Talks, Workshops etc

Someone got in touch recently and said “we’d love you to do a talk for us but we don’t know if you do that sort of thing”. Well, yes, yes I do.

And in case you too were wondering what I get up to this is a big ole scrolly list (sorry) of selected keynotes, workshops, advising, examining and so on in the last year-ish. To a greater or lesser extent most of the things I do feed into each other. Some things will be separate e.g. times when I have concentrated on disseminating outcomes from The Value of Play in HE, or facilitated LEGO(Ⓡ Serious Play(R) workshops, but quite often all my interests and capabilities form a patchwork that joins together nicely. Well, a lot better than my sewing.

Oh and ps -there’s lots of stuff in the pipeline which I can’t share here yet but will do in time:)


A large part of this year has been spent slaving over a hot laptop, writing, rewriting and editing The Value of Play in HE. Here are some of the other things I have been up to:

January Online collaboration with the Politecnico di Torino on creativity and critical thinking

February Co-facilitator for a large scale LEGO®Serious Play® workshop with Inthrface


Online webinar for Lehman College, USA on creativity and critical thinking, with some play thrown in as well.

Led a Playful University Platform discussion on Sutton-Smith’s The Ambiguity of Play for PUP’s reading group, hosted by Laura Barclay. Lively and enlightening!

Tried out a prototype of my escapequestgamethingy Tramorabilia at Exeter University’s Playful Lab. Great fun and lots of ideas, openness and constructive feedback to help me shape proper version for Playful Learning in July.


Micael Buckle and I launched our bespoke LEGOⓇ SERIOUS PLAYⓇ in HE facilitator training online. So great to be able to finally take this live after a long time planning. You can find out more about it in this blogpost

Later in the month I made a trip to the inspiring UA92 to work creatively and playfully with CAO Professor Gary Pritchard and colleagues on all things curriculum. 

July  A week of excitement, first speaking at the Luminate conference on unlocking potential at the fabulous Leeds Conservatoire, followed by a reunion at Playful Learning in Leicester with play aficionados. (Also heavenly accommodation). Ran the redesigned Tramorabilia outdoors in the heat, ably abetted by Julia Reeve as tram conductor. You had to be there. Confirmed for us both that you can play and share research effectively; they are not mutually exclusive.

August Launch of The Value of Play in HE:A Study. So pleased to be able to do this, three years and a global pandemic after initially being funded by The Imagination Lab Foundation. Massively touched by the reception it has received.

Meanwhile, back in the mists of 2021….

December 2021

I was delighted to present The Value Of Play headline findings at the Society for Research in Higher Education Conference, December 6-10, Re/Connecting, Re/building higher education in transformative times – their first ever online conference. A heaving programme, some old friends and a block dedicated to playful learning and fun

November 2021

Two days of workshops with the fabulous people at InGame at Abertay University, hosted by Iain Donald, and focussing on the use of LEGO Serious Play and Co Design. I threw Appreciative Inquiry into the mix as well. Why wouldn’t you?

October 2021

I was delighted to speak at the second Playposium organised by Welcome to the Playvolution. You can watch the videos,including a most excellent keynote from Pat Kane, here  I was delighted to be able to run a workshop exploring notions of value from The Value of Play, and astounded to find that in less than 18 months professorsatplay have more than 700 members worldwide! A true sign of the growth in interest in playful practices. They have a book coming out too! Can I say “WHOOP!”?

September 2021

I was delighted to run a Professional Development Workshop on The Value of Play in HE at the 35th British Academy of Management Conference. The theme for this year’s conference was Recovering from Covid: Responsible Management and Reshaping the Economy and it was a massive and well attended event. 570 papers were presented over the four days, as well as 33 professional development workshops. 40 countries were represented and over 35% of participants were from outside the UK. 

August 2021

A treat for me to work with the wonderful and creative people at the Artis Foundation on reviewing identity and mission through the dual lenses of LEGO Serious Play and Appreciative Inquiry. Under our onomatopoeic nicknames I (aka Splash) Toot (aka Caroline Hotchkiss) and all the team spent the morning building and sharing LEGO models online. Very excited to say we are planning to meet again for next’s year’s annual event – hopefully face to face!

