Our Street Party St Albans District supports many street parties each year with a record 90 in 2022’s Queen’s Jubilee year. They hold free online information sessions each February about how to apply to close a road, and lend out Road Closed signs to organisers. But parties are not made from signs alone. Here are a few ideas to get you started….
Our guest blog is from Nicola Wyeth, volunteer for Our Street Party St Albans District and project co-ordinator for Sustainable St Albans’ project, Playing Out. Following a previous blog in 2020 about using road closures to bring sustainability to your street, here she summarises lots of ideas for celebrating at a street party with neighbours.
Keep it simple….or go to town
There are no rules on what you do for your street party (except the sensible rules from Herts County Council here – make sure you read them!).
So… you can simply close the road and create the space and let everyone else get on with it …..or you can go to town with lots of organised events. The choice is yours and both are great
Here are a few ideas that we’ve assembled from street parties over the years we’ve been doing this. We hope you’ll find them useful. Pick and choose what works for you!
Please keep it eco
We wouldn’t be associated with Sustainable St Albans if we didn’t make this point first. Please think of the environment when organising your street party.
- Please avoid disposables – from cups to plates, balloons to bunting – everything you do will have an impact on the environment. So try to avoid single-use, especially plastics and balloons.
- Recycling – on clear up, think a bit better than black plastic sacks. Take 2 seconds more and bring out your recycling bins. It’s not hard to get the food waste into someone’s caddy and the glass and plastic into the wheelie bin. It makes such a difference.
- Know how important community is and congratulate yourself that a road closure alone makes a huge difference to sustainability. From neighbours getting to know neighbours comes borrowing rather than buying, socialising & shopping locally and caring about where we live.
- Find more eco tips on the Big Lunch’s page “Tips for an eco friendly big lunch“
- Make some bunting – paper, scrap cloth, even out of ironed plastic supermarket bags. A great way to pull neighbours together before your party is a bunting-making evening!
- Buy bunting made from recycled fabric. You can buy some amazing bunting made from recycled fabrics. Try local companies like Jefferson Crafts or Third Wave.
- Tablecloths – big rolls of paper work really well. Old wallpaper. Or plain paper and crayons – get the kids to decorate them.
- Flowers – simple jam jars with local wildflowers look beautiful
- Crockery and cutlery – in our street we get people to bring their own. However, you can also borrow – how about Green Bean Eco Packs, another local company. They even loan bunting! Please do avoid disposables if you can.
- Posters – you can’t advertise your street party to the general public but you can still advertise it on your actual street! Put up posters on lamp-posts and in windows. Get everyone colouring them in. Just make sure they say “for residents”!
- Pavement chalk is great for decorating the road – pictures, messages, inspiration. Get drawing!
Communal food is something that pulls people together.
- At the bare minimum, put a packet of custard creams on a chair on the pavement and you have a gathering!
- Take it up a notch and put a table out and ask people to bring cakes and biscuits.
- Bake-Off competitions in the street are great – and you get to eat the entries. Add some cups of tea and you have a great British afternoon tea party.
- If you want a full meal, barbecues are always popular. Consider communal ones (including a veggie one) brought together in a central spot with people bringing their own food to be cooked.
- Asking people to bring food to share is also great – how about odd-numbered houses bringing sweet dishes and evens bringing savouries – or vice versa. Put it all on a communal table.
- If you want everyone to sit together, tables down one side of the road work well (you must leave a space for emergency vehicles). Ask people to bring out their garden or kitchen tables!
- If you choose to let people eat outside their own houses, that works too. You may need to bring them together through your activities… see below.
- Traditional competitions always go down well. Welly-wanging, tug-of-war and running races for starters.
- Other traditional street games work brilliantly – a long skipping rope, French skipping (aka elastics), hopscotch, hula hoops, bubbles are great fun.
