With five other artists, I was commissioned a year ago to look at an organisation called Community Network for Manchester (cn4m), which exists to try and grow, and then make the most of, connections between voluntary community groups in the city in the arts, health, community safety (crime), transport and so on.
Seeings as I consider myself to know a bit about this kind of stuff already, and fisharepeopletoo even started life as a record of my time at Newcastle University looking at evolution, cooperation, networks and so on, I thought this piece of work would be falling off a log.
So of course it didn't turn out like that at all.
I'm pretty much of an uncritical supporter of cn4m - things like cn4m might not always work, but they've got to be tried - but this was one of those times when the person who got most out of making something was me, which I feel a bit bad about given how much hard work and dedication goes into the network.
I ended up making the world's worst board game to illustrate three of the parts of cn4m - arts, health and community safety.
Trying to invent a board game showed up how much I don't know about board games, which is why it's so bad as a game. It looks the part, for which I can take no credit, because Trae England made it all by hand out of old monopoly boards and craft materials.
But its rules are so limited as to be almost pointless - the challenge is very one dimensional - and the board design itself looks like Monopoly, which isn't the right metaphor for a network of community groups, but because I had so little board game vocabulary I didn't have the confidence to stray from the most obvious model.
Making a board game though, no matter how feeble, fitted in perfectly with the kind of stuff I've started doing in the context of the Sandpit events (Free London's Monsters and Monster Hunt [coming soon]), and taken together the board game and Sandpit have been a great hands-on introduction to thinking about game rules as a way of inviting and holding participation.
I've always approached participation by setting up processes in which people make something - a monster, or a City Poem, for example - and even though I got all my early schooling in how creative participation works through taking part in creative writing games at the Poetry Business, I've only just opened my eyes to participation as a process of trying to win a game.
What do we make that is of value when we participate by trying to win a game? That's a lovely question for me, though I'm sure everyone except me already knows the answer.
I guess there will be free beer, so if you're in Manchester, come along and marvel at the world's worst board game (you'll quickly find I'm not kidding!). And there will be five great pieces of work by proper artists there as well, to make the trip worthwhile.