14 Apr 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2023 issue 4

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Leisure Management - Bridging divides

Editor's letter

Bridging divides

In an ever more polarised world, the attractions industry plays a key role by providing shared experiences and reminding us that we’re not so different

Play has many benefits for adults Photo: Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock

W hether it’s the US election, conflict in the Middle East, or just people arguing on social media, everything feels incredibly polarised right now.

In a world where extremes of opinion are making people feel ever-more divided, the attractions industry has a unique role to play.

Museums can help us learn from the past, showing us where escalating tensions and historical divides have led us. Knowledge and understanding can help build bridges and counter ignorance and fear.

But it’s not just about education. We’re learning more and more about the crucial role play holds in our lives, and it’s something many adults forget. Dr Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play in the US, has carried out research showing that a life devoid of play can lead to depression, stress-related illnesses and a decreased immune system, and on a societal level, can lead to higher rates of rage, violence and crime.

We may hold wildly differing opinions but we all have an inner child that wants to play and be carefree. On page 40 Meow Wolf founder Vince Kadlubek explores the role attractions can play in healing division. He says: “Our industry provides a miraculous opportunity for people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and character to co-exist in the communion of exploration.

“If that communion can be felt for even the slightest moment, it has the profound power to short-circuit the mechanisms of judgement and remind us that we’re loving and forgiving beings.”

I experienced this a couple of years ago, during a visit to an outdoor zoo attraction. It was during the pandemic, and I had a disagreement with another visitor about social distancing and mask wearing. The conversation was getting heated – each of us entrenched in our positions – when suddenly a bear started climbing a tree. We both reacted in exactly the same way – our faces lit up with joy – and suddenly our differences were forgotten and we found ourselves smiling at the way we had shared this moment.

Play allows us to take ourselves less seriously, and that’s very much needed right now. Whether crawling through an immersive installation, screaming on a rollercoaster or interacting with a work of art, we can put aside our opinions and prejudices, be in the moment, and just play.

Magali Robathan, editor magalirobathan@leisuremedia.com

Originally published in Attractions Management 2023 issue 4

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