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Street parties to play streets: Keeping the community spirit going throughout the year

posted this in Community, Play Streets on 17/06/2022

An estimated 16,000 street communities took the opportunity of the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend to come together for a street party or Big Lunch. But you don’t need to wait another 70 years to open your street for play and community!

Play streets are a way to keep this community spirit going throughout the year and give children the chance to play out together on their doorstep. For existing play streets, having a full-on street party once a year is a great way to make sure everyone feels included.

Read below how Jacqui in Hull brought her community together in celebration of the Jubilee and how she continues to do so through supporting regular play streets.

Jacqui – Play street supporter and street party organiser

How would you describe your street?

It’s a residential street with several blocks of terraced houses. I’m lucky because I live in an end of terrace! All the houses are roughly the same design and there is a ten-foot (access lane) at the back as well. The pavement isn’t wide enough for children to play on, and the ten-foot road surface is very rough.

Who lives on your street?

The demographic of our street is very mixed. We have everyone from young single people, young workers, young families, families with older children and older retired people too.

How long have you been organising play streets?

Emma started them before COVID, maybe three plus years ago now? I was skeptical at first, to be honest. My generation had fought for parks and play spaces to be made available for children so they didn’t need to play in the road and now I was being told that the young mothers want their children to play in the road?! How things come full circle!

What do you like about play streets?

Now I’m a convert! It’s a great idea. If we close off the street, it’s not an issue and barely inconveniences anyone. The sessions have been great in welcoming me into the community, (as someone who’s not originally from around here) and getting to know my neighbours.

What made you decide to do a street party?

It was my first time organising one. I saw the advertising for the Big Jubilee Lunch and thought “what a great idea!”. I wanted to get the neighbours involved, mentioned the idea to a few people and suddenly I was the main organiser! I won’t be organising one for the next Platinum Jubilee though, I would be 140 plus years old by then!

Who came out?

We had between 40 and 50 adults come out and maybe a dozen children, but they flit about so much it felt like a hundred!

There’s a Facebook group for the three streets and we invited everyone on there. I also did two flyer drops to every house in the three streets (117 letter boxes!) Then if anyone knew of someone who lived alone – even if they were beyond our streets – we made sure to invite them as well. I invited a couple of my friends in their seventies, and they came along too.

I spoke to one lady who said she was “too old for all that”. When I asked her how old she was, she replied that she was 82, and I told her “Well, my husband’s 85 years old and he’ll be there!”.

Jubilee street party organised on Jacqui’s play street in Hull

What happened on the day?

Unfortunately, it rained on the day, but we put up gazebos and had umbrellas. We set up a couple of barbeques and some people cooked their food. Emma drew corgis, placed them  along the street and challenged the children to find them all. Her boys painted stones and labelled them as ‘corgi poo’ to find as well! I warned Emma to explain that that they only had to find the labelled stones, otherwise we might get a nasty surprise brought back to us!

We planned a fancy-dress competition, but only one little girl came in fancy dress – she was dressed as a princess. Of course she won – a Corgi naturally!

Finally, what would you say to someone who has had a street party and wants to start a play street?

You’ve got to canvas all the neighbours and you will always get some who are against the idea, because there are people who are against everything. But it’s worth it and it’s wonderful. We had our first playing out session of the year last week. I was away for it, but I’ll definitely be at the future one!

play street

When it’s not the Jubilee, Jacqui’s street regularly plays out!

Want to get started on your street?

Street parties may happen once a year or every few years, but the sense of community they bring doesn’t have to be so rare. Organising a regular play street is an amazing and rewarding thing to do for your children and your neighbours. We have tried to make it as easy as possible and can give you help along the way.

If you would like to start play streets where you live, head over to our start on your street page for all the information you could need.

Not all local authorities have play street policies in place. If your area doesn’t, don’t worry as we have lots of resources to support you in making the case to your council.

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