Smart Oxford Playable City competition launched

Published: Tuesday, 9th May 2017

A global competition to create a more connected and collaborative Oxford has been launched today.

The Smart Oxford Playable City Commission is a new competition, challenging creatives from around the world to produce an idea that puts people and play at the heart of Oxford. Smart Oxford will work with Playable City to choose a project that will capture the imagination of those who live, visit and work in and around Oxford.

Applicants from across the globe are invited to respond to the theme the ‘shared city’ by 20 June with the winner being awarded £30,000 to develop their idea.

Artists, designers, architects, technologists and creative practitioners who can demonstrate a history of delivering high-quality, innovative practice are invited to propose distinctive ideas on the theme, using smart city technologies, that will make the city of Oxford more connected and collaborative.  

Judging the entries will be former deputy prime minister and chair of the Haymarket Group The Rt Hon. the Lord Heseltine CH, who will lead the panel. He will be joined by renowned designer and founding partner of Umbrellium Usman Haque. The complete judging panel will be announced with the shortlist in July. 

Sebastian Johnson, Vice-Chair of Smart Oxford and Principal Economic Development Officer at Oxford City Council, said: “We are partnering with Playable City during 2017 to deliver this flagship project to help people understand the opportunities and benefits that can be achieved through the combination of technology, data and communities. This is an innovation-led project that is open, inclusive, accessible and engaging. Our hope is that it will catch the imagination of all who live, visit and work in and around Oxford.”

The commission in Oxford follows on from success in Bristol where Playable City launched in 2012.

Hilary O'Shaughnessy, producer of Playable City, said: “We are delighted to share this brilliant new opportunity to partner with our first UK city outside of Bristol. Working across the globe from Texas to Tokyo, we have seen the power of creative technology and play to showcase the diversity of experience in cities in new ways. We are excited to see what will be commissioned for Oxford.”

Llewellyn Morgan, Smart Oxford board member and Service Manager Infrastructure, Innovation and Development for Communities at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “This is an exciting time for Oxford and Oxfordshire with many major developments happening now and planned for the future.

“Smart cities are the future and this competition highlights Oxford as being at the heart of a truly exciting time for technology, innovation and collaboration.

“The city has rightly gained a reputation for culture, technology and achievement and this competition challenges entrants to come up with concepts that combine all three in ways that will enhance local areas and engage people in new and interactive ways with where they live and work.”



Open for applications: 9 May 2017
Close of applications: 20 June 2017, 16.00 (BST)
Shortlist published: July 2017
Successful Commission announced: August 2017
Production of Award:  Autumn - Winter 2017

How to apply

Please download the Applicant Overview for details on how to apply.


The panel will comprise of industry judges at the forefront of art, society, and technology.
It will be chaired by Lord Heseltine who will be joined by Usman Haque. The complete judging panel will be announced with the shortlist.

What is the Smart Oxford Playable City Commission?

The Smart Oxford Playable City Commission is a brand new commission produced by Watershed, challenging creatives from around the world to produce an idea that puts people and play at the heart of the city of Oxford.  Smart Oxford will work with Playable City to choose a project that will catch the imagination of those who live, study, visit and work in and around Oxford. Playable City has worked in nine cities across five continents in recent years, but this is the first time the Playable City model has been used in the UK outside of the annual Award.

About Smart Oxford

Smart Oxford is the strategic programme of a wide range of city partners working together to develop and promote Oxford as a smart city. It represents a commitment by its partners to develop efficient and effective use of data and technology for the benefit of its citizens. The Smart Oxford project board helps initiate, orchestrate and support smart city activities and projects carried out by its partners in Oxford and Oxfordshire. The vision of Smart Oxford is of a city where innovative ideas, active citizens, and aligned stakeholders come together to co-create a better Oxford, one that is stronger, safer, and both economically and environmentally sustainable.  

About Playable City

Playable City is a framework to think differently about the city, generating social dialogue by creating shared experiences through play. Visible, democratic, surprising, inclusive – it reuses the city infrastructure to create connections – person to person, person to city. By transforming city spaces into places of unexpected interaction the Playable City is a conversation starter towards the change we would like to see in our cities of the future.

The Playable City international network reaches from the Tokyo to Recife, Brazil to Lagos, Nigeria. Watershed is the founder and producer of Playable City. 

About Watershed

Watershed is a cultural venue and producer developing cultural engagement, imagination and talent. We are based in Bristol, but place no boundaries on our desire to connect with artists and audiences in the wider world. We curate ideas, spaces and talent to enable artistic visions and creative collaborations to flourish. We produce work that cuts across film, media, music, theatre, design, visual art, and the creative and technology sectors.