Reclaim the street!

Want to know what it feels like to let your six-year-old start playing out on the street in front of where you live?

No-one teaches you how to make hard decisions as a parent. You seem to spend your life treading the line between protecting and liberating – letting them go whilst keeping them close….

For the third in this mini-street-play series, I’m handing over to Rob Greenland, a dad in Leeds who I got to know a bit on Twitter because of a shared interest in regeneration, community development and social investment. And then a couple of weeks ago  he tweeted:

Rob posted this blog originally to Playful Leeds

Here’s what is happening on his street in Leeds.

My son is six. We live in a suburban street in north Leeds. It’s not a through road but two or three cars pass by every minute. There are a fair few families with young kids here. And over a last few months some of them have started playing out.

We knew Francis was keen to join them. But we resisted for a while. Encouraged him to invite people into the house, or to play in the garden. The street felt too dangerous.

The kids use garden walls as goals, and the road as the pitch. But cars use the road as, well, a road. What if….? Well you know the conversation we were having with ourselves.

But we relented. What’s happened? We keep a bit of an eye on them all – as do the other parents. But most of the time we leave them to it.

The kids love it. And neighbours, a number of whom we’d never met before, are chatting to each other. Saying how it’s nice to see the kids out. Sharing their concerns about letting their kids play in the road. And, of course, just passing the time of day.

It’s got me thinking – how can we build on this? How can we make our street a safer street? A more playful street? A friendlier street? That’s what I’m hoping we’ll explore together over the next few months. Twitter, as you’d expect, was an immediate source of ideas and encouragement I’m sure there’s lots more we can learn from people who’ve done this stuff already like Bristol based grassroots Playing Out.

I’m pretty sure we won’t make our street safer with speed bumps. Signs might be handy, but they won’t do much on their own. I bet we can up with more fun, playful ways to make our street the kind of street that every kid would want to grow up on.

It’d be much more fun to do this together. Do you fancy doing something in your street too? Or have you done something already? Bit by bit, road by road, I hope we can send out a message that streets are for people, for play, and not just for cars.

Rob Greenland is co-director of Social Business Brokers. He’s @TheSocBiz on Twitter.

You can read about what happened next on his blog   and the record of the Twitter conversation – including both positive feedback and some truly horrified people who think this is a terrible idea – is here: Storify

Do let us know if your street, car park, cul-de-sac or lane is a playful one, and if you want to connect with others who are reclaiming their streets!

3 Responses to “Reclaim the street!”
  1. Kate Maryon says:

    Love this! Let’s spread the word. xx

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