When anyone asks me what is Transition about, I usually say ‘community’. The best place to build community has to be your street and neighbourhood. But where do you start?
As the Dad of a one year old, watching her play outside in the garden is up there with those great moments of parenthood. Exploring the grass, standing up against the picnic table, looking at snails, picking up pebbles, and sniffing flowers is all part of the rich development playing outside can offer the proto-toddler.
What happens when they get older? Is playing out in the street an option? We did it in the 70s (no, really, we did!) but what about 2012? Have the quiet residential locales of 1974 been crushed by the car?
Well, no. Not everywhere anyway. Pockets of active resistance to the concept of the street as a danger zone do exist. It’s all too easy to subscribe to idea that streets are for cars, not people. Thankfully a few pioneering parents have taken matters into their own hands.
I think the images speak volumes of the fun and connections that were made on the day.
So, what was the inspiration for this day of DIY urban transformation? Event organiser Kathryn Kay directed me to Playing Out, a Bristol-based organisation dedicated to making streets safe for children to play in. Their brilliant website contains free resources and lists ‘ten good reasons for street play’. Each one of the ten of the reasons seems justification in itself, but one of them stood out:
Playing in the street increases community cohesion and brings neighbours of
all ages together by providing a sense of common space and shared ownership. It
can engender a sense of collective responsibility and thereby increase the safety of
Playing Out has started something here, and maybe this is the quiet revolution. It gives a very different meaning to ‘manning the barricades’ to what most people would imagine, but there is something extraordinarily powerful and comforting about what a bunch of local residents can do when they put their efforts into something positive.
Kathryn explained, ‘ if we don’t provide opportunities for our children to play out in the street, then in a generation all recollection of playing out will have gone.’
The experience of Playing Out in Bristol has led to several projects, neatly discussed in the video below:
The Write Up Your Street project has created temporary art installations at strategic points and gently reinforce the Playing Out message:
Tools needed: flourescent tabard, box of chalk, and a homemade ROAD CLOSED sign. Bring it on!