“Our Birch Road story started about seven years when a neighbour arranged a street party. She collected our email addresses and we started chatting by email. I’d seen a poster advertising Playing Out and suggested we try it out on our street. I hadn’t realised at that point that we would only be the second street to ever play out!
We had quite a few meetings and decided to start playing out on our street. My son was about one at the time and had just started walking. I remember he used to go up and down with his trolley. We have lots of families on our street and some older people too and we gradually got to know each other.
A small group of us formed who regularly stewarded and whose children played out nearly every session. I think we did it for about three years, with variations to allow for different families to join in. We varied the times in the winter, tried Sunday afternoons and after school sessions.
The children varied in age from one to about eight when we started. They came out on trikes, scooters, roller skates… We always had chalk and that became a big feature of our sessions, appealing to the quieter and younger children. Many cups of tea were drunk, ice pops consumed, water pistol fights fought, bikes ridden, skateboards fallen off and conversations had!
A memorable session was in the extreme cold and dark and about six children started jumping and singing carols! We’ve also had huge chalk drawings and children learning to ride bikes and skateboards.
Playing out sessions gradually petered out as people upped their hours at work, children got older and apparently less interested in playing out and it all got harder to keep going.
However, the children then started coming out on their own. There are a few who love football and skateboarding, and are out as often as five days a week. Some younger children are often out on the pavement in the summer, chalking and playing. My eight year old son will pop over to call on a friend around the corner for spontaneous play dates, something we wouldn’t have done before. He is also walking to school on his own.
Some of us neighbours now also have a Whatsapp group which is great for all the little things – asking someone to put out your bins, borrowing tools, emergency laundry help etc. On Christmas Day some of us came out and had a cuppa & mince pie while the kids blew off steam in the street.
I am hoping Playing Out sessions might resume sometime as we have some new families in the street. It has felt like something I have had to keep going on my own a bit so I am hoping someone will take on the baton… I feel very lucky to live here and to have seen the poster in Amy’s window all those years ago…”
Ellie and her street over all those years – and her work for wider change locally – are just part of the action taking place around Bristol and the UK, led mainly by parents and supported by forward thinking local authorities and community organisations.
Want to start playing out more and be part of this change? See our Four Simple Steps or check out our other ideas to support children’s freedom.