So Boho have just been in Stockholm for the last five weeks, from the last warm burst of summer through to the first winter snow. We’ve been working with Swedish NGO Miljöverkstan, on the second phase of our collaborative project Democratic Nature.

Democratic Nature is a development of the model we developed at University College London over 2011-12, and tested out for the first time with Best Festival Ever. The format of the work is based on the methodology of ‘participatory co-modelling’ – a practice whereby scientists work with community members to map and model a social-ecological system, and then use that model to help facilitate discussions and conversations about that system.

Our goal was to try to bring some of the skills we’ve developed making interactive experiences to bear on this process. Best Festival Ever was our first full exploration in this area – building a playable model of a fictional music festival. Democratic Nature is the next step for us – using these same skills to map and model the real world system of Flaten.

Flaten is a nature reserve just south of Stockholm. It’s a beautiful lake, surrounded by a forest of oak, pine and spruce trees, right on the edge of Stockholm city. In the 1930s, it became a hub for young Stockholmers learning to swim, and it’s still a major recreational destination. It’s been a space for various groups to set up camp and live in, legally or illegally. It’s the home of various endangered species, insects and birds. And it’s coming under increasing pressure as Stockholm suffers a housing crisis in the wake of increasing migration and asylum seekers.

In January – February this year, we undertook the first phase of this new process: research, meeting with experts, mapping, making new game devices and talking about possible structures for the new work. This month, our focus was on building a prototype. Over the month, we constructed a full working version of the show, which we tested with three scratch audiences this last week.

Democratic Nature consists of a few key games: a sequence we call ‘Worldbuilding’, in which the audience play through the history of the region, from the end of the last ice age through to the modern day. There’s a game looking at the competition between oaks and spruce in Flaten forest, a game looking at the algal blooms that impacted the lake in the late 1990s, a game about Flaten beach on a summer day, and our collective favourite; a game we call ‘Governance’ about managing the nature reserve.

We’re really fond of the Governance game – it’s a nice mechanism that we haven’t used before, in which the audience undertake a number of different projects scattered throughout the room simultaneously. It’s a nice mix of cooperation and competition, and it’s generated some interesting discussions in the scratch shows.

We were lucky enough to be joined this time by two of our favourite collaborators: sound designer Nick McCorriston, who produced a soundtrack based on field recordings from the Flaten area, and designer Gillian Schwab, who constructed an incredible array of set and props.

Following three scratch showings of the prototype, we’ve now wrapped up this phase of the work, and we’re heading out of Sweden on to the next thing. We’re planning to be back in Sweden in mid-2017 (Scandinavian summer!) to undertake the final development; tightening and calibrating the work, and then working with local artists to translate it into Swedish.

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So the Best Festival Ever team is in Melbourne this week, currently doing some script tweaks and prop fixes, and tightening the screws on the work in preparation for our season here next week. Three years after Arts House supported an early development of the work in 2013, we’re finally bringing the full show here, as part of the Performing Climates program.

This is the fourth city in three countries we’ve brought Best Festival Ever to, and coming up on our fiftieth show. It’s pretty exciting to get to bring the work to Melbourne, to share it with some of our favourite collaborators and supporters.

It’s nice to have a few days to dive back into the script, to really drill down into some key questions around what exactly we want to communicate from systems science, and how we can best frame these key ideas. And, of course, to get to play with our music festival storyline, and make sure it’s exactly as delightful and ridiculous as it should be.

The most exciting part from our perspective, though, is the post-show conversations with scientists. This is a really key feature of the show, where we unpack some of the ideas from climate and systems science that have informed the making of the work.

This season, we’re honoured to be joined by scientists including Mark Burgman (University of Melbourne), Dave Winkler (CSIRO), Anne-Marie Grisogono (Flinders University), Kevin Grove (Florida International University), Lauren Rickard (RMIT) and David Batten (CSIRO).

Tuesday 5 July – Mark Burgman
Mark Burgman is head of the school of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Conservation Biology. He works on ecological modelling, conservation biology and risk assessment.

Wednesday 6 July – Dave Winkler
CSIRO scientist Dave Winkler works across radioastronomy and compututational molecular design. He’s published on nanotechnology and regenerative medicine, and his work is often concerned with applying the tools of small molecule research to complex biological systems.

Thursday 7 July – Anne-Marie Grisogono
Joining us from Adelade is physicist Anne-Marie Grisogono, currently an adjunct professor in the Engineering Faculty of Flinders University. Anne-Marie worked for more than 20 years with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, applying complex systems science to the defence problems faced by Australian troops during the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.

Friday 8 July – Lauren Rickards and Kevin Grove
Resilience experts Lauren Rickards and Kevin Grove join us from RMIT and Florida International University, respectively. Both have worked applying resilience thinking to disaster governance and emergency management in areas such as the Caribbean, and cases such as the Hazelwood Mine fire in Victoria.

Sunday 10 July – David Batten
CSIRO systems analyst David Batten works with computer models to tackle real world problems such as Australia’s electricity, transport and water systems. He’s written ten books exploring how modelling and simulation can help us get to grips with real world complexity.

These discussions unpack some of the ways scientists use systems thinking to get to grips with the complex challenges facing us today. For us as artists, Best Festival Ever was always intended to provide the platform for these sorts of conversations, and it’s pretty exciting for us to be able to bring on board scientists and thinkers of this calibre.

If you’re keen to come along, you can head to the Facebook event for more details of time and place, and to grab tickets.

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It’s February, and we’re writing this from the shores of a frozen lake south of Stockholm.

It’s been a busy 2016 so far, starting with a profile about Boho in New Scientist magazine, alongside our good friends from Coney, written by Stewart Pringle:

Boho Interactive’s tagline, “we fight dirty for science”, neatly conveys the company’s urgency. Much of its work features fighting talk and disruptive activity.

The company has collaborated with the Stockholm Resilience Centre, a joint initiative of Stockholm University and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The centre researches new ways of governing and managing human activity, taking into account the complex needs of the surrounding environment. In other words, it is looking for ways of doing business that don’t trash the planet.

It’s a grand mission, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be played on a grand scale. Boho’s projects include unpicking the systems that sustain a news stand in London’s Euston station. In its large-scale touring performance, Best Festival Ever, the company explores the complex interplay of processes in the management of a major music festival.

Go on, have a read.

We spent a week in January in London with Forum for the Future‘s Systems Innovations Lab. Forum uses systems thinking to help businesses and large organisations tackle sustainability challenges, and we’re hoping to work with them to develop a toolkit of games that they can use in their projects.

Right now we’re undertaking a month-long development in Sweden. Working with Stockholm NGO Miljöverkstan, we’re building a new game based on the Flaten nature reserve south of Stockholm.

Flaten is a lake, surrounded by beautiful forest (oaks, pine, spruce, trees 500 years old or more), and a place where a lot of different groups intersect – swimmers and dogwalkers, itinerant workers camping in caravan parks, squatter camps in the forest, the nearby suburb of Skarpnäck…

Miljöverkstan want to try to capture some of the complexity of the region in an interactive format, so they’ve invited us over to map the system with them and turn it into a game experience, a platform for learning and conversation.

This month we’re building a systems map and putting together a rough prototype of the show. We’ll be returning to Sweden in August and October to finish off the game, and present it for the first time to a Swedish audience.

This is a big project, with a short timeframe, but it’s exciting to be applying the tools we developed through Best Festival Ever to a real-world system.

Feel free to check out our process blog if you’d like to keep track of the creation of the work. As always, we’d love to hear from you with any thoughts, comments and ideas. And if you’re interested in any kind of collaboration or joint project, we’re starting to look towards 2017…

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This is David, writing this at the end of our two week season of Best Festival Ever at the Street Theatre in Canberra. We are all pretty stoked with the last fortnight, feeling exhausted but energised at the same time. It’s been a pretty delightful way to bring the show home to Australia.

Back in 2008, the Street Theatre presented the first Canberra season of Boho’s first show, A Prisoner’s Dilemma. It feels like we’ve travelled a fair distance since then, so it was great to bring our most recent work home after three and a half years in development in the UK and Sweden.

