PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside marks World Car Free Day with 16 streets open for play on 20th September

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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.[1] 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[2] 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.[3] 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 playmeetstreetnt@gmail.com.

North Tyneside, September 1st 2020


[1] More information is available here: https://playmeetstreet.wordpress.com/.

[2] 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.

[3] More information about play streets and social distancing is available here:  https://playmeetstreet.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/playing-out-and-social-distancing/).

Playing Out and Social Distancing

We’ve finally got the go-ahead from North Tyneside Council to restart playing out sessions across the borough.

Some of you have dates scheduled and can now start to use them again, some of you are waiting to hear back on renewal applications, and some of you have submitted applications for your first session.

All of you will probably be thinking about how to make sure you, your neighbours and your children manage to play out and hang out safely while social distancing.

Much of the evidence seems to suggest that being outdoors with others is much less risky than being indoors – playgrounds are now open, outdoor team sports have restarted, and outdoor events are starting to happen again. In this context, we think playing out can be managed safely, and that the benefits for children playing and neighbours meeting are significant, for our physical and mental health. London Play make a strong risk-benefit case for play streets here.

Nevertheless, we do still need to think about social distancing and being as safe as we can.

Our friends at Playing Out have drawn up this guidance, which looks at consultation, stewarding, hygiene, food and drink, collective responsibility, and play.

Key things to think about are whether or not your neighbours are OK with your plans and how you might be able to include all those who been involved in the #clapforNHS and other street activities during the lockdown; ensuring that handwashing and hand sanitisers are regular parts of the session, for children and adults; suggesting that households have their own drinks and snacks, rather than a table of food and drink to share; and thinking about the sorts of fun you can have without touching and without handling shared play equipment.

Much of this is echoed by London Play who organise hundreds of play streets across the capital and who have developed extensive guidance on why and how we should be organising playing out in the context of social distancing.

If you’re just starting and in the process of consulting, London Play makes these suggestions:

Flyers: When delivering flyers or consultation letters, ensure regular hand washing and hygiene by those handling and posting them, or wear gloves to completely avoid contact with letterboxes, gates etc.
Door knocking: If you need to speak to your neighbours on their doorstep, knock and then stand back ‘1m plus’ to chat at a distance. Consider wearing a mask.

All this guidance is worth reviewing with your neighbours and your identified stewards to ensure that you’re all confident about running a safe session.

If you have any questions, let us know – we’ll do everything we can to support you playing out.

23 streets “playing out” in North Tyneside on World Car Free Day

PRESS RELEASE

23 North Tyneside streets to “play out” and celebrate World Car Free Day on Sunday September 22nd 2019

On Sunday September 22nd, PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside will be supporting 23 streets across the borough to temporarily close to through traffic, allowing children to play freely and neighbours to meet. This big day of playing out is organised to celebrate promote playing out in the borough, whilst also drawing attention to World Car Free Day and connecting to this global movement for healthier streets.

PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside – run by local mothers – is part of a national movement to enable more children to play out in their own streets, and more neighbours to meet. The idea of street play, or playing out, is, simply, for neighbours to get together every few weeks, after school or at the weekends, to meet and play in their street. Street play sessions are short, regular, stewarded road closures, approved by North Tyneside Council, giving children the chance to play safely near home, but also making the street feel safer and friendlier for everyone.

World Car Free Day is a global event to draw attention to the impacts of cars on our health and our communities and to encourage walking, cycling and playing on our streets. A number of cities across the UK are promoting street closures for playing out on that day, including boroughs across London. This year World Car Free Day comes just two days after the Global Climate Strike on September 20th when children and young people will be leading the way in drawing our attention to protest inaction on climate change.

Temporary street closures for play give children and young people – and their families and neighbours – a chance to experience traffic-free streets for a few hours, to meet and play freely, safely and in a healthier local environment. They allow children and young people to recognise and raise awareness of the benefits of car-free streets and the value of local action on traffic and pollution. Playing Out, the national organisation encouraging temporary road closures for play, have identified many links between action on climate change and promoting street play.

There are huge benefits to playing out – for physical and mental health, the environment, and community cohesion. Research demonstrates that children who play out in their own streets are three to five times more active during playing out sessions than they would be on a ‘normal’ day; the quality of the environment temporarily improves as air pollution drops with less traffic; and neighbours regularly report that they feel safer, more connected – in one 2017 survey, 91% said they know more people on their street as a result of playing out while 84% feel they belong more in their neighbourhood.

More than 50 North Tyneside streets have run one-off or regular ‘playing out’ sessions over the last few years; our longest-running streets have been organising regular closures for play for more than four years. We have streets involved in Whitley Bay, Tynemouth, Cullercoats, North Shields, Monkseaton, Wallsend, Longbenton, and Forest Hall. Each event is attended by aproximately 15 to 25 children of varying ages, their parents, grandparents and other carers, and other neighbours. Those streets have seen enormous benefits for children and adults. These are some of things those involved have said about their experiences:

“There’s a greater sense of community and belonging – people seem to look out for each other and there is a sense that it is ‘our street’”

“I think it’s an outstanding initiative and should be spread all over!”

