Organise your own safe Play Street

On Saturday 19 March 2016 Leeds Play Network in Hunslet hosted a workshop on how to organise your own on street play session. Co-founder and director of ‘Playing Out Alice Ferguson had travelled up from Bristol were the temporary road closures first begun in 2009.

playing out 3Alice explained how she and her neighbour came up with the idea of an after-school road closure to allow their children to play out freely on their own street. Since then the process has been rolled out in streets in different cities across the county. The Street Play project at Play England encourages communities to help organise their own temporary street closure. The residents can still use their cars and are safely escorted to and from their spaces outside their home by volunteer stewards. Supporting evidence from ‘Active, Healthy Communities’ project funded by the Department of Health show the benefits to children’s health and wellbeing regarding physical activity levels.

We discussed why less children ‘play out’ than adults did years ago. Maybe it’s got a lot to do with moral panics, that parents are reluctant to let their children walk home from school or play out, for fear of traffic and the ‘stranger danger’ element. Although we all agreed that the fear over enjoyment element is blown out of proportion, it was probably just the same in 70’s and 80’s, but the fact that we know more about stories from the media keeps our children ‘safely’ inside and less exploring outside.

Are electronic games and hand held devices keeping children away from playing outside, or is it the fear of the unknown outside keeping our children in? There were queries regarding the safety of traffic and fear of children walking out in the road when the street closure was not in operation. But, Alice reassured us that the street sessions have raised more awareness of traffic among the children helping them understand the difference and danger more.

Leeds Play Streets is keen for more residents to get involved and can help with filling out forms and providing a ‘street play pack’ with high visibility bibs, a whistle and lots of other useful bits. Residents do have to organise the street closures themselves and the more work that goes in at the start helps makes the playing out successful.

There are four steps to follow; (these can also be found online here)

  1. Talk to your neighbours. Before you submit any forms you must have the majority of your street involved, or informed.
  2. Complete the application form. This part sounds a bit daunting with lots of bureaucratic forms, yet this can also be supported by Play Streets.
  3. Organisation – Organise your street play and let people know when this is going to be.
  4. Play out! On the day there will need to be at least two people at the end of the street with the road closures sign.

There has been a street closure in Belle Isle recently which I will find out more about in the following weeks.

Playing out is an important part of a child’s life. 71% of adults used to play out compared with 21% with children today. If we don’t encourage our children to play out now they will never know what it means. It’s up us, those of who remember, to keep it alive and act now to help create safe environments for children in their own street to play out.


4 Replies to “Organise your own safe Play Street”

  1. Hi Lucy: whilst this does sound like a nice idea, wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to take children to the local park or playground? The bureaucracy / paperwork alone is enough to put people off!

  2. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for your comment. This is a question that is raised a lot at the workshops. There a few different reasons why residents encourage ‘Street Play’ rather than taking the children to the local park.

    1. The idea is that the street becomes an extension on a child’s play environment. For example, when there was temporary road closures around the city for the Grande Depart (2014) children on Scotthall Road naturally descended on the space for the first time and safely played before it reopened. They met other children, playing and drew art all over the the road with chalk. It was really creative and fun for the children, helping them to meet their neighbours in a totally different space.

    2. Also (depending on the size of the road) the children have space to skate, cycle and go-kart safely.

    3. Not all families live near a park or open space.

    4. Street Play helps encourage residents to work together strengthening communities and having ownership in their area. It’s inter generational too for example it’s not just the children and families that come out, but other single, or older residents on the street. Plus once you’ve done one application it is easier to do more!

    Thanks again

  3. Are there any problems with car damage etc? I can see this would be a potential barrier to organising a play street. Our kids would want to play football etc.

  4. Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for your comments. I am going to forward this page to a couple of people who have organised street play and request they answer these questions. I know one lady in North Leeds that organises all cars to be taken away from the street for a couple of hours but there’s still windows in houses!! Not sure.. But will get back to you!

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