Der Backgammon Platz

Format Games

City Ahlen, Germany

Public & semi-public spaces – Der Backgammon Platz is a project with one major aim: to shape a meeting point for people to start discovering each other. A backgammon board becomes the platform for people that do not necessarily speak the same language to interact. It acts as an icebreaker for people that share the same space to engage in a dialogue, better understand each other, discover what they have in common and jointly create new memories and experiences.

The town of Ahlen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany is a mosaic of cultures, diverse and unique people and places. Being a newcomer and wishing to understand and become part of the local community, I started thinking of ways I can help shape a sense of community by empowering participants and revitalising public space. Focusing on what we might have in common, rather on what makes as differ, Der Backgammon Platz came to life. The initiative sprang out of a personal experience. When visiting the Turkish city of Bandirma a while back, backgammon turned into the only way I could communicate with locals. It became the starting point for us to interact, discover our similarities and shape a common ground. From 21 October to 3 November 2016 the mobile installation of Der Backgammon Platz popped-up in unexpected public and semi-public places of the town of Ahlen. Backgammon constituted the commencing place for me and people of Ahlen, to have an intercultural dialogue and shape bonds that interrelate our memories, experiences, norms and practices.

Things you need It doesn't take much

All you need is a backgammon, two chairs, a small table, a carpet and a trolley to help move your equipment around.

Funding Be creative!

Use what you already have or utilise whatever you can find to shape your own Platz (place).

People Power Form a strong team

All you need is a team you can rely on. You will need someone with technical skills to assist you in case you want to create installation add-ons. For example, I needed a camera-arm that gets fixed on my installation's table. You will also need someone to help you transfer and set up the installation. The same person can help you attract participants while on spot. In case you want the experience filmed and edited into a documentary, you will also need someone with relative experience. I also partnered with a local sociocultural institution that helped me secure permission to occupy semi-public spaces (Town Hall, Office of Foreign affairs etc.) and arranged for press releases and conferences with local media.

Location Location, Location, Location!

Choosing the right locations is extremely important in projects that rely on public participation. To do that you need to have your project's aims/philosophy and target group in mind. I implemented the project in nine varying locations. The main criteria I had in mind when choosing a location were the following:

  • Busy places - Places were a mixture of people in terms of ethnicity, gender, age may be found - Places of occupation rather than rushing through, where people have a lot of spare time and are in a more relaxed mood - Peak days and times that reflect my target groups - Weather when an exterior public space is an option (have a nearby covered space alternative in case of unexpected rainy or cold weather)

Production Just Do It

Don't dwell too much on planning your events. Just do it! Every event is experience that will make you reflect and be better organised next time!