what makes a Playable City over the coming months. Our interest in the Playable City was rooted in its contrast to the smart city, the almost invisible structures that underpin modern services. We are asking people to wake up to street furniture and play with them in order to communicate with fellow citizens. We're excited to see what Bristol comes up with!”

Clare Reddington, Judging Panel Chair says, “We were really excited by the applications we received and by the comments and questions from audiences about the short-listed entries.  The judges had a difficult decision to make but have selected an unusual and innovative project, which responds perfectly to the theme and seems very apt for Bristol. We will certainly have some challenges to make sure the project reaches as many people as possible, but am sure people will respond with curiosity and warmth and I am very much looking forward to waking up some street furniture this summer.”

The £30,000 commission seeks to create an original, future-facing work, which uses creative technology to explore the theme of the playable city.

You can read more and follow the project as it develops at


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The Playable City Award 2013

The award

The aim of the Playable City Award is to produce an artwork which surprises, challenges and engages people in exploring the broad brief of playable city. A Playable City is an open city that enables its residents and visitors to reconfigure and rewrite its services, places and stories and where there is permission to be playful in public.  Pushing the boundaries and encouraging experimentation, this international award sits at the intersections of technology and culture and will champion Bristol as an international hub for cutting edge creativity. The commissioned work will be able to cross cultural contexts and be toured. It will use technology in an integrated and interesting way. It will inject a sense of wonder and meaning into public space. The selected artist(s) will be awarded £30,000 to include the artist’s fee and expenses, in addition to a budget available for accommodation, travel and production subject to agreement. The winner will also have desk space and access to facilities at the Pervasive Media Studio at Watershed in Bristol, and practical as well as publicity support in producing their work.

The partners

Watershed’s Playable City Award is supported by a network of organisations who exemplify Bristol’s strength in Creative Technologies. They are: Aardman, BDH, HP Labs, IBM, IMDB, The Bristol SETsquared Centre, Sift, Team Rubber, Thirty Three, TLT LLP, Toshiba, University of Bristol, University of the West of England and Bristol City Council. The Award is produced by Watershed with support from Arts Council England.

The judges

The judging panel will conduct final interviews and will be responsible for deciding the successful award winner. The panel will be chaired by Clare Reddington of Watershed and will include musician Imogen Heap, Creative Director of Google Labs in Sydney Tom Uglow and Claire Doherty, Director of Situations.

The winners

PAN is a design and research studio, established to produce rich, powerful and affecting experiences. We promote the idea of Experiential Design - taking theory and practices learned from the design industries and applying them to help people discover new sensations, explore deep emotional states and learn in new ways. In the last year we’ve built brain-scanning seance tables, woodland camera puzzles and a zombie-defence laser trap. We have worked for clients including The British Council, Marks & Spencers, Tom Dixon and Capcom.? ?

Gyorgyi Galik is a London-based media artist with a background in fine arts and visual communication design. Gyorgyi has worked in labs and design studios including: Designswarm (London), Elmsly Arts Limited (London), PAN Studio (London), Natalie Jeremijenko and the Environmental Health Clinic (New York), Hexagram-Concordia (Montreal), CECI (Montreal), Szovetseg'39 Association of Artists and Architects (Budapest), Kitchen Budapest Art & Tech Lab (Budapest).? ?

Tom Armitage  is a designer and technologist, working across hardware, software, and the network; he has previously held positions at games company Hide&Seek and the design firm Berg. His explorations of the playful city go back to 2008, when he joined Tower Bridge to the network with an automated Twitter account , which has proved curiously popular.


Production/making process: March – June 2013

Artwork installed: July – Aug 2013

About Watershed

Watershed is a cross artform venue and producer, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent. We are based in Bristol, but place no boundaries on our desire to connect with artists and audiences in the wider world. We curate ideas, spaces and talent to enable artistic visions and creative collaborations to flourish. We produce work that cuts across film, music, theatre, design, visual art, and the creative and technology sectors.


About Bristol

Bristol is the largest city in South West England. It has been an important port and trading centre for 900 years and today it is the cultural and business heart of the West of England with a population of one million.

“The overriding characteristic that seems to unite and influence all others is Bristol’s spirit of innovation, creativity and unorthodoxy.” Yellow Railroad

Bristol has a diverse economy including strengths in advanced manufacturing, hightech/microelectronics, creative digital industries, media, green technologies and two high performing Universities. It is the only UK city to have been shortlisted for the European Green Capital Award and this year came runner-up to Copenhagen.

“the best small city of the future is Bristol in the UK, scoring particularly well in the business friendliness category, due in part to its concentrated hight tech and knowledge-based sectors” fDi Intelligence 2012

The range of assets is world class but it is the spirit of open collaboration which really marks out Bristol as a unique centre for innovation at the intersection of arts, media and technology sectors.

"New technology, the arts and a vibrant youth culture have helped to make this one of Britain's most cutting edge cities." The Rough Guide

Bristol is currently one of four cities shortlisted for The Technology Strategy Board’s £24m Future Cities Demonstrator.


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