I created the play experience Tramorabilia especially for the b Playful Learning Conference in Leicester, July 6-8 2022. The weather was hot and space was tight and i realised on arriving at the conference that I would need a lot of set up time. In fact, around the previous days’ conference events I was mostly on my hands and knees in my room sticking together lifesize cardboard cutouts to represent play naysayers, or cutting out pretend tram tickets and enrolling my dear colleague Julia Reeve as a tram conductor (she was rash enough to offer to help me – so it’s clearly a high risk strategy). The whole process of creating Tramorabilia was absolutely eye opening on so many levels, not least because I was trying to combine play for adults, serious content, and the dissemination of project outcomes all in one slightly crazy package. So, in case you missed it, here is everything you need to know about the surreally named, just about plausible, totally beta…..

Taking place in the Thursday evening Project Slot this was its first outing, after an initial pilot with the lovely positive playfellows in Exeter Playful Lab. Before we started I thought it might be handy to give participants a little welcome and explanation. So I put the following information on this website.

What is Tramorabilia?

Tramorabilia was designed as a playful, play-based approach to disseminating some aspects of my recent study The  Value of Play in HE. It heralds the full story-of-the-study which will be freely available from August 2022.

This downloadable book takes the game of I Spy as its organising structure and plays with academic conventions such as tone and presentation. It caters for all kinds of readers and interests, covering literature, theory and practice of play in HE,  complexities and contradictions, cultural factors, discussions, diagrams and a huge number of examples of play. There is a reflection section (ooh the poetry) at the end of each part of the book for you to muse on what you have encountered. The aim of the game Tramorabilia is to draw attention to the coming publication and for participants to find out some information about the project through the medium of play.

The scenario…

You have come to attend the evening book launch of The Value of Play in HE:A Study; hosted at the Tramorabilia Theme Park. As well as wanting to find out about the project,  you are a super keen tram enthusiast who wants to get in a few rides too. So before the launch you sneak off to see as many different models as possible, spend your money in the gift shop and write down serial numbers/comparing different gauge rails. It is all so exciting you don’t notice the time passing until you realise the park is closed and you are locked in. Everyone else has gone to the launch which starts shortly, except you and a few other offenders.

You panic, as a) you had promised to be there b) you had planned to find out a bit about the project before you arrive.

To your relief, however, you find a Tram Driver (me) who is still in the park. She agrees to help you get out of the park if you will help her with a few tasks. She gives you some starter provisions and sets you off on your mission….

Photo by Adam Borkowski on Unsplash

How to play

You can play Tramorabilia on your own, with a partner or in a group. You can play collaboratively and just have some fun at each activity point, or play competitively with real fake money! I know. It’s sooooo exciting. If you want to score points these are awarded or taken away through different options and activities and your final score totted up by the Tram Driver at the end. There are options at each activity point for you to engage with different levels of effort/enthusiasm/interest. There will also be a prize for the person/team with the highest score.

It all starts with a group briefing from the Tram Driver and then you pass through five activity points as you play, in which you

  •  do some Tram Spotting
  • muse over and match the trams in Theoretical Rhetoricals: will you Stay and Play or Stop, Pop and Hop?
  • encounter different kinds of play through Pitch and Play
  • get artistic (and judgy) with Voticon Emoticon 
  • see off some Trespassers!

Once you have successfully passed through all of these points you will get out of Tramorabilia in time to attend the launch and have your sterling efforts recognised with a certificate of achievement.

Photo by Patti Black on Unsplash

Everything else will be revealed as you play.


All the materials are provided in the session, however, if we run out of any, here are two items that you might like to download afterwards. Gazillions is the I Spy with my little eye something beginning with G version of an abstract and the other is a certificate of escape from Tramorabilia. The latter strictly for post play use only. And in four-six weeks or so (hopefully) you will have access to 350+ pages of freebook which tell you everything you want to know about The Value of Play in HE


I can’t quite describe the experience as it was funny, insightful, confusing, hectic and probably far too complicated. All in all it was exhilarating, exhausting and a bit bonkers. Revelations for me were two things that I had thrown in at the last minute and thought might be seen as gimmicky turned out to be participant favourites and remarkably thought provoking. One of the more worthy theoretical activities was not so popular.

On the train home I wrote a debrief of the experience as there were so many details I wanted to record (irrelevant aside; while doing this I was joined by 3 lovely ladies on a weekend away who had brought a very glamorous home made picnic of scones, jam, truffles and Pimms. Chatting with them as they celebrated their adventure while I wrote up reflections and feedback was both surreal and delightful). Someone said to me “I look forward to reading that in an article” and I hope I get round to it.

More importantly though. Did it work as dissemination of a study? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I change anything? Yes (my ability to make simple things difficult is a good place to start). Did participants enjoy it? Yes. We all got a little lost in the intricacies of my overplotting once or twice but this is what they had to say:

It was the best thank you. Excellent design and facilitation

Loved it, especially the dots responding to the quotations – made me think. Great to move about and have the different activities at different stations

Love all the searching, playing, poetry and competition

Love it

Heart emoji

Great hats

Cool experience, really well planned and great way to learn

Learnt quite a lot of theory [SURPRISING]