A Community Network for Bowes Park and Bounds Green
Last weekend a couple of local events attracted lots of people to come together and have fun in public spaces - in the process meeting neighbours and friends. This set me thinking about the way we use our streets and public spaces for community events.
On Sunday the hugely successful Myddleton Road Market saw hundreds of locals in the much loved Bowes Park street spending time shopping, eating, drinking and chatting together - as well as playing table tennis and relaxing in the community garden.
The focus was the brilliant local market and a great array of interesting stalls - but all up and down Myddleton Road (and in the middle of the closed street) groups of people were stopping to talk, introducing friends, comparing purchases. Making connections.
Having the Community Garden and Green Gym to spill out into made it feel more like a festival than a market - a wonderful atmosphere.
This was another event where the road was closed to the usual traffic and instead was given over to people: milling around, chatting, passing the time of day ... as well as playing music and dancing!
Another local event on Sunday - although I didn't attend - was the Fathers Day, "Draw on the Pavements" afternoon in Devonshire Road, Palmers Green; this was organised by residents in the street as part of their campaign to make the street a car free play zone.
They have published some wonderful photographs on their Facebook page. Sadly they were unable to close the street at the weekend and the initial application to Enfiled Council to close the road to traffic on occasions as a play street has been knocked back - I hope they will pursue the claim and provide a lead for other local streets to put up a no entry sign for a couple of hours once a month and have fun playing with the family -and neighbours - in the street.
As a kid I spent a lot of time playing in the street - you know the cliches: jumpers for goal posts, street lamps for floodlights. Sounds like a rose–tinted scene from a bygone era, but this sort of thing, alongside folk memories of Jubilee street parties and the like, are part of the glue that binds neighbourhoods together.
The stories we tell each other about the places we live are often based on the unusual, the one-off and out of the ordinary... I love the idea of special occasions providing liminal spaces were people have "permission" to act in a different way ... like simply walking in the streets free of cars. Roads occupied by pedestrians have a more human scale and a relaxed feel.
However "taking over the streets" is at one level a very political and challenging thing to do - as we have seen in Istanbul's Taksim Square in recent days.
In the early 1990s a political movement "Reclaim The Streets" staged spectacular and extravagant parties "obstructing" public roads to make the point that it is vehicle traffic, not pedestrians, who are causing an obstruction, and that by occupying the road they are in fact opening up public space.
There have been calls for car free streets for almost as long as there have been cars - The Pedestrians Association, was formed in 1929 and was renamed Living Streets in 2001 They campaign to ensure it is safe, and enjoyable to walk around our neighbourhoods.
Our local events last weekend were a long way from protest movements - but it was an absolute joy to be spending time in local streets that put people first.
Let's have more of the same?
As a suggestion of what a play street might be like - and the impact it can have on local residents have a look at this video below from a play street in Bristol.
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