Even a generation ago, most parents would have greeted this question with blank faces. Playing out was just what kids did – why would you need a reason? Of course, things are different today – for all sorts of reasons. In almost all neighbourhoods, parents need to take a stand, and to resist the norm of parenting that says being a good parent means rearing your child in captivity.
For parents who come together to set up Playing Out road closure projects, taking this stand means extra commitments: talking to neighbours, liaising with the Council, setting up rotas, and maybe spending a couple of hours a week out in the street. So, to rework my opening question: why do parents get involved in organising road closures for play?
Here is the item on street play that was broadcast on The One Show last Monday (24 June 2013). It focuses on the road closure session in Worthing that I described in my post from a couple of weeks ago (and yes, I do pop up a couple of times, flying the flag for outdoor play).
I have written before about street play, and plugged the Playing Out project, whose community-based approach to opening up streets for play is spreading fast. A couple of weekends ago I witnessed a whole Playing Out session from beginning to end (and you will have the chance to see the edited highlights on primetime TV [Update Weds 3 July 2013: watch a clip from this blog post of mine]). It was a thrilling event, welcomed and enjoyed by people of all ages. But while I shared their enthusiasm, I was left wondering if the sheer energy of the occasion could paradoxically weaken the initiative’s prospects. I’ll come back to that thought later – but first, let’s set the scene.
Last week I was tipped off about an intriguing job opportunity: a street play research officer. Which global city, you may wonder, is showing such a strong interest in this topic? Mumbai, perhaps? Nope. Rio de Janeiro? Wrong again. The answer is New York City. It’s just one sign that street play, often consigned to the black-and-white memories of baby-boomers, is enjoying something of a renaissance.
A nice audio news piece on road closures for play, as broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme PM on Weds 3 August 2011. Featuring the wonderful people at Bristol’s Playing Out campaign, some local Bristolians, and yours truly.