Once upon a time children used to play in the street. Then came the invention of the car, and with that the powerful motoring lobby (cars were expensive, so by definition their drivers had influence) and playing in the street was made a criminal offence. Children would find themselves in the dock if they caused cars inconvenience. The book London Born http://www.londonborn.co.uk/, a memoir of life growing up in Highgate Newtown, paints a picture of what has been lost.
But more recently there has been a pushback against this approach with the establishment of Play Streets. This involves closing a residential street to through traffic for two or three hours, generally once a month, and stewards making sure that the space is safe for children to meet and play. And of course the adults get to meet as well, so the whole thing increases local community.
If you would like a Play Street where you live, the people to help you are London Play. Funded by the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities programme, London Play is working with residents and councils in 12 London boroughs (including Islington and Camden) with a particular focus on disadvantaged areas, to reactivate a culture of children playing out in the streets near where they live, and to embed this in local policy. Its work on play streets in other boroughs is funded by the Department of Health which is interested in Play Streets as way to achieve a positive impact on activity levels in children and on childhood obesity. London Play can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local examples of Play Streets include Fairbridge Road N19 email@example.com 11am-1pm first Sunday of the month plus
- Highwood Road N19 1-4pm first Sunday of the month
- St George’s Avenue N7 1-4pm first Sunday of the month
- Dresden Road N19 1-4pm first Sunday of the month
- Ryland Road NW5 2-5pm last Sunday of the month