With the cost of living crisis continuing to stretch our finances it can be difficult to find any funds for fun! This is just one of the reasons why Sustainable St Albans is so proud of our project, Playing Out, building communities and helping children to play safely on their own streets. This resident-led movement aims to restore children’s freedom to play out in the streets and spaces where they live, for their health, happiness and sense of belonging. Having time and space to play is widely recognised as fundamental to every child’s health, happiness and development. Unlike organised or paid-for activities, playing outside near home – where it is possible – is also fun, free, open to ALL children and allows kids to play freely with children of all ages, rather than just their own age group. Children in the UK and many other countries around the world are less and less able to play out as older generations once did. Children haven’t changed but the world around them has… Sustainable St Alban’s project team provides support to help you engage with your neighbours and get permissions from the council as well as loaning out the signs and equipment that you’ll need to legally close the street. After that, you let your neighbours know the time and date when the street will be given over to play and let the children lead the way!
We’ve spoken to Victoria Gilbert of Burnham Road, St Albans about her street’s involvement with Playing Out.
I’ve lived on Burnham Rd for 8 years and the first Street Party I organised was in 2017. We also have a Burnham Road carol concert in December which had been running long before I arrived. I run the playing out sessions and organise the annual street party too. We even held bunting making evenings one winter using old bedsheets! As the evening and Prosecco drinking ran on you can tell, as the stitching gets a little wonky in places!! However, we do now have lots of bunting for our street parties and people often recognise their old bedsheets.
All of my family take part in these events along with the whole street who come to the street party and carol singing. For the playing out sessions we usually have around 40 people, which is lovely to see. I’ve learned that community is integral to leading healthy lives. That we all thrive when we feel we are part of something that benefits those around us.
The Playing Out team have offered so much advice, help and support should you wish to hold a playing out event or a street party. But dropping a leaflet through a neighbours letterbox and inviting them round for a cuppa is a good start. Then you can gauge residents’ interest and the community’s desire.
What’s next for this neighbourly street we wondered? “I would really like to start a ‘Burnham Grown’ group whereby residents grow one crop and then share the produce between us. I need to get on this!”
If you’d like to know more about hosting your own Playing Out event, visit our website https://sustainablestalbans.org/playing-out/ and register for our free, online information sessions on February 22nd and 24th.