A groundbreaking scheme that sees streets close for a few hours each week so children can play outside safely has spread across the world.
Originally started by a group of parents in Bristol, Playing Out has been copied in towns as far afield as Taiwan and Australia.
Mums Alice Ferguson and Amy Rose had the original idea, and the first session happened on their street in June 2009.
From there it grew from a few streets in Bristol into a UK-wide movement. There are now more than 1,000 street or estate communities that have had regular Playing Out sessions with more than 30,000 children taking part.
Across the UK, 68 local authorities have now put in a street play policy to support parents interested in following suit.
The idea came about after parents felt frustrated that their children were unable to play outside because of the busy roads and lack of green space. Alice says, “My children were seven and three and I just wanted them to be free to play outside, as I had done as a child. The problem was traffic. They couldn’t even cross the road to call on friends, let alone feel safe to kick a ball around or ride their bikes.
“I wasn’t content to accept this new normal because it felt like an injustice. Fortunately I was not alone.”
Wanting to give their children the freedoms they had enjoyed while growing up, the neighbours came up with an idea: if residents were able to apply for a street party, why could they not use the same procedure to close the street to traffic one day after school and allow local kids to play outside?
Alice added: “It was a lightbulb moment.”
The first Playing Out session saw around 30 children playing on the street together. “Even at this early stage, we had an inkling we were onto something,” Alice continues. “The way our neighbours and others responded was astonishing.”
They worked with Bristol City Council to develop a play street policy so that streets could regularly open for play and, within a year, 17 streets had applied, benefiting around 500 children.
Fast forward ten years and it has grown into a national movement.
The parent-led initiative has seen relations between communities transformed, with young and old and people from different backgrounds and schools mixing, with new friendships being made.
Co-director and founding member, Ingrid Skeels says: “This is neighbours helping neighbours, and the real value is that it has come from the people on the streets themselves. The Playing Out idea has empowered people, and made them proud of where they live. We see play streets as a step towards longer term change for children, where playing out is normalised.”
And earlier this year, they teamed up with British Cycling to encourage more parents to reclaim their streets and give their children the opportunity to cycle and play freely.
Six-time Olympic gold medalist Jason Kenny, who supports the campaign, said: “By empowering communities to reclaim their local streets 30,000 children across the UK have already experienced the freedom of playing out on their own doorstep.”