It was with great sadness that we learned today of the passing of Brian Sutton-Smith, play theorist extraordinaire and author of countless books and articles. Perhaps most notably, he wrote The Ambiguity of Play, which surely sits on the shelves of most of those engaged in the world of play. The picture above is from his video interview with Frazer Brown that was shown at the IPA World Conference in Cardiff, Wales in 2011.
Please post any memories you have of Professor Sutton-Smith or help us compile a list of links to his work, such as: The Ambiguity of Play
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I remember my sole brief meeting with Professor Sutton-Smith at the IPA/USA Conference in Atlanta many years ago. It was at one of the conference dinners and he pulled my husband aside and complimented him on wearing a coat and tie. “Nobody dresses anymore!” But, there was a twinkle in his eye.
I brought Brian to the UK 10 years ago for the National Playwork Conference. He became a kind of a friend! His mind was awesome and he taught me so much.
The next issue of iP-D!P magazine will contain more thoughts and comments
As an ethnographer of North African children’s play and toys, I first met Professor Brian Sutton-Smith during the congresses of the International Council for Children’s Play (ICCP) in the second half of the 1980s. His interest in my research has opened doors in the beginning of my career in the play and toy worlds.
In 1993, his invitation to be a founding member of the International Toy Research Association (ITRA) was a strong support and created a lot of useful contacts. Yet, I think I also gained Brian’s sympathy, as expressed in his foreword to my book “Toys, Play, Culture and Society” (2005) and when he nominated me to the Lennart Ivarsson Scholarship Foundation to be awarded the BRIO Prize 2004.
No doubt, I am much indebted to Brian Sutton-Smith. I will always remember him for what I learned through his publications, especially “Toys as Culture” (1986) and “The Ambiguity of Play” (1997) but even more for his kindness as a great scholar.
Sad news. Play thinkers owe Brian a huge debt. It will be a long time before anyone tops The Ambiguity of Play as a work of play scholarship. I only met him once, at a Play Wales conference a few years ago – and yes, that glint in his eye was unmissable. His keynote started with a summary of the six themes he would cover. 50 minutes later, he hadn’t finished the first theme – but it was engaging, thought-provoking stuff throughout.
I was fortunate to spend an unforgettable couple of hours with him in a hotel bar a few years ago and was captivated by his wit, his critical thinking, his drive to understand, his honesty about himself and how he felt and his humility. I was supposed to be looking after him inbetween sessions at the National Playwork Conference, but he certainly didn’t need it! He spent as much time asking me for my views and experiences as the other way round – I remember leaving him feeling a few inches taller with plenty to reflect on….. His work on play and emotions is unsurpassed.
I enjoyed Brian’s support and stimulation over a period of many years, but one episode stands out as a delightful side-light: we brought Brian to Indiana to give a talk and it happened my soccer team had a game that evening, so we outfitted Brian and snuck him into the game, and even got him to take a penalty kick (which he scored). He was, in addition to being a fine scholar and lively interlocutor, one of the most engaging public speakers I have ever heard.
Do you have any video interviews to post, either here or on youtube? It would be nice to hear him.