May 2021

I was honoured to give the closing keynote at the Educause ELI annual meeting 2021 and glad to be part of such a well organised, respected and impactful event. Its theme was Writing the Next Chapter: Innovative Practices, New Integrations, and Transformative Impacts which is a pithy summary of what we are striving for in this reshaped world of university learning. I particularly liked the focus on student and staff care and wellbeing alongside educational excellence and innovation. You can access on demand content until July 2021 so it is worth checking in if you missed it. My talk is on the power and relevance of play – SURRPRIIISEE! Completed my tenure as External Examiner at the Royal College of Art – I shall miss the creativity hit. Completed my third run through my research data – and am moving into write up phase! Hunting around for visual, playful and creative modes of communicating data – all ideas gratefully received! April 2021 Piloted an exciting and new play-related course with a great friend and colleagues designed over the last year and tested with fantastic, constructively critical and supportive educators. Can’t say more now but we hope to release details in August 2021 – whoop! Gave the opening keynote of Day 1 of the University of Surrey Excellence in Teaching Symposium, Surrey ExciTes which this year was dedicated to playful learning. Another piece of evidence in the increase in interest in play as legitimate academic practice – hoorah! It was also unexpectedly helpful in that technical gremlins (successful test runs notwithstanding) prevented me from sharing my slides so had to give my talk to camera. from perceived disaster came wonderful feedback that it was such a pleasant change not to have powerpoint and just listen. Good to know and inspired me when I …. ran an online webinar for the University of Exeter Playful University Club on Are We Entering An Age of Play?This was rooted in Sutton-Smith’s (and others) speculation over the last thirty years that we are approaching an age of play, even if we are not quite there yet. I focussed on low/no tec and Powerpointless activities. So used to doing this in face to face workshops but realise that I too had become reliant on slides, mentimeter etc. Nothing wrong with any of them but it was a really good challenge for me to rise to to step back from any of the usual tools and supports. Plus I think we can all suffer from digifatigue – not just in relation to Zoom March 2021 Spoke at the GamechangersFest event, online, but hosted from Estonia and with a live event taking place in St Petersburg. Eye opening (for me) regarding the world of programmes to create playful youthwork networks which also support informal learning and civic education. Fascinating talks and presentations on the use of games in these contexts, including David Cicurel’s hybrid Chronicles of Crime, which now resides in the family play cupboard and is very popular. February 2021 An absolute privilege this month was giving the inaugural talk at the Politecnico di Torino’s opening ceremony for the academic year. Online of course, but no less moving and with a real sense of occasion. A stirring address from the Rector opened events and I was proud to be part of it. Also hugely relieved that the wifi worked as we moved to the country two days before and it was looking iffy. In addition to technical panics I had wardrobe worries about whether I would find anything to wear that was not jeans or pyjamas. As it was it was about two weeks before I found my shoes but don’t tell anyone. 2020

2020 was mostly online webinars, either for specific events or as an in-house series for university clients. Highlights (for me) included a keynote at the inaugural Playposium, a most excellent event organised by professorsatplay, participating in Playful Intercultural Dialogues series organised by the Playful University Platform and co- presenting Getting Creative in Learning and Teaching at a Time of Crisis at the SRHE with Chrissi Nerantzi.

I spent a large chunk of the year on course design, as well as my research. Before the world closed down I did manage to do two face to events:

I was delighted to run a creativity workshop for Politecnico Torino in February in support of our shared interests in the multinational OECD collaboration to foster creativity and critical thinking at university.

Hot on the heels from Turin I was equally happy to be rejoining members of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists for our annual Markers Day. This is always a fabulous event – fun, productive, enlightening and I get to work with a great group of people.

