The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year takes place over a 4-day weekend from 2-5 June. For neighbours around the country, royalist or not and from all cultural backgrounds, this is the perfect excuse to get together for a street party, Big Lunch, ‘playing out’ session – or something else entirely!
Street parties bring communities together and create wonderful memories, especially for children. Shani Ali, who grew up in Rugby in the Midlands, remembers the 1977 Silver Jubilee:
“The details are blurry but for me it’s the memory of the atmosphere that lives on. The celebrations were about joy and togetherness outside our houses. I loved the transformation of our ordinary street into a colourful, vibrant place. The bunting, food, happy people talking, neighbours together on the street – for us children who lived in such separate worlds from the grown-ups, it was a time to relish in the joy felt by everyone. An adventure was to be had on our street. Being a British-Pakistani of only six years of age, I truly felt part of the community”.
These events might only happen once a year, or once in a blue moon, but they can have lasting impact on a community. One-off street parties can also lead on to play streets or other regular street activities. In fact, the play street model that originated on my street in 2009 came out of us having annual street parties and realising that simply closing the road to cars created an ideal space for children to run around and play together freely in a way that they normally couldn’t do.
Making it easier for communities
In the run-up to the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, our friends at Streets Alive worked with the UK Government to put out guidance, encouraging councils to make street party applications free and easy for residents. This helped thousands of communities across the UK to hold street parties that year. Ten years later, many councils still support street parties and over 90 also now have a specific play street policy, enabling people to regularly close their street to cars and open it up for play.
But there are still parts of the country where people can’t close their road for a street party, Big Lunch or playing out session, with councils putting charges and other barriers in the way. This is why we, together with the Big Lunch, Sustrans, the Street Party site and Neighbourhood Watch, wrote to the Transport Minister Grant Shapps, asking for clear and detailed guidance for councils on enabling community-led road closures. This guidance would encourage councils to implement best practice and reassure them that the law allows them to do this. In the meantime, Michael Gove has written to all councils simply encouraging them to make it easy for people to hold a street party and pointing to updated guidance for communities on the Government website.
Low cost, high impact
There are so many good reasons for councils to support community-led road closures for street parties or play streets, including:
For all these reasons, we would love to see all councils making this easy for people over the jubilee weekend and beyond by:
- Putting a simple application process in place, even as a pilot
- Actively promoting and encouraging applications
- Reducing turnaround/consultation time (e.g. 3-4 weeks instead of 6-8)
- Removing any cost for residents
- Providing road closure ‘kit’ (or signposting to us here)
- Removing other barriers such as obligatory insurance or traffic management training
- Also encouraging get-togethers on informal shared spaces (estates, green space)
- Sign-posting residents to Playing Out, Big Lunch and Street Party
Please get in touch to let us know what you are doing, or if you would like any advice. Let’s make the most of this once-in-a-decade opportunity to encourage communities to come together and reclaim their streets for community and play!