Street parties are fabulous aren’t they? Bunting, tables of people in the middle of the road, food and entertainment, laughter and music. As for Playing Out schemes, sessions might have less of a fanfare but, short and regular, they can be easier to organise and a sturdy foundation for the community on your road. They get children out in the fresh air and neighbours out onto the street to meet each other – while passing round a packet of custard creams.
With the Big Lunch in early June every year and the Great Get Together later in the same month, street parties are still a big thing and not just for royal occasions. More and more parties are being held simply so neighbours can enjoy each other’s company. This year there is even the big VE Day celebration which is a perfect excuse for a party.
Meanwhile, Sustainable St Albans and St Albans District Council have now made it possible for residents to apply to close their road more regularly than just a one-off party – up to 8 times per year for the purposes of play and community building through the new Playing Out Scheme introduced this January.
Free information sessions
Sustainable St Albans’ Playing Out project and volunteer group, Our Street Party, are organising a whole series of information sessions this March. Free to attend and no need to book, they are the perfect chance to find out all about how to organise a one-off street party or a regular Playing Out road closure scheme in your road. More details at the bottom of this article.
How do road closures bring sustainability to a street?
You might be wondering how street parties and Playing Out sessions are relevant to sustainability. Surely they are just about people sitting in the (fingers-crossed!) sunshine, enjoying a cup of tea or a barbecue? Yet it’s true – by organising a road closure on your street, you could actually be doing your bit for sustainability! One look at the Bioregional One Planet Living list of the ten areas of sustainability (below) and you start to realise that these types of community events tick an awful lot of boxes.
Health & happiness as well as Culture & Community are the obvious ones. It’s not hard to see how pulling residents together on the street outside creates a community – one where cultures mingle, isolation is reduced and all the positives of a good neighbourhood can be strengthened. All those children running around in the fresh air has got to be healthy too!
Yet there are more. Getting to know your neighbours equates to becoming a part of the community. And doing that makes people care about where they live. People have more interest in Equity and local economy when they find out their neighbour runs a local business or charitable organisation. They resolve to shop locally when they hear another business is shutting on the high street. They organise a meal out in a local restaurant with new people they have met.
And how about Local and Sustainable Food? We all love to talk about our gardens! We can swap tips with neighbours about growing tomatoes, inspiring each other (or commiserating!). Encouraging one another to grow our own, hearing about local growing projects such as Food Smiles and Incredible Edibles, sharing our knowledge about local food sources – all this is natural conversation between neighbours on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
As for Land Use and Wildlife, there is so much to enjoy in your immediate neighbourhood. From discussions about sightings of garden birds, to plans for Hedgehog Highways (see Wilderhood Watch St Albans), it’s incredible what can come out of such community building events. Residents spend more time in their neighbourhood and see it in a different light – and suddenly there is a proposal to turn a patch of wasteland into a community orchard.
Of course, Sustainable Transport has to be on the list. From an environmental point of view, children playing on the street immediately outside their house is better than driving to the park. Children learn to ride their bikes right outside their own front door. Before you know it, the parents get bikes and a whole family uses bikes instead of cars for local journeys.
From neighbours organising a litter pick (Zero Waste) to sharing information about solar panels (Zero Carbon), there is just no arguing that community building is an important foundation for getting people to care about the environment in the first place.
Organise an event on your street this Summer!
So if you want to do your bit for sustainability but don’t know where to start, why not start with your own neighbours? Get them out onto the street to meet each other and build a community. Who knows what small changes in sustainability your street party might make to your neighbours’ lives – and the ripple effect those might have.
Find out more
To find out more about Playing Out, visit our Playing Out St Albans District webpage.
Watch our new video:
To find out more about Street Parties, visit www.ourstreetparty.org.
Free information sessions March 2020
Playing Out: Mon 9 March, 10.30am at The Enchanted Tea Rooms, 71 High St, Redbourn, AL3 7LW.
Playing Out: Tuesday 10th March, 8pm in the St Stephen Suite (upstairs), St Stephen Parish Centre, Station Road, Bricket Wood, St Albans, AL2 3PJ.
Playing Out: Mon 16 March, 10.30am, at Caledon Community Centre, Caledon Road, London Colney, AL2 1PU.
*Street Parties information sessions are run by Our Street Party.