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Create some magic in your community with Festive Streets!

Festive Streets is a wintery opportunity to build relationships with your local community, combat isolation and improve wellbeing. If you’re still wondering whether it’s right for your street, read on for a range of testimonials and a simple guide to decorating your windows and finding your holiday spirit!

Festive Streets is a hugely successful street-based community initiative set up by our Playing Out team. Developed by necessity during 2020 and building on other similar projects around the area and across the country, Festive Streets is an uplifting community project that everyone on or passing through the street can enjoy either by decorating windows or by observing the decorated windows, brightening up dozens of St Albans district streets each winter – see here for
past photos.

“Each day in December a new window is decorated by one of our neighbours and
the displays always bring such warmth and friendship to our streets. Displays vary
enormously: from snowmen, reindeer, trees and birds, to well-known films such Star
Wars, Batman and Frozen! As an added bonus, we have managed to raise money
for Great Ormond Street Hospital and other local charities too.”

Claire Toms, St Albans resident, who has helped with a Living Advent Calendar on her
street every winter for a number of years.

Co-ordinate with neighbours and involve everybody

In its simplest form, neighbours volunteer to decorate a street-facing window of their
home and co-ordinate with each other to agree a timetable and a theme.  All the
neighbours in a street are invited to join in with Festive Streets – whether they
choose to decorate a window or simply enjoy the displays.

Tissue paper stockings are silhouetted in an upstairs window with black paper outlines.

“It brought brightness to lives, helped with loneliness (residents came to their doors when they saw people admiring their display).”

Previous participant of Festive Streets, St Albans

What does the project do?

The Festive Streets project encourages residents to co-ordinate (via leaflet, WhatsApp, email etc) decorated windows in their street. The project is intentionally not specifically Christmas-focussed so it’s possible to join in however you celebrate in winter.

The project has been evidenced to:

  • increase community spirit
  • encourage neighbours to reach out to isolated neighbours
  • improve physical and mental wellbeing for children and adults.
Two children cut and cellotape black paper together to create a festive window.

“I (and others) were able to make a display for elderly neighbours who couldn’t make a display
themselves but wanted to take part.”

Previous participant of Festive Streets, St Albans

Keep it sustainable

Please use sustainable, recycled materials wherever possible and minimise energy
usage, particularly on lights. There are loads of ways to decorate that don’t cost the earth!

Has this happened before?

Although the idea is not original – “Living Advent” trails take place St Albans and beyond – we aim to reduce barriers to entry, encourage organisers to involve everyone on their street,
and to increase the uptake of this type of street-based community project.

In 2020 alone:

  • 300 people signed up to receive Festive Streets information packs
  • At least 60 streets across the district organised decorated windows projects.
  • Approximately 1,000 households decorated windows, plus churches and a school and many times this number enjoyed viewing the decorated windows.
  • Some streets raised money for charity: £1,000+ was raised by new Festive Streets projects.
  • Other streets collected for food banks: 70+ bags of food were donated from one street alone.
  • Over 250 photographs of decorated windows were sent to us.

“I think people definitely have an appetite for community and working together. Last
year, the families in our road rose to the challenge and created some beautiful, funny
and moving window displays with a wonderful sense of community and friendship.
This for me was the best part of the whole project. We’re still saying hello to people
up the street we didn’t know before.”

Leanne Walters started a scheme on her street for the first time in 2020.

How can you help me get started?

Painted window showing a tree with animals climbing up the bark.

If you’re interested in finding out more, sign up to receive a free Sustainable St Albans information pack with guidance, template materials and example creations to set creative juices flowing. Ideas for how to go about decorating your windows sustainably, and without impacting your home’s privacy, can be found at our blog too.

Check out our Festive Street pages for more ideas and to download your information pack, and then get onto your neighbours to start the conversation… and don’t forget to let us know how you get on too!

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