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"Fun, Freedom and Play" is the motto for a pilot project aimed at giving back to children some of their lost freedom which launches this month in Palmers Green.

play quarter project enfield logoPalmers Green Play Quarter will run until May 2017 and its organisers are seeking help and advice from residents and business owners to make sure it gets off to a good start.

The charity behind the scheme, Play London, has appointed a part-time project worker, Catherine Nicholson, to get the ball rolling (both figuratively and literally).  Catherine's initial ideas include making it easier for children to get to school on foot or by bike, organising "walking buses" to allow kids to visit local parks without their parents having to come along and helping set up more play streets.

There are already several monthly play streets in the area held on Sunday afternoons, but Catherine would like to see play streets outside schools, at both the start and end of the school day.  She also wants to set up training for retailers and public service providers in how to provide a child-friendly approach.

However, Catherine says that the people who know the area and its young residents are the best placed to tell her what is already being done, what could be done and what barriers local children face.  So she's organising two Tea & Talk events on 11th and 14th December to which everyone is invited (see the box for details).

Download the Palmers Green Play Quarter leaflet

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Play Quarter Tea & Talk

Come along for a cuppa and a chat, and have your say about what the Palmers Green Play Quarter should look like.

Please do bring anyone along who might be interested, especially children: we want to hear their ideas even more than yours!

Sunday 11th December 11.30-12.30

Wednesday 14th December 11.30-12.30


Baskervilles Tea Shop
66 Alderman's Hill, N13 4PP

Please R.S.V.P. to i f you wish to come so we know numbers

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Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #2497 11 Dec 2016 15:01
An interesting first meeting facilitated by London Play’s project leader in Baskerville’s private room (with tea, coffee and top cakes provided).

Attendees considered their own childhood versus now (frequently as parents). The core theme was unquestionable one of much greater freedom then (including parental trust, kids’ self-exploration and building skills in people awareness) rather than now (screens and parents who are more protective of their children). Other than such possible behavioural barriers, the huge increase in traffic volumes and its impact on safety was cited as a core difference between then and now. We heard that children’s brains are mentally unable to assess the relative speed of traffic until they are about 9.

Much of the comment was centred on the common issues this reduction is mobility could drive, eg loneliness in the elderly and indeed across the generations. So one possible project theme will be to look at the engagement of different sectors in the many projects already active in PG, eg how to get a younger age group involves as Friends of Broomfield Park, or perhaps helping with parts of Festival planning and set up. This is an area many PGC readers involved in projects can contemplate now,

Much comment covered how people would have known all of their neighbours but how this has eroded over the years (but can be reversed via Play Streets where several positive – intergenerational - examples were given). And again the holistic community side of the project surfaced.

So what is very much a child-centric, child independence enhancing project looks like it has benefits for all, from tots to the oldest in our wider community. Ideas will feed into the project action plans.

A second meeting takes place, again at Baskervilles at 11:30 on Wednesday 14th December, for those who couldn’t make today, or want more cakes. Not crucial but helpful for cake planning if possible attendees could mail London Play
Paul Mandel's Avatar
Paul Mandel posted a reply #2500 12 Dec 2016 17:05
I've got to say that the idea of bring communities together in a locality is very laudable in principle. In much of London neighbours often hardly recognise each other, let alone socialise. Communities are no longer centred the local neighbourhood, but based on other shared characteristics, notably defined by people's national origins, ethnicity, religion etc.

But, I think it needs a lot more than a few street parties etc. to achieve more inter-community cohesion. So, as usual, I am going to take issue with Karl.

I drove past Baskervilles just as this event was about yesterday, with my, son and his friend who lives next door to one of the MH/PQ protagonists, who he saw just turning up for the chat with Catherine and Co.

Football is his love, not especially mine, but I spend a great deal of my spare time taking him to football related activities and enjoying his happiness and the reflected glory - even though he is only 7!