Some events from 2019  also give you a sense of what I am about. I was thrilled to be invited to speak at the University of Bolton’s TEDX in October 2019 – a student-organised event with excellent engagement and truly thought provoking speakers. Link to my talk coming soon but in the meantime here are some photos, including a lovely tweet, one of me as a waxwork and another which shows how much changes when you don’t get the whole title in…

Screenshot 2020-02-27 at 08.51.17

A list of recent events follows but if you don’t have time for that and just want a picture version of something I’ve been talking about recently here it is, courtesy of @katrina_swanton at Edinburgh Napier and her brilliant sketchnoting…

myy talk EN visualised copy


I also work with individuals to set and achieve goals according to their own agenda and in academic and professional contexts. You can see what a few of them have said on my Testimonials page.

Past talks, keynotes and workshops

Now some of the below may already look like ancient history (2018? When was that?!?) but if you don’t know what I do it may still be a useful window on my world…

In the UK I have run creativity/LEGO workshops at many universities; including Aberystwyth, Anglia Ruskin, Aston, Kingston, Bedfordshire, Birmingham, Cass Business School, Christchurch Canterbury, De Montfort, Portsmouth, Plymouth,  Middlesex, London South Bank,Ruskin School of Art,  Southampton Solent, Surrey, UAL, Warwick, Westminster, Wolverhampton, and the HEA Conference, and the National Playwork Conference in Eastbourne.

Abroad (do we still say that?) I have spoken at numerous locations in the States, keynoting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and running workshops at the Universities of Virginia, Maryland and a knowledge exchange visit to the University of Pennsylvania, among others. The photo below was taken in the Crown Room of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Feb 2018.  Stephen Brookfield and I were doing a play and creativity workshop for the Learning and the Brain conference, hosted with Stanford University. It was 8.15 on a Saturday morning and I thought no-one would come, or if they did, it would be for the incredible views of the bay. Thankfully the room was packed and participation was great – 150 of us committed to the case of play in further and higher education.

our workshop

Been and Gone – some highlights from 2019

January……….my annual Assessment Day for the Society of Cosmetic Scientists & a webinar on playful learning for Liverpool Hope University

frank su tweet re my livhope web

February…….a LEGO workshop for Bournemouth University

April…………Play and Creativity Festival at Winchester. This year three days instead of a week but it will be packed!

June…………..Keynotes at Edinburgh Napier Learning and Teaching Day and at London Metropolitan University Learning & Teaching Conference

July…………….Keynote, Playful Learning Conference, Leicester

Loooooong Gone…….2018

December 5th ….talk at King’s London about LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in business management education

November 28th Judging at the inaugural DMU Mindbuilder competition, with a talk on Play in HE that you can view here 

November 13 and 26…..using LEGO SERIOUS PLAY to explore research, running two workshops at the University of Manchester, with Methods@Manchester and at the University of Sheffield for the White Rose Partnership

November 15…webinar for SUN on play and creativity in further and higher education

November 7 I was also delighted to support my great colleague Professor Marcus Leaning as he received his NTF in Edinburgh…

under the railway clock at The Caley

October 15/16….thrilled to bits to be invited to Abertay University by Alastair Robertson, Director https://playandcreativityfestival.wordpress.comof Learning & Teaching Enhancement, for their excellent conference on Learning through Co-Design. I ran a workshop exploring co-design with LEGO at the newly opened V&A Dundee which was a joy, and then gave a keynote on play, creativity and co-design the next day. Also got to see RSS Discovery and have a whizz round the McManus Museum. Both stunning and I can’t wait to go back.

September 6/7 I attended a two day briefing in Paris at the OECD with my colleague Professor Paul Sowden, spearheading the University’s involvement in a multinational research project into fostering and assessing creativity. Details here.

July …at Winchester I ran my annual LEGO workshop for primary school students seeking to understand what university might be like for them, through our Juniversity project – a fantastic initiative to open doors, widen horizons and raise aspirations. The children see it as coming to Hogwarts! Here’s one we made earlier…

May 17…SEDA webinar on play and creativity for staff and educational developers

May 9… I ran my annual workshop on assessment for the Society of Cosmetic Scientists in Piccadilly – a great day and chance  to work with diverse specialists working in a dispersed, online domain.

January…awayday at Marwell Zoo with University of Portsmouth colleagues, facilitating a departmental exploration of a new vision with LEGO