It was a sell out season, so much so that we had to add an additional show, which feels pretty rockstar. (Though selling out your season when you only have a capacity of 30 may or may not be a particularly impressive achievement…)

The response from audiences was pretty lovely, and we had some really nice reviews, for example: ‘Boho’s approach is innovative, entertaining and illuminating … their latest production is a revelation of the simple truths of complex principles.’

The most exciting part from our perspective, though, were the post-show conversations with scientists. This is a really key feature of the show, where we get to unpack some of the ideas from climate and systems science that have informed the making of the work.

We were honoured to be joined by scientists including Will Steffen (Climate Council), Bob Costanza (ANU), Brian Walker (CSIRO), Steve Cork (ANU), Nicky Grigg (CSIRO), Joanne Daly (CSIRO), Eleanor Malbon (RegNet) and John Finnigan (CSIRO).

These discussions allowed us (and the audience) to understand more of how Systems Thinking helps scientists get to grips with the complex challenges facing us today. For us as artists, Best Festival Ever was always intended to provide the platform for these sorts of conversations, and it was an honour to bring on board scientists and thinkers of this calibre.

Myself, Nikki, Nathan, David and Rachel are all really delighted with the experience, and we’re now looking for other opportunities to present the work in Australia.

We’re looking for any groups or organisations who might be interested in hosting a session of the work – festivals, museums, conferences, schools, universities, businesses and workplaces. If you have a room with a table and you think that Best Festival Ever might be a good fit for your event, please drop us a line and say hello.

Peace!

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We are delighted to announce the lineup of guest scientists for the Street Theatre shows this August.

Each performance of Best Festival Ever will include a brief Q&A style conversation with a guest scientist, who will discuss some of the ideas and concepts from the show in relation to their own work. We will be joined by top level futurists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists and complex systems scientists, sharing their expertise and answering your questions.

This informal post-show chat will take place over a complimentary glass of wine. This is a pretty delightful opportunity to come face to face with some of Australia’s leading scientists, and we are extremely excited about our guests.

The lineup of guests is as follows:

Wednesday 12 August – Will Steffen (Climate Council)
Will Steffen is an American chemist. He was the executive director of the Australian National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute and a member of the Australian Climate Commission until its abolishment in September 2013. He currently represents The Climate Council.

Thursday 13 August – Brian Walker (CSIRO)
Brian H. Walker is a scientist specialising in ecological sustainability and resilience in socio-ecological systems. He is currently a Research Fellow with CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and is also Program Director and Chair of the Board of the Resilience Alliance, an international research group working on sustainability of social-ecological systems.

Friday 14 August – Nicky Grigg (CSIRO)
Nicky Grigg works with the CSIRO in interdisciplinary teams on a diverse range of projects concerned with global change and social-ecological systems. She brings experience in mathematical modelling and analysis of social-ecological systems.

Saturday 15 August – Joanne Daly (CSIRO)
Joanne Daly has worked for the CSIRO for over 30 years and is currently a Strategic Advisor and a former Group Executive of Agribusiness and Chief of Division. Her activities focus on strategy for national research collections and in agricultural sciences, particularly transformational agriculture.

Sunday 16 August – Eleanor Malbon (RegNet)
Eleanor Malbon studied Human Ecology with a specialisation in system dynamics and collaborative conceptual modelling. At RegNet she works as a research assistant to Professor Sharon Friel to provide system dynamics expertise to a number of health equity related research projects.

Thursday 20 August – Steve Cork (ANU)
Steven Cork is an adjunct professor at the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy.

Friday 21 August – John Finnigan (CSIRO)
John Finnigan is Director of the CSIRO Centre for Complex Systems Science.

Saturday 22 August – Bob Costanza (ANU)
Robert Costanza is a leading ecological economist and Professor of Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University. His specialties include: transdisciplinary integration, systems ecology, ecological economics, landscape ecology, ecological modeling, ecological design, energy analysis, environmental policy, social traps, incentive structures and institutions.

The show runs 7.00 – 9.00pm (including the conversation) and tickets are $20. You can book on the Street Theatre website – get to yr spaceships.

We are really looking forward to bringing this piece home to Canberra – hopefully we will see some of you there.

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© 2016 Boho Interactive Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha