Ms Harriet Coppard

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Personal profile

I am founder and Director of Snug & Outdoor, an artist-led company who design original playful environments in the public realm. For more than 25 years I have explored the relationship of object, environment and behaviour through exhibitions, public art, urban design schemes and experimental play projects. Frustration with conventional evaluation methods and the ways in which lived experience is equated with measureable outcomes led me to an MA in Play and Playwork. I was looking for theoretical ideas that could provide a fundamentally different way of understanding everyday lived experience and in particular the emotional, responsive, temporal, nature of playful behaviour. For my MA dissertation, ‘Dancing With Strangers’, I invited a dancer, a writer and a painter to observe play and interaction in a public square. These different perspectives and observational modes revealed a diversity and conceptual subtlety that would not have been possible from an instrumental perspective, giving attention to pre-cognitive and intangible aspects of everyday encounter that get ignored in conventional reports. My MA dissertation raised questions about the relationship of an artist’s practice and academic research, modes of observation and meaning-making and the relationship of play and place-making that I am now exploring further as a PHD.


Provisional research title:

Staying With The In-Between: What insights can an artist’s process of enquiry bring to an understanding of play and everyday encounter in the public realm?


Play both animates and subverts conventional use of public settings, creating alternative pockets of meaning in which different identities and futures can be imagined. In a world of constant change and unpredictability it may be precisely the quirky, adaptable, making-it-up-as-you-go-along qualities of play that makes it a characteristic of human resilience. The challenge is to recognise the subtle ways in which all ages engage with their surroundings and to develop methods capable of giving attention and description to the multifarious nature of play.

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