We recently hosted a meet-up day for playing out activators – a chance for people across the country supporting playing out beyond their own streets to get together and share experiences and challenges. It’s the third year we’ve organised this get-together and we thought it would be good to share highlights from a busy, energetic day…….
Activators from Worthing, Leeds, Hertfordshire, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, York Reading and Bristol all came along to the day. And it was valuable to hear about how playing out works in different areas – as well as the stumbling blocks people have encountered.
Levels of support from local authorities varied dramatically. Some activators reported playing out “being held up by the council as an example of great collaborative working between the council and the community”. But others were experiencing “stagnation” and the frustrations of trying to communicate with unresponsive council officers.
Several activators stressed the importance of being part of a team and sharing with others the ups and downs involved in building awareness and support for street play with residents and councils. And there were some inspiring personal highlights from people’s individual experiences including;
“It has enabled me to do things in spite of naysayers” and “It’s made me feel empowered about making a change where I live.”
Understanding evidence and impact
Jess Read, researcher at the University of Bristol, presented evidence on children’s physical activity levels. She talked through the research done by her team measuring activity levels during street play sessions, and the strong links between time spent outdoors and higher levels of physical activity.
It was a good chance to discuss the full impact of playing out and the wider benefits it can bring to adults as well as children. Activators shared their own observations and anecdotes of that impact in action.
Exploring the activator role
A great role-play session gave people a chance to think more deeply about the kinds of conversations people can have in the activator role – and not all of them are easy. Scenarios (imagined but based on real experiences) brought to life on the day included a street organiser struggling with a lack of support on her street and feeling demotivated, as well as a Dad at a community event initially sceptical about the idea of street play. The whole group shared suggestions about how best to offer practical support and active listening to people with concerns and difficulties.
A session led by Herts activator, Rob Schafer, gave groups a chance to get creative and visually represent routes to creating real engagement with different local audiences. A tree with complex roots and branches, a hopscotch grid, a child skipping and an entire town plan – were some of the visuals produced.
Thank you to all of the activators who came along this year – and for the honest way you shared your experiences and ideas. The pooling of voices and knowledge is so much part of how the playing out idea continues to grow and flourish – and the day proved that point. We hope to run another activators’ day at the end of January 2017. We’ll share more information later in the year but if you’re interested in being involved do get in touch.