Der Backgammon Platz
City Ahlen, Germany
The town of Ahlen in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany is a mosaic of diverse and unique cultures, people and places. As a newcomer wishing to understand and become part of the local community, one looks for ways that can help shape a sense of community by empowering participants and revitalizing public space. Der Backgammon Platz came to life as a tool to focus on the commonalities rather than the differences between citizens. The initiative sprang out of a personal experience. When visiting the Turkish city of Bandirma, backgammon turned into the only way Dimitrios Zachos, the initiator of this tool, could communicate with locals. It became the starting point for people to interact, discover their similarities and shape a common ground. Adapted to the specific context of Ahlen, the mobile installation Der Backgammon Platz popped up in unexpected public and semi-public places all around the town. Backgammon constituted the starting point for the inhabitants of Ahlen to have an intercultural dialogue and shape bonds that interrelate their memories, experiences, norms and practices.
Things you need It doesn't take much
All you need is a backgammon game, 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 utilize whatever you can find or get donated to shape your own Backgammon Platz.
People Power Form a strong team
You need 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, you might want a camera-arm that gets fixed on the 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 on location. In case you want the experience filmed and edited into a documentary, you will also need someone experienced for that. It could help to partner with a local socio-cultural institution to help you secure permission to occupy semi-public spaces (Town Hall, Office of Foreign Affairs, etc.) and arrange 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 or philosophy and target group in mind. Der Backgammon Platz was implemented in nine varying locations, which were chosen according to the following main criteria:
- Busy places
- Places where a mixture of people in terms of ethnicity, gender, and age may be found
- Places of occupation rather than rushing through, where people have a lot of time to spare and are in a more relaxed mood
- Peak days and times that reflect the target groups
- Weather that allows an outdoor public space as an option, preferably have an alternative roofed space nearby in case of unexpected rain or cold weather
Production Just Do It
Don't dwell too much on planning your events. Just do it! Every event is an experience that will make you reflect and be better prepared next time!