I was taking the pair of them to their football match up at the other end of LB Enfield. We are a fairly typical family - so a ferry to an activity was repeating itself many hundreds of thousands of times that day, in our city. OK, so children's lives are more controlled these days. But they also have hugely greater opportunities and wide openings too them.

He and most other children like him get a pretty good deal, from their parents with the multitude of experiences that are open to them. Far better than previous generations.

I don't want to exclude children in the care system, from my musings, either. Whist they are sadly at a huge disadvantage to those being brought up in a well functioning family environment, their outlook has also improved greatly over the generations

Children are also many times safer: Whether in the home, at school, during other activities and when travelling by road (or any other means) as the attached . inserted graphs from Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2015 demonstrate. Fear of traffic, reflects increase adversity to risk, not increased danger. In fact, the danger is far less now.

Initiatives like Play Quarters too are completely un spontaneous and have a very top down approach. They are even more controlled and controlling. I don't need to do a health and safety risk and assessment when I take my son and his friends to the park, nor do his parents ask that have been DBS cleared, for example. All this bureaucracy will be be necessary for the Play Quarter organisers

Closing roads can be a nuisance, to those who want or need to get their car out or are are expecting visitors/deliveries etc. There may be a degree of novelty that attracts a reasonable turnout for the first one or two events. But, I would guess it would tail off pretty sharply.

So, my fear is that this thing is more likely to be a minority dictating to a majority and does nothing to enhance children's freedom. For one thing, in the play street I saw once, the kids who out, all very young - I think this is more for pre-schoolers and infants (definitely not children of all ages) were under very watchful eyes of the mums and Dad's, who most definitely not allowing their kids much freedom.

Furthermore, the vast majority of homes in our area have gardens or a shared amenity space. And we are blessed with lively parks very nearby.. Is this really so necessary?

Some of the other ideas muted to be included in this play-quarters initiative are barking mad too.

Closing roads outside school before the beginning and after the end of the day- so that other people can' t get to work or school.

Walking buses to the park is ridiculous. I can't see many people waiting for that one. We are more likely to live nearer the park gate than a convenient walking bus stop and whereas the walking bus may operate one or twice a week, an impromptu get together in the park can happen any time. You may want to leave your child with someone else you trust for an hour or two - but probably not at the time the waling bus is at your service.

I understand that long ago there was walking bus down Fox Lane to Hazelwood school. Whatever happened to that. How long dis it last? If it didn't work for the 9:00 am start at primary school with 640 pupil, it's not going to work for a trip to the playground in Broomfield on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

My main gripe is that public money is being lauded on this, to employ a coordinator. When public money is in especially short supply, it is better to target it where needed, not on a whimsical fancy.

Would love to see compelling evidence that my scepticism is unwarranted.
Paul Mandel's Avatar
Paul Mandel posted a reply #2501 12 Dec 2016 22:19
PS: A few typos in the above comment. I can't find the editing button. So you'll just have to laugh about "muted" instead of "mooted" and others.
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #2505 13 Dec 2016 09:02
To pick up some points from a long posting: there is no public money involved in Play Streets / Quarters; they are developing elsewhere in the UK; are currently found in two thirds of London Boroughs and have the backing of The Cabinet office, Department of Health and the London Mayor. Residents of any street vote on whether to proceed with one or not and then they are self-managed. Their aim, to foster independence / development in children and enhance local social capital, has been an award winning, proven success, even extending to Tokyo which now twins with London in developing. This success led to the decision to extend the model and consider Play Quarters rather than individual streets with National Lottery backing.

The choice for the pilot could have been anywhere in London. PG was chosen because of its community network, developed over the last 15 years or so by numerous locals who have put considerable personal resource into developing items such as the densest collection of Street Parties in the UK, a huge Festival, a community cinema, a community developed and managed park café, an orchard with its numerous events and many many more items, often free and open to all, each contributing to form a dense patchwork. Not all may see such effort as a positive but it has certainly been widely noted.

