Who Wants to… Returf the Streets?

On the 23rd august, 100 people at the May You live In Interesting Times festival at Chapter in Cardiff bought £10 tickets, then spent two hours trying to decide what to do with £1000 of the box office takings.

Previously on Who Wants to Be…?, after seriously considering using their money to make an attempt on the record for baking the world’s biggest crumpet, an audience of 200 decided to spend their £2000 commissioning an artist to create a ‘Democracy Bench’ for a local London park. You can read about that here.

This time, the ideas were no less varied. Early proposals included employing a ‘hugger’ to comfort people in the street, creating an innovation award for the festival, or building a well in an African village.

After the first few votes, the audience divided into political factions. One group of people, all of whom had spent the day at the festival at an unconference about the future of DIY technology, were determined to either give the money to analogue blogger Alfred Sirleaf, or to the team from Maker Faire Africa, both of whom were in the audience. The rest of the audience wanted to spend the money on a local project such as buying a wind turbine for Chapter, buying a dinghy for a local children’s boat club, or an environmental campaign to encourage cycling in the city.

4050132477_c3be243084_bThis was the first time an audience had become so divided at a game of Who Wants to Be…? There were probably many reasons for that to happen. Audience member Eddo Stern pointed out that grouping ideas into almost arbitrary categories, and then voting on them early in the game eliminated whole swathes of ideas and the possibility of creatively modifying and blending them. This was also the first show in a cinema, where the audience were all facing forwards, rather than sitting in an amphitheatre, where they could all see each other, which may have isolated some groups at the front from those at the back who had a view of who was voting for what.

Returfed Methley's estate, Leeds, 2006Finally, the audience narrowly decided to spend the money on a local environmental campaign to ‘green the city’ by re-enacting the famous ‘Turf the Street‘ direct action from 1996, where residents of Leeds’ Methley’s estate decided to lay 800 square meters of turf, turning a street into a village green for a weekend.

Despite making such a daring decision, very few people seemed happy with the outcome, and some felt completely disgusted by it. However, a few members of the audience did offer to help make it happen, and plans will soon be underway to find and returf an appropriate area of Cardiff!

We got some great feedback from people in the bar after the show, which you can watch below:

Feedback from ‘Who Wants to Be…?’ at Chapter, Cardiff from The People Speak on Vimeo.

The People Speak team recognise that there were some major problems with the structure of this event that made it possible for more than 50% of the audience to be disappointed by the outcome.

We would like to thank you all for your generous feedback, which has helped to evolve the rules of the game in the following ways:

  • The game is now divided into two halves, one for brainstorming and one for voting (so that nothing is excluded in the first half).
  • Ideas can be nominated to go through from brainstorming to voting rounds, and the audience have a quick poll to select the top 9 ideas.
  • Someone has to stand by each of the 9 top projects, and offer to make it happen in order for it to progress to the voting round.
  • During the break, people can gather around their favourite project’s representative and help prepare the pitch for the second half.
  • In the second half, people pitch the top 9 ideas, they are then discussed and voted on, until a final run-off selects the winner.

These rules proved to be a huge success in generating greater audience satisfaction in the following game.

We would like to add a special note of thanks to Emma Posey, the festival director, who took time out of her weekend after the festival to give us some really excellent feedback on style, structure and presentation.

Let the evolution continue!

3 Responses to “Who Wants to… Returf the Streets?”

  1. Dominic says:

    Welll done. You’ve put this together well – its good to see the follow on and really interesting that the structure has changed as a result of that night.

  2. I really enjoyed being in the audience in Cardiff – it was incredibly frustrating, but that was what made it an interesting artwork in my eyes.

    Unfortunately I’m not really in a position to help out with the returfing, due to living in Glasgow and having a fair amount on my plate already. I really am trying to renationalise the UK’s railways!

    If nothing comes of the returfing idea, I think the money should be donated to Chapter and used to put towards an environmental project. Perhaps used as match funding for a micro-generation system (wind / solar power), or the bike stand. I like the idea of using the money on something that could continue to generate or create – either of these options would do this.

  3. […] Emma Posey from Bloc and the May You Live in Interesting Times festival who commissioned the Cardiff version. […]

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