Playing Out in Bearwood
A little bit of neighbourly magic happened on Milcote Road in Bearwood last weekend. Residents closed the road so children (and adults!) could play out. In this blog, co-organiser Sally Taylor tells us about the day and how residents got it going.
It all started with a video shared on Facebook from PlayingOut.net, the Bristol-based organisation helping people across the UK to enable kids to play out safely and easily. "Let's do it here" said Anya. "I'd love to get it organised" typed Hannamari. "I'm in," I said in the comments box. And we were off...
A few weeks later and we managed this:
We had encouragement and support from the #RadicalChildcare initiative at Impact Hub Birmingham and we got in touch with Playing Out and Sandwell MBC. All these partners helped us discover just how easy, rewarding and worthwhile it could be to close a road and get neighbours talking, playing, and making each other a cuppa.
How did we do it?
The first task was to send a letter to everyone on Milcote Road, with a 'reply' slip inviting them to indicate if they were supportive or not. This ensured we had informed everyone potentially affected and offered people the opportunity to object or raise concerns. We also door-knocked the closure area. This was the fun bit - having a reason to knock on the doors of our neighbours and say hi. The response was overwhelmingly positive, excitement was brewing.
Now that we'd got confirmation that people were interested, we contacted Sandwell MBC about what we needed to do: apply for a Temporary Street Closure Order. Expecting reams of paperwork, we were pleasantly surprised that the form was easy to fill in. It's the Safety Advisory Group at Sandwell MBC that reviews the Closure Order applications and they were very helpful. They were happy to approve the event, and clear about what we needed to do:
- ensure safety of participants (including sufficient numbers of stewards, well briefed) and be insured
- get red and white striped tape and a 'road closed' sign for both ends of the closure area
- as an extra safety precaution arrange for a car to be parked just inside the barrier tape at both ends
- get majority support from residents within the closure area
- ensure that anyone who wanted to move their car out of the area, or back inside the area, during the closure would be able to.
After the application was approved we had to provide the insurance certificate and risk assessment to the Safety Advisory Group. Then we were good to go.
We confirmed to residents that Playing Out would be taking place with another little flyer, made sure we had at least majority support from residents within the closure area, and that was it. Simple.
Having done this we now have the know-how and resources to help others across Bearwood and in neighbouring Sandwell communities make it happen. If you'd like to close your road for playing out, here's what's available to you:
Support from We Are Bearwood
I am chairperson of local voluntary organisation We Are Bearwood. The rest of our committee were very excited to hear about Playing Out on Milcote Road and are keen to help the idea develop more widely across Bearwood, so we've formally teamed up and put all our resources on wearebearwood.org. You can go there and find:
- Sandwell MBC Temporary Street Closure Order form, plus a copy that's been filled in with example text to help you.
- An example risk assessment for a street closure. This is an example only, you must conduct your own risk assessment for your street. Every event is different and will have different risks. We Are Bearwood will need to agree your risk assessment in order to support you with insurance.
- Example letter and confirmation flyers for you. Others are available on Playingout.net.
- A calendar that tells you when the 'road closed' signs have been booked out.
Contact details: if you'd like to do this and you'd like We Are Bearwood support, please liaise with We Are Bearwood playing out rep Dani Waugh via email@example.com.
- 2 x Road Closed signs, which will be loaned to you by We Are Bearwood on a first come first served basis. If your closure area goes across a side road you'll need additional road closed signs, which We Are Bearwood can help you order and will cost around £35 each.
- Red & White tape, which can be loaned out by We Are Bearwood.
- Foam balls! This is the only 'kit' we provided - the whole idea is that children bring their own entertainment. No one wants a broken window though, and We Are Bearwood has 3 foam footballs you can borrow.
- Printing. You'll need a budget for letters and confirmation flyers, so you might want to see if a few neighbours would chip in. Photocopying can be expensive so depending on the size of your road you'll need to budget accordingly.
What did we learn?
- That playing out is definitely not just for the kids, it's for everyone. What games can older people on your street share? Can you make sure there's a few chairs out for people who might need them?
- One person fed back they would really like to have had a meeting to ask questions and quell any fears about the potential for litter, property damage etc. Playing Out advise this too and you might want to think about it - another chance for neighbours to get together and for people to feel they've had a say.
What are the next steps?
Sandwell Play Service would like to chat about how they can support Playing Out across the borough. We're looking forward to meeting with them and will report back any ideas discussed.
We've already heard from lots of parents wanting to do enable their children to play out. Other local authorities around the UK have agreed to have one temporary closure application for multiple roads on multiple dates. This makes it easier for council officers and for organisers - less form filling and reviewing for all. We're going to chat with Sandwell about this and, again will report back. The requirement for public liability insurance is also something that is dealt with differently across the UK - some do require it, some don't. We'll put any updates about this on the We Are Bearwood playing out pages.
So the scene is set - head over to We Are Bearwood to get started on closing your road so children can have the freedom to play out safely.