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the kids to play out in the street, getting vital exercise and social skills. Great way to get to know the neighbours better too!”

PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside’s website (https://playmeetstreet.wordpress.com/) explains more about the benefits of playing out and sets out the steps required by new streets to start playing out. Press enquiries can be directed to playmeetstreetnt@gmail.com or by phone to Alison Stenning (07970043418) or Jane Fahey (07714761880).

 

12th September 2019

North Tyneside

Join us #playingout on World #CarFreeDay (September 22nd)

Do you want to join us on what we hope will be our biggest day of playing out in North Tyneside ever, on World Car Free Day – Sunday 22nd September?

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World Car Free Day is a global event to draw attention to the impacts of cars on our health and our communities and to encourage walking, cycling and playing on our streets. A number of other cities are also promoting playing out on that day, with London Play aiming to get 200 streets closed for play across the capital.

If you think, you’d like to join us, have a look here to get a sense of what playing out is all about and here to see what steps you have to take to get started.

PlayMeetStreet will support you every step of the way. We’ll:

  • give you all the kit you need (road signs, hi-vis vests, whistles, even skipping ropes, chalk and bubbles) for free
  • give you letters and leaflets to deliver
  • come with you to doorknock your neighbours, if you want
  • deal with all the council applications on your behalf
  • help you deal with any neighbours who have concerns or complaints.

All you need to do is get your neighbours on board and buy some biscuits!

If you get in touch with us, we’ll confirm everything you need to do, but this is the timetable we’ll be following:

By Monday 29th July
In August (perfect for the school holidays)
  • We’ll deliver you consultation letters to give to your neighbours
  • With your family or a few of your neighbours, door-knock all the houses that will be directly affected by the closure, giving them a copy of the consultation letter and an opportunity to raise questions or concerns
  • PlayMeetStreet will help you talk to any neighbours who have questions, concerns or objections
  • Think about setting up a Facebook or WhatsApp group to coordinate with your neighbours
Week beginning 19th August
  • Confirm to us that the majority of your neighbours are keen and happy to go ahead
  • We’ll process an application to the council on your behalf and get back to you
Week beginning 9th Sept
  • Decide if you want to get in any supplies, such as chalk, bubbles, biscuits, juice, skipping ropes – and ask neighbours to bring what they can
  • Agree a rota for ‘stewarding’ to guard the closures and guide any residents in their cars in or out safely, at walking pace
  • Post the closure notices on lampposts in your street and deliver invitations to all your neighbours (all of which we’ll provide you with)
Week beginning 16th Sept
  • We’ll deliver a ‘playing out’ kit to you, with Road Closed signs, hi-vis vests, chalk, bubbles, etc.
Sunday September 22nd
  • Play out from 2-5!

 

A bit of an update!

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It’s been a while – almost two years – since we took over the North Tyneside playing out mission from House of Objects and established Play.Meet.Street, so it feels like a good time for an update and reflection.

When we got started, ten North Tyneside streets had organised one or more playing out session (mostly in Whitley Bay) and four or five were running regular, monthly sessions (including our own three streets).

In the last two years, another 24 streets have started playing out, with 15 of those running multiple or regular sessions. And we’re currently working with another eight streets looking to get started in the next few weeks.

We have had two ‘Big Days’ of playing out, each with more than a dozen streets playing out on the same day – and we’re just starting to plan another to celebrate World Car Free Day on Sunday 22nd September.

In total, that will mean that, by the end of June this year, 42 North Tyneside streets will have got involved, closing their street to play and meet. 

That’s hundreds of hours of playing – on my street alone, we’ve probably played out for almost 200 hours – and, at a conservative estimate, that’s involved well over 1500 children and adults.

And we’ve extended well beyond Whitley Bay, along the coast to Monkseaton, Cullercoats, Tynemouth, and North Shields, and inland to Wallsend, Forest Hall and Longbenton.

To achieve all this, we’ve worked hard to build relationships with lots of different local groups and organisations, including lots of different bits of North Tyneside Council (events, participation, transport, health and sport, education, and many more), the mayor, councillors, our MPs, neighbourhood policing teams, schools, community groups, campaign groups, and, of course, local residents.

We’ve also built links with playing out activists across the country, as the movement has spread to over 80 different local authorities, encouraged and enabled by the national campaign group, Playing Out.

And we’ve attracted attention from local and national media, with coverage in the News Guardian, the BBC, the Guardian (forthcoming imminently!), the Telegraph, the Sunday Times, and the council’s own Our North Tyneside.

