In 2019, PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside organised a “big day of playing out” across North Tyneside to mark World Car Free Day, with 23 streets across the borough playing out simultaneously. This year, in very different circumstances, we are not organising a big recruitment drive around this date, for a whole variety of reasons, but we are coordinating 16 of our existing play streets to play out on the closest Sunday, which this year falls on 20th September.
PlayMeetStreet is a constituted community group, run by volunteers, to open residential streets temporarily but regularly for play, whilst closing them to traffic. Play streets enable neighbours, of all ages, to play and meet safely on their doorsteps. PlayMeetStreet works closely with the North Tyneside Council’s Events team to process applications on behalf of groups of neighbours, and with the national organisation Playing Out to promote and develop play streets.
Our streets have only just begun to play out again after a five-month pause and we are very mindful of the need to maintain social distancing. But we also recognise that in these times, streets offer a very special place for playing and meeting, and that this is worth celebrating and advocating for.
In most instances, streets offer more space with less pressure than parks and playgrounds, and are likely to be safer than indoor spaces for play and for socialising. We also know that many neighbours have come together to support each other in recent months, and got to know each other better through mutual aid networks and through simply being around more on their streets and doorsteps. And we know too that many people – children, families, older people, and others – have enjoyed the quiet and relative safety of their streets, especially early in the lockdown, to walk, cycle and play more safely in our North Tyneside neighbourhoods. Experts in child development have been calling throughout the lockdown for outdoor play and community to be prioritised in the recovery, as they offer opportunities for fun, physical activity and connection, within current physical distancing guidelines in safer outdoor space.
Many of these features of play streets resonate directly with North Tyneside Council’s commitment to creating space for social distancing and healthier neighbourhoods, where residents feel safer and are encouraged to walk and cycle.
As things settle down, we are very keen to see more streets across the borough enjoying the benefits of play streets.
We have 37 active play streets in Whitley Bay, Cullercoats, Monkseaton, North Shields, Wallsend, Longbenton, Willington Quay, Tynemouth, South Wellfield, and Whitley Lodge, and around 60 that have been involved in the scheme at some point over the last 5 years. We estimate that about 1800 children and their families have had thousands of hours to play safely on these play streets, to have the time and space to meet their neighbours, play together, build connections, and experience their street as something more than a space for cars. Some of these streets have been playing out regularly for more than five years, monthly, sometimes fortnightly. All this makes North Tyneside’s play streets scheme one of the most active and successful in the country, after Bristol (where it all started) and Hackney, more or less equal with Leeds.
PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside’s website explains more about the benefits of playing out and sets out the steps required by new streets to start playing out.
Enquiries can be directed to email@example.com.
North Tyneside, September 1st 2020
 Playing Out is the organisation supporting the national parent-led movement to restore children’s right to play out where they live, of which PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside is part. Their website is a rich source of guidance and advice for parents and councils: www.playingout.net.
 More information about play streets and social distancing is available here: https://playmeetstreet.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/playing-out-and-social-distancing/).