From the archives: political protest game played for the first time

Lucy and JD setting up the game

Lucy and JD setting up the game

Today’s guest blogger is Sophie Cork, LJMU intern in Special Collections and Archives

A board game based on the May riots in Paris 1968 which belongs to LJMU’s Special Collections and Archives was taken out and played for the first time last week.

The unusual game allows players to become either protesting students and rioters, or the authoritarian police, in order to emulate the events of the political unrest that swept through the country. The game, entitled ‘Mai 68’, is part of the Situationist International: John McCready Archive which includes material related to the radical and revolutionary Situationist movement of the mid-20th century.

The game is based around the political slogans from the graffiti that was found during the unrest. The rules are based around one slogan, “sous les pavés, la plage” (meaning “under the concrete, the beach”), with the aim of the game being for the protesters to dig up the streets of Paris to reveal the revolutionised utopia beneath, before being stopped by the authorities.

MA Fine Art student Lucy Somers led the gameplay as part of the research for her upcoming thesis on instructional archive material and was accompanied by partner and experienced game player, JD. Also on board to help were Head of Academic Services Valerie Stevenson and archivist intern Sophie Cork.

Although the game appeared complex at first, with the board itself taking just over 5 hours to set up and the instructions being completely in French, some clarity began to show once the game had started. The team representing the rioters struggled to cover much ground as their pieces were ‘kettled’ by the ruthless police team and eventually lost the game despite having removed 17 of the required 20 pavement pieces off the board.

Mai 68 board game

Mai 68 board game

This outcome is not dissimilar to what really happened during May ’68 in France, as the protests stopped after just 2 weeks and life quickly went back to normal, with the right-wing government that the Situationist movement attempted to overthrow coming back stronger in the June re-elections of that year. The movement eventually dissolved in 1972, leaving behind it a rich collection of historical material which makes up the Archive that LJMU has today.

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