The games were invented for the Windows Project. The Project was founded
in 1976 to "diffuse knowledge and appreciation of language as a creative
medium ... to improve skills in language ... for those who have need of it
by reason of youth age infirmity or social or economic conditions."
Although the Project has worked widely within these categories, the games
have usually been designed originally to be sufficiently interesting and
accessible for use in playschemes or youth clubs and then adapted to suit
different environments and specific users.
In CITY OF POEMS, a report on the Project's work to 1978, Dave Ward
explained the reasons for our approach and went on to explain how the
Project began to work in the playscheme environment:
In summer 1976 Merseyside Play Action Council invited a group of poets
to run poetry workshops in the Bronte Centre and then Rice Lane Playscheme.
First we had to decide the best way of introducing the traditionally
delicate and thoughtful art of poetry into the traditionally boisterous
and fast-moving atmosphere of the Bronte Centre - a purpose built youth
and community centre near the Bull Ring tenements in the centre of Liverpool.
The Bronte Centre has one main activities room on the first floor - filled
with table tennis, swings, nets, and as many opportunities for large numbers
of children to let off steam as possible.
There is also one smaller room next to the main one. We decided it made
most sense to run the workshops in there, with less chance of distractions
such as tables and chairs getting knocked over in the general pell-mell.
We then had to think of a way to make that room somewhere the children would
still want to go. We decided not to make it so totally different from the
main room that they would never come in - so we offered them another game.
The game became known as the Amazing Push-Poem Machine...
The format at the Bronte had already evolved from work at Great
Georges Community Cultural Project (the Blackie):
- using a smaller, quieter room with a controlled flow
of a smaller number of children
- introducing the unfamiliar (poetry) through the familiar
(a game that involves a mixture of skill
- always making sure the children work to the highest
possible standards they themselves are
- encouraging them to do so by providing good quality
materials to work with
- making the games they play at the beginning as attractive
as possible, even though they may be
built from scrap material. (The boxes in the Amazing Push-Poem
Machine were old beer crates).
This format, together with the idea of taking poems and turning them into
something other than books: - badges, posters, food, etc., has become a
basis for Windows work in other centres since then - with continuing
developments and adaptions.
Among these developments was the extension of the Project's workshops into more
formal environments - schools, libraries, day centres, hospitals, etc., where
the larger numbers or special needs very quickly led to variations in the existing
games, and development of others.
But wherever the workshop is held, whether open field, gym,
storeroom or classroom, something can always be achieved so long as the game
is not wholly inappropriate and there is sufficient energy and supervision.
The workshops are the most important part of the work of the Windows Project
- it runs about 800 workshops each year. Its other activities include the
provision of poetry advice desks, usually in libraries, the co-ordination of
writers' tours and events and poetry publications including Smoke magazine.