Much of this work has been supported by an Awards for All grant which has enabled us to buy lots of Road Closed signs and print lots of leaflets, and we’ve had considerable support of all sorts from Playing Out, but we have done much of this work as unpaid volunteers.

Our plans for the next few months are focused on continuing to expand the number of streets involved, especially in different parts of the borough, and to support the existing streets and help them to keep going, and trying to work out how to become a sustainable organisation that can continue to develop playing out in North Tyneside for years to come.

If you’d like to get involved, please have a look around this site and get in touch (playmeetstreetnt@gmail.com).

Frequently Asked Questions

When we first set up street play sessions, we often get the same questions from a few neighbours who want to know a little more about how it all works and what will happen, so we’ve put together this list of Frequently Asked Questions. You might also want to look at Playing Out’s discussion of Possible Concerns.

What’s the point of street play? Recent research suggests that on streets that play out children had learned a range of physical and social skills, including riding a bike and interacting with other children and that, as a result of playing out, many feel they belong more in their neighbourhood. Street play is part of a national movement, supported by new legislation to enable occasional street closures, which responds to a growing desire to engage communities and promote child health, in particular. Over 700 streets in more than 70 towns and cities across the UK regularly close their streets for play. See also http://playingout.net/why/10-good-reasons/

What happens during a street play session? Once the Road Closed signs are set up (usually attached to wheelie bins), everyone can play. Some streets organise games – often those the adults used to play as children such as kerbie or stuck in the mud – but most just let the kids get on with cycling, scooting, football, hide and seek, and so on. We give each new street bubbles, pavement chalk and a skipping rope. Adults must be present to supervise their children (see below) and most organisers make a real effort to encourage neighbours without small children to join in too. Most streets bring out some snacks and drinks but that’s not compulsory!

Who gets to say if street play happens on your street? Street play is organised by residents. The initiative comes from a group of residents, not from the council or PlayMeetStreet. They must door-knock and/or deliver letters to all homes directly affected by the planned closure, giving them the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns. If these can’t be dealt with amongst the neighbours themselves, PlayMeetStreet will try to help. We very much want this to be a positive experience, but recognise that not all residents will be as keen on the idea. We have to demonstrate that most residents have agreed to the planned closure, so that if the majority of residents are supportive, then these events will go ahead. If you do have concerns, we ask that you see how the closure goes – you may be pleasantly surprised.

Why can’t children play in local parks or their gardens? Even though there are sometimes other local spaces to play, the idea of street play is for children to be able to play on their own streets, outside their homes, and to meet other local children, like many adults used to do when they were young. Street play is also about community building and neighbours getting to know each other. Children playing together on their street helps to build a sense of community and belonging, which in turn makes your street a safer and friendlier place.

What about the potential noise and disruption? All of the evidence from the streets that organise street play sessions is that disruption is minimal. They only last for a short period (2-3 hours) each month and noise levels are not especially high. These are public streets and we cannot prevent noise during reasonable daytime hours. Indeed, during the closure there will be less traffic noise than on a normal day and our experience is that streets are quieter during playing out sessions than when open to traffic, to the extent you are more likely to hear birdsong!

What will happen to traffic? A street play session will not stop you from having car access to your home. The only real difference is that through traffic will be diverted and residents will be asked to drive in and out at walking speed behind a steward (one of your neighbours) in a hi-vis vest. Access will always be ensured for emergency vehicles. Stewards will make sure that children are safely off the road temporarily if vehicle access is needed. If you usually park on the road, you may want to consider parking elsewhere, but you do not have to. Through traffic will be diverted, usually onto neighbouring streets or back alleys, with clear signage and stewards to explain the situation. Although this may have a small impact on neighbouring streets, it is only for a few hours and often at a time (e.g. Sunday afternoons) when traffic is reduced anyway.

Will my property be damaged? Some people worry that their cars or front gardens will be damaged by children playing in the street. There is no reason to believe that your property is at any more risk of being damaged than normal and the experience of hundreds of streets playing out across the UK suggests this happens extremely rarely. During street play sessions, children are supervised by their parents or other carers. Those adults are always responsible for their children at all times. If any damage does occur, the relevant parents would resolve the situation, as they would in any other case of accidental damage.

Funding news!

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We’re extremely pleased to announce that Play.Meet.Street North Tyneside has recently received a Big Lottery Fund Awards for All grant, focused on growing street play in North Tyneside.

Our primary aim with the award is to have 20 new streets involved by March 2019 (with at least one third of those in more disadvantaged areas of the borough) and to strengthen our support of all streets involved.

At the heart of our plans is a desire to build a active and vibrant local movement in support of playing out, and we’ll be working to communicate and promote this.

