I’m Emma and we started Playing Out sessions down our street in Hull last summer in 2018. We now have sessions every other Saturday. When we first talked about them I actually thought the children down the street might burst with excitement!
In a nutshell, Playing Out is all about opening up your street to play, by creating a temporary road closure and giving priority to kids and families rather than traffic. The idea goes back only one or two generations to a time when children had the freedom to play right outside the front door, without having to worry about the volume of cars passing through.
At first I was quite nervous about starting the sessions as I wasn’t sure it would work. Our neighbours were all very supportive with just a couple that had reservations – who luckily changed their minds once they saw the difference it made. My eldest already played out often but my younger two sat at the window because of the traffic; it just wasn’t safe for them to play out with their older brother.
That made me think yes: this is going to give them that feeling of freedom that my eldest has when he’s sat on the wall chatting to his friends or biking up and down the street.
Our first Playing Out session
The first session soon approached and it really was wonderful. The sun shone bright and as the road closure signs went out, the children screamed out with utter delight. Within minutes kids were bringing bikes out, water guns were squirting and the whole street was alive!
Then, to warm my heart even more, the elderly couple from opposite came out with deckchairs and asked if they could join us. They are now regulars and rarely miss a session, even if it’s a cold day; they always pop out to say hi.
What Playing Out has now become on our street
The sessions have now become regular and as the signs and our bunting go up, an amazing thing happens: cars are actually moved so that the children can have full use of the part of the street we shut off. Many of these residents don’t have children involved in the sessions but they do it out of kindness.
There was one neighbour who felt that playing out was why parks were built. I’m not sure if she’s changed her mind on that but she pops out at most sessions and even baked mince pies at Christmas; we’ve now become good friends.
We even recently got some help to start growing vegetables down our street and we’ve all made planters in our front gardens!
All of this started from turning our road into a Play Street and what a difference it has made! On behalf of myself, my family and the residents of Aysgarth, we are so pleased we did this.
Emma’s street community is one of 950 around the UK that have regularly opened up for play, with thousands of parents involved and over 30,000 children benefiting. Playing Out sessions need local authority permission and, where sessions are regular rather than one-off, your council will need to have a supportive policy in place. For more information and help on organising a session or approaching your council, visit playingout.net.