Claremont road closes for children to play safely

Gemma Fahy, a youth and community worker at the Magic Club youth organisation, tells us about their Play Street scheme – where roads are closed down for children to play out safely.

In March 2023, we at the Magic Club youth organisation launched Blackpool’s very first Play Street on Clevedon Road, Claremont. Play streets, or playing out sessions, are neighbour-led short road closures, creating a safe space for children to play freely together on their doorstep and the whole community can come together. The model was first developed by parents (co-founders of Playing Out) on one street in Bristol in 2009 and has now been taken up by hundreds of street communities all over the UK and beyond, supported by councils and local organisations.

Tuesday 4th July 2023, saw our second Play Street pilot on Enfield Road, Claremont. As we arrived, curious children came to chat, adults descended onto their doorsteps and the skipping and chalking began!

Families expressed how much the street needed the event, with many looking forward to it, and the ones who weren’t quite sure what was happening at first, becoming enthusiastic once we explained the concept.

“The road here is so dangerous. Cars are such a massive issue and they use the long strip as a racing track,” one resident said. “It’s ace that children can play safely without cars and bikes zooming up and down the road.”

We also had Active Blackpool out with a pop-in bike repair service. Five young people brought their bikes out to be oiled, tweaked and fixed. The children were then making the most of their newly refurbed bikes, racing each other up and down, and even trying out a wheelie or two!

Other children were playing ball, skipping and showing off their drawing skills. Several children were shouting, “There’s so much room to play!”, as they were twirling in the street. “Can we do this again tomorrow?”, was a common request from children and adults alike.

Whilst staff were (attempting) to hula hoop, they noticed a resident at the end of the street sat in the road on a fold out chair. They were telling us that they had lived on the street for 32 years, and it was amazing to see children out safely and people chatting and helping each other. They often used to come out and watch the nearby trains, but as the cars that came down the road had become too unpredictable, they just watched from their window.

Many passersby stopped to chat, intrigued as to what was going on. I explained the concept of Play Streets to them and that we are hoping to be able to facilitate more in the future.
“This is a brilliant idea. I would love for this to happen on my street,” one told us. “I live on a road which is a bus route, kids just don’t have the opportunity to play out, which is such a shame. They look like they’re having an ace time!”

Car users entering and exiting their houses were patient and very respectful of the road closure. As they had prior knowledge of what was going on they were already aware of how the process worked. Delivery drivers were chaperoned by our amazing volunteer stewards up the street at a slow speed, and a McDonalds delivery was welcomed with open arms and initiated a picnic whilst children chatted on a blanket surrounded by colourful artwork.

All in all it was an amazing time! Children had the freedom to play safely, if only for a couple of hours, residents chatted, passersby smiled and lifelong occupants relived and relished the old days.

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