Fern* lives in Streatham in South London and at the end of June ran a “Playing Out” session on her street.
We have long-standing permission from our local authority to close our road to run a Play Street. We’ve been running them – roughly monthly – since September of last year, then stopped due to coronavirus.
“No Traffic Street” after Lockdown
Having asked people on the local WhatsApp group, there was support for a session to go ahead. I popped leaflets through doors to double-check in case people who might not otherwise say, have any issues
In deciding whether to go ahead or not, I kept the question very open as to whether we should or not. I was a bit surprised that all comments said ‘go for it’. I guess we benefited from people being familiar with having Play Streets, and recent news of easing of lockdown. I also sent on the link to a recent event in East Croydon so people could see, these are happening again elsewhere too.
This time, we didn’t want to call it a Play Street, Quiet Street, or Exercise Street. None of those felt quite right. So we just called it a “no-traffic street” … though most continued to call it a Play Street as that is what they are familiar with.
Overall, I think we lowered risk to an extent that we felt comfortable enough with. Maybe because we kept this low-key, and it’s a pretty long street with lots of space, that helped too. It seemed to work ok, and no one raised any concerns.
We kept it low-key. We usually make others aware on surrounding streets and school groups through social media, but just kept it to the immediate road.
We also didn’t have a food table or any shared play equipment this time around, to cut down on any issues to do with sharing, or kids gathering around a small area. So, it was all just free-play with whatever the kids brought out on their own. We said to everyone in advance to make sure they stuck to government guidance and social distancing at all times and parents were responsible for their kids at all times.
On social distancing, our flyers and Whatsapp messages said in advance, very simply, please stick to Government social distancing guidance at all times and that parents and carers are responsible for the kids at all times. Most people – including kids – are very well drilled on the details of what should and shouldn’t be doing.
On the day it was a lot like my experiences of being in our small local park of late. The kids know well that they need to social distance. In general, they just do it … but without thinking they do sometimes get closer together, it’s just so natural to do so.
Just a couple of times I had to give a gentle reminder about staying 2 meters apart, probably because I was located at the point the kids had decided would be the starting line for the races they were having! When told, children get it, as they are more than familiar with the do’s and don’ts! There were three of us as volunteer organisers, and parents around too.
A low turnout compared to our previous Play Streets. I’d say 15-20 kids over the 3 hours. I’m assuming that’s down to continuing Covid concerns, us deliberately keeping it low-key, and a couple of torrential downpours we had, one just before we started.
It was really appreciated by those who turned out, and a nice comment from someone who didn’t come out “so lovely to hear the children out there”.
I had expected maybe one or two people being concerned about it going ahead or questioning whether we should, but no one did!
The golden rule is to stick to Government advice in whatever we do, we’re keen also to make sure we learn from any other play streets that might have happened recently!
We’ll go ahead again at the end of July as planned assuming there are no setbacks on the spread of coronavirus.
Up to date Government advice is available here
*not her real name