Playing Out is a movement encouraging and supporting neighbourhoods to close their streets to through traffic for a couple of hours, creating a safe space for children to play out close to their homes. We talked to Rob in Hertfordshire about how a Big Lunch in his street sparked other community ideas.
How it started
When a neighbour organised a Big Lunch street party for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Rob Schafer thought it would be great if the kids could get to play out more than just once a year on their own street.
"Growing up I was always out on bikes with other kids and being outside was a really important part of my childhood. Now I've got three kids of my own I wanted them to experience some of the same freedoms I had."
"At our first Big Lunch we all realised just how many families lived on the street and really wanted to build on the community spirit that having a Big Lunch gave us."
With the help of the national street play organisation, Playing Out, Rob got permission from Hertfordshire County Council to close the street to through traffic for two hours on one Sunday a month. As well as the kids getting a chance to come out, chalk, ride their bikes and scooter, it's a chance for all the adults to get to know each other as well. Residents volunteer to man the road closure points, and vehicles needing access are safely stewarded through at walking pace.
What's happening now
Rob's street has been 'playing out' for nearly five years alongside planning their 7th Big Lunch. Sharing the community spirit more widely, Rob now uses his experience to help other streets in Hertfordshire organise street parties and set up playing out schemes. He suggests starting with a Big Lunch to bring people together, and take it from there!
Playing Out offers advice, support and ideas for parents, residents, councils and organisations across the UK - see how they can help your street to play!
We really wanted to build on the community spirit that having a Big Lunch gave us.