Bristol resident Jo Chesterman tells us how her dynamism has lead her to promote Playing Out throughout her neighbourhood:
“Playing Out in our road came from a street party for the jubilee, when we were really surprised at exactly how many kids lived in our street – there were loads! It was such a great time, with the kids roaming around in packs and leaving us adults to chat, that a few of us felt that it shouldn’t be just a one off.
Baby number 2 kind of took my attention for a while after that, but a neighbour knew someone who worked for Playing Out and so we set up a residents’ meeting and finally applied in February 2014. It was a long time coming but we’ve never looked back. We are now in our 3rd year of playing out sessions, and can all feel the difference it’s made to the adults, children and the street as a whole. We’ve basically all got to know each other and now help each other out with all sorts of things. I cherish the friendships that have come from our sessions very much.
I started organising Playing Out on my street as I had just taken redundancy – and yes, I do like a bit of being in charge. I was keen to capitalise on the fact that people move in/out of our street very rarely so we are quite a static group of folk, and that we had over 30 kids who didn’t know each other unless they went to school together (they go to about 6 different schools/across all the years!). Plus I wanted my kids to be active and for it to be normal that they play on the street they live in.
I was given the opportunity to step into a freelance ‘area activator’ role in stages – to start with I went to events, first sessions and residents meetings with Ellie and Angela, who were supporting new streets around Bristol. I also helped to design and run an exhibition at my local library, which was a really positive experience to balance being a full-time mum.
As my kids have started school I have been able to up the hours I can work for Playing Out in the activator role to around 6 hours a week, which has been wonderful timing. We are a very small team of local activators covering the whole city, so we have to choose our activities carefully and keep time aside for streets that show interest so we can help them get up and running. I also keep an eye on streets that are already playing out in my area to check all is ok and to troubleshoot any problems.
I massively enjoy the first session on a street; it’s so exciting and I’ve met so many community motivated people along the way. The flexibility in terms of when I work is brilliant as I fit it around school drop off/pick ups, illness etc. Plus I can work evenings and at the weekend as my partner is around to look after the kids. I love meeting people and talking, so it’s a perfect role for me!
It can also be challenging at times – responding diplomatically to negative comments on social media, being at busy events on my own (turning a skipping rope while talking to adults/carers), managing my time if motivation drops and the unavoidable juggling of work and family life. But I am often heard to be saying “it’s the best job I’ve ever had”.
Playing Out’s funding for ‘area activators’ in Bristol is soon coming to an end, but I have now won my own local funding to continue the work I am doing and particularly to support new streets in areas of higher deprivation. I’m super chuffed as I’ve been in the area for 16 years and I know first-hand the difference regular playing out sessions have made in my street. To be part of playing out rippling around St George is a pleasure and an honour.
I have also co-authored the ‘Little Book of Playing Out’ full of ideas for your street.”
To find out more about becoming a Playing Out ‘area activator’ in your town, city or neighbourhood, please email us at [email protected] or phone us on 0117 953 7167