This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 13/07/2017.
Announcing Croydon’s Epic Play Street, Saturday 15th July
Reclaim the streets for Croydon’s children, says Emma Hope-Fitch.
In 2015, I heard about an amazing initiative which focused on play. It is a simple idea: you close a road to traffic and let the children take over.
How many times have you heard, or said yourself, “we used to play in the street”? I was that feral child, making mud pies, chasing friends with sticks and climbing trees. Heaven forbid that nowadays you should even kick a ball in the road… but yes, I did that too. Don’t tell mum.
Moving to South Norwood and having my own children made me realise that although we have some great open spaces, children generally need to be escorted there and back. Let’s face it: life has changed. There are more cars on the road than thirty years ago and a lot of space is taken up by parked vehicles. There are more pressures on families, too, and perhaps we’ve even forgotten how much fun being a kid should be.
Play Streets are resident-led initiatives in which roads are closed to traffic for a few hours each week or month so that children can play. Croydon is leading the way with the Play Streets initiative, with the full backing of the council and extra support offered for those interested in starting regular events. My own area, Love Lane, has had a monthly Play Street since September 2015. Last October the children were invited to the Prince of Wales Theatre to collect an award for Play Street of the Year 2016.
Starting a Play Street in Love Lane was easy. After carrying out a consultation, I was able to reassure residents that they would not be prisoners in their own homes for two hours every month. Cars are still allowed through during Play Street sessions, but only once the road is cleared of children and then drivers must proceed at walking pace.
We’ve been playing together in all weathers since 2015. 2016 finished with Christmas lights, mulled wine, and spiced apple juice. Play Streets bring communities closer together.
And if me waxing lyrical doesn’t convince you, then come along to Croydon’s first Epic Play Street in College Road, and see for yourself. This event is completely free; when you arrive, the road will be closed to traffic. Your children can bring scooters and bikes and use the whole space to play while you find out more about hosting your own event. Volunteer marshals will ensure the children are able to play safely and local businesses will be providing support. All children must be accompanied.
Take back the streets! We look forward to seeing you there.
Croydon’s Epic Play Street will take place on Saturday 15th July from 12pm until 4pm in College Road, Croydon CR9 1DX. For more information, click here.