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You’re not alone: working together for friendlier streets and children playing out

posted this in Community, Street Space on 11/03/2019

Feeling daunted by trying to change things for children on your street, or in your local area or city? You don’t have to do this alone. There’s often local support you can tap into from community or play associations and we at Playing Out can help – see our invite below. Here’s Suffolk community activist Ann Osborn on why and how she’s helping local residents to start playing out in her area.

Ann Osborn

“So often now we read that children spend unhealthy amounts of time on their devices. We know that anxiety and depression are a massive part of life for so many, young and old. We know that loneliness is bad for us and yet it is the scourge of our times. We are repeatedly told that funding for our communities is drastically reduced due to government cuts.

Alongside this we also know that human beings are social creatures who need community connection and conversation in order to flourish. We need to feel part of something, to belong. It makes us feel safe and valued. We all have something to contribute and yet so often, no way of doing that.

We are inadvertently leading our children down a path of possibly experiencing loneliness themselves. It doesn’t paint a rosy picture.

Connecting communities through playing out

So when a community group wanting to set up a Good Neighbour Scheme expressed a desire to make street play happen, I and other Eden Project community activists here in Suffolk did a bit of research and came across Playing Out. This got us really excited and determined to find a way of making this happen where we live.

The Good Neighbour Scheme is a project run by Community Action Suffolk to create a supportive network in each community that includes everyone. Typical actions would be giving lifts, collecting prescriptions and dog walking. They also aim to engage the residents in communal activities that encourage friendship and fun. So playing out sessions fit very well and it’s exactly the kind of thing that we as Eden Project community activists want to support

For some of us, playing out was a feature of our childhood and we have fond memories. For others it raised a few concerns regarding safety. But we were united in our desire to see if we could make this work. What better way of getting neighbours of all ages together, giving children an exciting alternative to their screens and giving them the chance to make close friends in their own streets!

Furthermore, the possibilities of community building on the play sessions are endless, with Big Lunches and street celebrations for birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions. Even more importantly, opportunities to show support for each other, all the while setting important examples of care and empathy to children, demonstrating how easy connecting with others can be. What an important tool for later life.

In fact, the benefits are huge and almost so simple that one wonders how this type of play was ever allowed to disappear! But probably best not to go there.

How we’re supporting Playing Out in Suffolk

We are currently focussing our efforts on raising awareness that Playing Out exists and that all the research into these benefits is already there for all to see.

We have a Facebook page called Suffolk Play Streets and with the support of other Eden Communities activists we have a steering group that is now developing a plan for the county. We hope to have a workshop in Spring, run by Daniella Radice from Playing Out, and we already have substantial support for that.

We intend to use existing policy for street parties to hold a couple of pilot events. Those events could then be used to demonstrate the positive impact street play and community events have for local residents. We are confident that the local authority will see that a simple policy enabling regular street play will be a significant tool to build community and is actually very cost effective.

We will be encouraging all residents to get involved. Communities doing things for themselves, instead of having things done to them or for them, has to be more sustainable and our goal is to make Playing Out part of Suffolk Life.”

Want to make playing out happen? There’s lots of support.

We’ve got tons of information and help on our website. You can get in touch with us by phone or email or join our Facebook group to connect with others and get advice from them.

If your local authority has a policy in place, they might be able to help too – visit Near You to find out.

Local play or community associations can also sometimes offer support. For example, see Hackney PlayPlayMeetStreet, and Play Streets Norfolk.

Invitation to our Activator Day

Would you like to be part of the growing movement and meet other street play enthusiasts? Have you set up a group to promote street play in your area, or are you thinking about it? If you’re a parent, resident, community activator or activist interested in street play, we can help you. Come and join us at the 6th annual Playing Out Activator Day in Birmingham on 30th March. All welcome to this non-intimidating day! And no experience necessary.

Join Us at the 6th Annual Playing Out Activator Day

Click here for tickets

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