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An innovative collaboration to bring unheard voices into climate crisis debate

A project by Hwa Young with Dans, Emilijus, Kye, Oscar, and Riley

PTown Bay MMXXX is a co-produced artwork that takes the form of a board game, co-created with young people at the Nacro Education and Skills Centre in Peterborough, UK who are learning outside the mainstream education system. The game explores the current and near future aspirations of young people faced with multiple disadvantages. Our briefing, Playing the Future: PTown Bay MMXXX, explores the concept and creation behind the game, and how creative methodologies can offer new ways of engaging audiences and informing campaigns for both penal reform and social and climate justice.

The climate change movement can often be portrayed as only accessible to those with the privilege of having the time and the money to participate and make meaningful changes. The PTown Bay MMXXX game is a Season For Change Common Ground commission, a collaboration between socially engaged artist Hwa Young Jung, Nacro, the Howard League for Penal Reform and Liverpool John Moores University. 

This interdisciplinary collaboration between art, criminology, disadvantaged, disengaged young people and penal reform seeks to inform debates about both social and climate justice and the need to broaden the participation of disengaged communities in causes which have a direct impact upon their lives. 

In PTown Bay MMXXX, set in 2030 (MMXXX), petrol and diesel car sales have been banned and the Peterborough landscape navigated by players has been drastically changed by climate change and sea level rises. Players must navigate their way around the newly coastal city completing missions, meeting local characters, and collaborating and competing with other players. Taking the player on a journey through the experiences of young people, the game seeks to facilitate an understanding of the world from their perspective, not simply by hearing about it, but through a visceral experience that play is uniquely placed to induce. 

Drawing on the principles of ‘serious games’, PTown Bay MXXX demonstrates that examining issues of social, climate, and criminal justice through the medium of play is to take them seriously.  

“This project provides a different lens on the climate change debate. The lived experiences of the young people who developed this game with me really highlighted how the big existential issues relating to the climate change barely scratched the surface with them. Not because they were disinterested but the challenges of their daily lives, the immediate environment and the people in their communities felt more urgent. The result is a board game interpretation of an open world video game, in a prophetic vision of Peterborough, based on what’s important to the young people now. An aim of this collaboration to provide opinion formers and policy makers with a different perspective to add to the development of environmental and social policies.”
Hwa Young Jung

The game was developed through twenty-seven workshop sessions conducted over two years at the Nacro centre in Peterborough. The first phase of workshops in 2021 involved five young men of school age attending the Nacro education centre and the second phase in 2022, involved three young people aged 16 to 18 on vocational studies programmes. Nacro centres are open to anyone, but the small class sizes, tailored approach and additional personal support often appeal to those who have experienced a broken or interrupted academic career. Young people accessing education or training through Nacro have typically faced disadvantage, nearly half have an identified learning disability and 70% access either the bursary or are eligible for free school meals (Nacro 2022). The sessions run with the young people involved in this project involved playing games, talking cars, going on fantasy drives, debating local landmarks, and sketching out future dreams. 

Both the production process and the playing of the game seek to allow young people to explore how their engagement with the environment and nature can impact on their futures in a micro and macro context. Environmental and social factors, including the climate crisis, are presented as some of the many issues the young people face, as we work together to explore their understanding of where they belong in the world.  

The project was commissioned by Season for Change, a UK-wide cultural programme inspiring urgent and inclusive action on climate change, led by Artsadmin and Julie’s Bicycle, and supported by Arts Council England and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. 

Read our briefing on PTown Bay MMXXX here.

About the research partners:

Common Ground commissions and energises artists and cultural organisations to put climate action at the heart of their programming, with a priority of centring communities and groups that have been previously underrepresented in and excluded from conversations about culture and climate.

Nacro is a national social justice charity with more than 50 years’ experience of changing lives, building stronger communities and reducing crime. Nacro houses, educates, supports, advises, and speaks out for and with disadvantaged young people and adults.

The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison. It is committed to undertaking research and demonstration projects that ensure that unheard voices and experiences are brought to the fore particularly through our established partnership with academics and creative methodologies.

This contribution to the collaboration is led by Dr Will Jackson who is based in The Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion at Liverpool John Moores University.

Contact details:

Contact Hwa Young Jung for any questions about the artwork using the contact form here.

Contact Dr Will Jackson for any questions regarding the criminological research which underpins this project.

Contact Anita Dockley at the Howard League if you have an enquiry about PTown Bay MMXXX as a feature of penal reform campaigning.

Contact Emma Gant at Nacro for more information about social justice work in education with disadvantaged young people.

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