- Don’t forget the kids will just love the space – they’ll bring out scooters, bikes, water pistols and enjoy it. And they’ll make up entertainment with what’s to hand – we heard of one street where the kids ran snail races!
- Music – you can play music as long as it “doesn’t disrupt local residents”. Ask your neighbours – from a cappella singers to guitarists or someone with big speakers, there’s bound to be a neighbour who can sort some music if you want it.
- Memorabilia – if you live on a street with older houses, see what you can encourage people to share. There’s fascinating material on the St Albans Local History Society website here and, if you live in Harpenden, the Harpenden Local History Society has done detailed histories of many streets, in their Street by Street webpages.
- Quizzes – can someone write a quiz about your local area?
- Bring and buy sales – consider putting out blankets and asking people to bring out unwanted stuff – toys, books and games work particularly well
- Can you raise money for charity? Not necessary but a lovely addition. Many charities will give you sealed collection boxes – dot them around at your party and see if you can raise a few quid.
- Face painting goes down well – often teens enjoy being in charge of this.
- Dressing up is fun! Maybe as a competition.
- Other art activities are great – let the kids go mad with pavement chalk! Or how about painting pebbles?
People make your street party. It is so important to think about the people on your street when you make your plans. What would they enjoy?
Remember too, that street parties are hard for a lot of people. Going up to a group of people you don’t know very well, particularly if you live on your own, is difficult. So do think…how can you make it easier for those people. How can you involve them?
We like having stewards at the road closed points. It’s not required for a street party. However, two people per closure point in high viz means a role for people that basically involves sitting and chatting – and everyone’s a winner whether confused driver, resident who needs access to the closed space or that neighbour who wouldn’t come to the party otherwise. Think about it! More about stewards and also general advice about closing a road is in this video here.
Photos of street parties are great!
- Try to have an agreed time where you’ll get a group
- Share it with neighbours afterwards.
- Make sure everyone knows you are going to share the photo.
Share your photos with us!
- We will assume you have permission of subjects and parental permission for photos of children. Click here for a photo consent form for you to use for under 18s if useful.
- Please send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
- We will keep the photos on file and they may be used by us and our partners (eg Sustainable St Albans, Oakman Inns, St Albans District Council, Herts County Council) online or in print. Please contact us if you wish us to subsequently delete photos.
We all hope for sun but maybe it will rain. That doesn’t mean your party can’t go ahead. You just need to plan a bit!
- Gazebos are great. If it’s hot they shade the food (and you!); if it rains they give you shelter. Ask around – does anyone have one in your street?
- Kids don’t care about rain. So rain doesn’t have to mean cancellation! They’ll still have fun!
In our street we have always had the attitude that we create a space and let the residents fill it as they wish. We do food, odds with savouries, evens with sweets and communal barbecues including a veggie one (bring your own food to put on them). Tables down one side of the road and some bring & buy blankets and we’re done. The kids play, the adults eat and chat – it’s fab.
In a neighbouring street, they really go to town. People eat food outside their own houses with their immediate neighbours but then everyone gathers together for the organised activities. Pimms tent, street quiz, sports-day games and tug-of-war are all planned and enjoyed. There is a large committee and the decorations are fabulous!
Both are fantastic street parties and both are massively enjoyed by the residents. There is no right or wrong with this – so our final message is – go for what works for you and simply enjoy! You’re doing a fantastic thing for your community.
Find out more
- To contact Nicola with street party questions visit Our Street Party St Albans District.
- For further ideas for you street party, visit the Big Lunch website.
What next after your street party?
- In Hertfordshire, street parties can only happen once a year.
- The Playing Out scheme allows residents to apply for up to 8 further short road closures a year, provided closures are stewarded by resident volunteers.
- Find out how the scheme works and how to apply by visiting our Playing Out St Albans District webpage
- Why not attend one of our free online information sessions to find out more? – book via link on the Playing Out webpage above.
- Watch the Playing Out St Albans District video and be inspired: