Bringing Playing Out to Worthing

How quickly things can change sometimes. Less than 12 months from my first visit to to our council launching a Temporary Play Street Order in my home town…..exciting times 🙂

I grew up in a neighbourhood (in Swindon) which was brilliant for children. Round the corner from us was a cul-de-sac with three large grassy islands, complete with trees and a sculpture of large stones. I have happy childhood memories of playing outside with friends from my street: making up games which involved running across the road from island to island, climbing the stones, pretending to camp out in the trees etc. I learned to roller-skate, play tennis and ride a bike in my road. Most of this was unsupervised play, only going home for tea-time.

I am now a mum of two and have moved to Worthing, West Sussex, but times have changed and outdoor play in the street isn’t often seen any more, and is certainly not possible in our road. We are an active family and cycle, walk, climb trees, enjoy the beach in all weathers but somehow when you have two very young children, coordinating trips like these is never quite as simple as you’d like it to be! As parents we long for easy, accessible outdoor play for our children which isn’t in the restricted space of our back garden, doesn’t involve the complications of making a journey and can be as long or as short as the children need. We weren’t sure which way to turn, until…..

I came across the Playing Out project early in 2012. (The project started with two Bristol neighbours who have campaigned successfully for regular road closures purely for the purposes of play.) I was completely inspired so I began dreaming about our road filled with happy children. We had a meeting in our local pub with some neighbours who were interested and then we found out that Worthing Council’s application procedure requires £100 to close a road, so that seemed to quash our dream. I got in touch with Alice Ferguson, director of Playing Out, who was really supportive and suggested we opt for the Jubilee weekend, as our council were waiving Street Party fees for the weekend celebrations. An easy way to start – with a free, one-off session.

Our first Playing Out session was on Friday June 1st 2012 (International Children’s Day), and we had a wonderful afternoon with lots of children playing (chalking, cycling, scooting, hula-hooping, space hopping etc.). Many neighbours came out too, whether they had young children or not, and brought chairs, drank tea and chatted while the children played. I invited a couple of councillors and two council workers (an Active Communities Officer and a Neighbourhood Worker) who were all very positive. It was simply wonderful to see the children making up games with the equipment by themselves, making new friends, just enjoying the freedom of the space. The delight in a young child’s eyes when they were allowed to cycle unaccompanied along the whole road was uplifting. I met lots of neighbours that I’d never really spoken to before, including one whose illness means he is in a wheelchair and rarely able to leave the house. He got very involved with leaflet design and really enjoyed being out in the street. He blogged about it, very positively, here.

Everyone said how much they’d enjoyed it and asked when the next one would be!

Once a seed has been sown like this – you have to let it grow, so…

Over the summer, the council workers and I discussed how to make this an easier process and allow other streets in the town to do the same. They asked me to run another Playing Out session in September so the council could learn more. Another afternoon of happy faces in our sunny Worthing street followed and as a result, Adur and Worthing councils have devised their own Temporary Play Street Order (TPSO) for 2013. A pilot has been launched where it is free to close the road for the purposes of children’s play on 6 set dates. They have been very supportive, have written guidance which is hugely positive, and have cut some of the red tape to the whole process. They are also offering support (printing leaflets, loaning signs etc.) to applicants for their first session. It’s all great news and I’m looking forward to spreading the Playing Out spirit to lots more children in Adur and Worthing.

We’ve set up a Facebook Playing Out Adur and Worthing group for people in Worthing interested in getting involved.

Adur and Worthing’s press release on the launch of the scheme is here.

Sept 10th     DSC04527