Campfire Stories - Broken Telephone and the Marysburgh Vortex

After a great day building forts, we returned to Spark Box Studios to prepare for the second workshop of the weekend: Campfire Stories. The aim of the campfire was to share stories about our physical spaces in hopes of getting participants to think about how our environments shape our lives. With the theme of playfulness at the forefront of this workshop, we organized a number of campfire activities, coupled with cider and smores (courtesy of Mary Suddick).

1. Broken Telephone - Icebreaker

We began with this icebreaker game to get people comfortable and create a fun atmosphere for the evening which worked - We laughed a lot! 

2. Oh the Places we’ve been 

Building on the idea of broken telephone, we split into groups of 2-3 and each told ‘our life stories through place’, picking two to three places that have shaped who we are. Once we shared within our smaller groups, our partners retold the stories aloud to the campfire, trying to remember all the details. We learned about participants’ childhood memories of their homes, wild hitchhiking adventures across Canada and the US, special places that created bonds with their families as well as theoretical, existential spaces that shaped participants’ lives. A mother and daughter were present at the campfire and without knowing, both told their stories about growing up on a farm just outside of PEC. The daughter shared that  she would visit her grandparents at the farm and remembered a sense of freedom upon arrival. The mother, who grew up on the farm, had a different experience. She discussed her work ethic and the responsibility that came with living on a farm - from feeding the cows to driving the tractor at the age of 6. The diversity of the places discussed and the different ways we experience similar environments became evident through this storytelling process.

3. The Tale of… Sharing local legends of place

The third and final activity, The Tale Of, asked participants to share any local legends of PEC.The Marysburgh Vortex was the obvious story, with participants sharing their different versions of how Canada’s Bermuda Triangle came to be and how the magnetic force affects their lives in the County.

The playful night of storytelling and smores enabled participants to have intentional conversations about how our physical environments shape us. Instead of thinking of place as an afterthought or focusing on a specific County issue through a public consultation process, the informal, fun, creative and also intentional context allowed participants to freely explore our connections to place. 


Last weekend marked our first set of workshops, which we were lucky to facilitate in the beautiful Prince Edward County with Sparkbox Studio and Drake Devonshire!

Community of Communities

Prince Edward County is characterized as a “community of communities”, made up of diverse townships, villages, natural landscapes and agricultural production. It is a centre of creativity - with local farms, breweries, wineries and a vibrant cultural community. 

Planning Context

Currently, Prince Edward County is in the midst of rewriting the County’s Official Plan, which means they are developing a new vision for how the area should grow and change in the future. The Crazy Dames workshops aimed to explore the county in a playful and creative way, asking community members to share with us their stories, experiences and visions of their physical spaces. 

Questions that we were considering throughout the weekend: 

Could our conversations and creations shape the vision for the County? How can our stories and experiences of place be reflected in our future spaces? Do these exploratory workshops focused on our spaces better connect us with community and our physical surroundings? 

Workshop 1: How to Build a Blanket Fort

Held at the beautiful Drake Devonshire in Wellington, PEC, this workshop invited participants to work together to transform the event location into an epic, playful physical space. 

We were situated adjacent to the Drake, across from a stream right by the lake. We had a number of participants, ranging in ages with the youngest being 2 years old. We divided into three groups and each ‘team’ worked together to discuss their goals of the blanket fort, to design and then to actually build them. 

The fort with the ornate blue entrance was designed by two siblings, aged 2 and 4. Rhys drew out a blueprint of the fort he wanted to see and as we were building, he had a difficult time straying from that image of a peaked roof, a door and a pillow within. The result was exactly what he envisioned.

‘The Burdock and Brooke’ was developed by a mother and three daughters and was aimed to act as a meditative escape, with the babbling brook nearby and burdock plants used for medicine.

‘The Tiny Toonel’ was the largest fort with a lakefront view. The fort builders, using tiny toon sheets, built a tunnel with a goal to connect to the other forts. While it did not physically connect, we all envisioned a pathway that connected the distinct forts, reflective of the townships within Prince Edward County. 

After we built our forts, we sat in Tiny Toonel to reflect on our experiences and understand how our visions for this small space could be reflected in broader visions for the County. 

We discussed the importance of community involvement and play in planning practices, especially exploration - not getting bogged down by how things SHOULD be and just allowing ourselves to build and see what could take shape. This model of exploration and play could be and should be incorporated into planning processes - to allow urban designers and planners to think out of the box and let go of the policies, zoning and precedents at least for a minute.

The fort building workshop was a success- participants were driven and inspired to just create!!


Spark Box Studio

The Tree House Project at Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre

The Tree House Project at Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre

Workshop participants drafting their tree houses

Jennie’s artist talk

Participants sharing their drawings with one another

Jennie and Chrissy in front of The Tett Centre

The week has kicked off to a great start! 

Jennie and Chrissy installed The Tree House Project Exhibition with the awesome crew at Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre in Kingston. 

On Tuesday, June 14th, Jennie lead an artist talk and workshop, with participants contributing several fantastical plans to the collection that is already 150+ strong! 

Spark Box Studio will act as out home base all week- looking forward to seeing some of you out at our weekend workshops! The exhibition at Modern Fuel will be up until Sunday, June 19th. 

More info and registration about our weekend activities around Prince Edward County can be found here.

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