As a result of the award, we now have:

  1. resources for street play kits (road closed signs, equipment for stewards’ and for play) for up to 30 streets across North Tyneside and for a network of local street activators to communicate, promote, facilitate and celebrate street play in North Tyneside
  2. the opportunity to really establish a successful and sustainable street play organisation in North Tyneside, including to develop relationships with relevant local organisations (such as the council, local schools, local play organisations, health and wellbeing initiatives etc.) and with other playing out organisations across the UK

If you would like to be one of the new streets or are interested in finding out more, please get in touch (playmeetstreetnt@gmail.com) and check out our other pages here, exploring why street play is such a great idea and how to get started.

 

Information Afternoon

Have you ever thought about closing your street for play for a few hours a month? Are you interested in finding out more?

Play.Meet.Street is promoting and supporting the development of street play in North Tyneside and is keen to recruit new streets to join the ten that already regularly close their streets for play.

We’re holding an information afternoon from 4 to 6 on Wednesday 14th March at Whitley Bay Big Local (305 Whitley Road, NE26 2HU) for anyone wanting to know a bit more or ask questions. We’ll be doing two short introductory talks at 4.30 and 5.30 but you can also just drop in to chat to us.

Children are very welcome – they’ll be some space to play and some drinks and snacks for children and adults.

If you’d like to come along, please register (for free) at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/playing-out-information-afternoon-tickets-43284668609.

If you have any questions, please do email us at playmeetstreetnt@gmail.com.

What is ‘playing out’?

The idea of street play or playing out is, simply, for neighbours to get together every few weeks, after school or at the weekends, to meet and play in their street.

Street play sessions are short, stewarded road closures, giving children the chance to play safely near home, but also making the street feel safer and friendlier for everyone. Parents or carers are always responsible for their own children’s safety and behaviour, as normal.

Neighbours talk about what they’d like to do. We apply to the council for a licence to approve a temporary closure. Usually streets close for about three hours (e.g. 2-5 or 3.30-6.30). In that time, residents can drive to their houses – at a walking pace, led by a steward – but all through traffic is excluded.

As Playing Out explain, the benefits of this kind of street play are many. These are just a few of the benefits we see:

  • We all need – and have the right to – space for play, especially in towns and cities where gardens are small. This is as true for adults as it is for children.
  • Children and adults benefit from getting to know their neighbours and from developing new friendships, with others of both similar and diverse ages.
  • Communities in which people know and recognise each other feel safer.
  • Running around, having fun, and socialising together have enormous benefits for physical and mental health, for children and adults.
  • Air quality improves even after a short street closure, with health benefits for all.

What do I do if I want to close my street for play?

Before you can hold a playing out session you need to:

  1. Contact us by emailing playmeetstreetnt@gmail.com.
  2. Read this page and the information booklet written by Playing Out Bristol and have a look at their website.
  3. Invite your neighbours to a meeting to talk about about what you would like to do.
  4. Identify a date for your first session – we need at least six weeks’ notice – so plan ahead.
  5. Decide how much of your street you want to close – it might just be a middle section, or one end, or the whole street if it’s quite short.
  6. Talk to all your neighbours who will be directly affected by the closure (we will give you information to give out). If there are any issues, please contact us, or ask them to do so directly.
  7. As the consultation process progresses, we will contact North Tyneside Council on your behalf.
  8. Following the consultation, and hoping that the majority of your neighbours support your plans, we’ll deliver you road closure notices from the council and invitations for all your neighbours.
  9. Remember: organising street play costs you nothing (apart from maybe a few cakes and sweets) – there is no fee for closing your street and we provide you with all the letters and invitations you’ll need, Road Closed signs, hi-vis vests, whistles, chalk and lots of support.

 

When you’ve got permission: 

  1. Deliver a notice with the date and time of the playing out session to your neighbours.
  2. Put up notice of road closure signs on lampposts.
  3. Decide if you want to get in any supplies, such as chalk, bubbles, biscuits, juice, skipping ropes – and ask neighbours to bring what they can.
  4. Have a look at Playing Out and the games room at Eden Communities to get some new ideas for play – although experience tells us kids mostly want to run, scoot and cycle!

 

On the day of the session:

  1. Put up road closed signs (which we’ll lend to you) at each point where the road is closed, and agree a rota for marshals to keep an eye on them and to lead any car-driving residents to their homes at a walking pace.
  2. Play out, meet and have fun!
  3. If there are any issues, please contact us, or ask those concerned to do so directly.
  4. Share some photos of the fun on our Facebook page.

 

Then:

  1. Talk to your neighbours to see how they thought everything went.
  2. Schedule further dates – this could be, say, every third Sunday afternoon or every other Thursday after school, or some particular dates you choose.
  3. Pass these to us and we will do the required paperwork with the council.
  4. In the meantime, we’ll give you letters for a follow-up consultation with your neighbours, to check they’re mostly happy with more playing out on your street.

 

For all sorts advice and ideas for playing out, see Playing Out’s Useful Stuff.