A pilot is exactly that; items will be trialled and lessons learnt. I personally think it’s a huge opportunity and immense that this area was chosen as the site for London because of its community infrastructure. We should be proud of that, whatever comes out.
Paul Mandel's Avatar
Paul Mandel posted a reply #2506 13 Dec 2016 23:22
Happy for Karl to pick up the rest of my points.

London Play, this project's funder, is itself funded mainly by the Lottery.

Lottery funds may not come from the taxpayer. However, it is still for all intents and purposes, public money.

However, because it comes from a voluntary source, it is reasonable for it to be distributed to more imaginative causes perhaps, than money raised in taxes. So, fair enough. Whimsical fancies can have some it.

Karl is wrong to state that people get to vote on play streets. I’ve had a look at the Council’s playstreets pack. They are “consulted” but not confidentially. Their comments are open for anyone else in the street to see. Consultation in Enfield do not seam to always go in favour of the majority

It appears that the organisers cannot stop residents or visitors from driving in and our while the playstreet is in operation. That is a good thing. So, I concede that overall, it the playstreet scheme is not a great inconvenience to those who don’t want to participate.

Noise and nuisance are an issue and the responsibility rests with the organisers. And that could be a big responsibility if something goes wrong.

But, my images images of playstreets are more pre-1945 in Industrial Revolution period street layouts for working class areas. No front gardens and just a step pavement and road in front of the house. When I was growing up we played on the pavement and on open space. Except, on our bicycles which we rode wherever we wanted, in my case, once into the rendered wall of our house!

All the those other local voluntary initiatives like the talkies cinema, palmersgreenery, orchard etc. that Karl refers to are great. Massive credit to those whose inspiration and organisation has created and maintained them. And all for gratis. That is my key point.

Instead of that money being granted to pay a "play coordinator" it could have been used for something more substantive and permanent for example providing more play equipment and space in Broomfield, Grovelands or other parks and open spaces.

More conventional play equipment wouldn't go amiss.

But, wouldn't the following be nice for consideration, though not appropriate in the more traditional formal part of Broomfield park, one or more of the following:

· Dirt BMX bike track
· Linked tree houses
· Decently thrilling zip wire
· Parkour space (there's a small one near Angel Road

The whole thing about play is that it is much more fun when it is spontaneous rather than contrived and organised. And this "Play Quarter" idea is both of the latter.

Providing space and freely available equipment enables the former.
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #2508 14 Dec 2016 14:42
Like many a registered charity, London Play are involved in a portfolio of projects and source their financial support from as many sources as possible, including individuals. The Play Street initiative, which they develop in London (others do it elsewhere) has been successful and unless a clear majority of residents within the planned street section agree, and any concerns are satisfactorily addressed, Enfield for instance will not support a Traffic Order application. The Order will stop through non-residential traffic (eg rat running) for the period of the Play Street.

But all this, and many more of the issues raised have either already been answered directly by London Play or could have been covered in the 1-2-1 they offered following the questioning then personally abusive e-email sent to them some little while back.

Alternatively, for those who have approached them with an open mind there have already been results, eg, the new parents group seeking to develop the Broomfield playground has found LP offering to help with idea supporting finance and specific expertise in sourcing possible grant funding sources, an idea since extended to Hazelwood rec playground; a local initiative looking at linking teens directly with older residents has a new angle and supporter; a local retired pre-school educational expert has a new vehicle to assist others; cross pollination of fund raising concepts for two local charities has taken place, and more. And through such (mostly unexpected and unplanned) mixing of ideas and desires to progress, Palmers Green’s mosaic of community initiatives has grown over the years and fortunately, due to a growing pool of committed people, will continue to do so.
If the ideas for Broomfield are attractive, take the plunge, seek to create something from nothing, many of us have over the years. For viable projects you will find a supportive community but also that creation is infinity harder than destruction. That is easy, and cheap.

Any more questions I would suggest taking up London Play’s offer of a 1-2-1 meeting, others can make their own minds up and engage or not.
Maire Harris's Avatar
Maire Harris posted a reply #2510 15 Dec 2016 09:48
I think Paul is confusing play streets and play quarters, which might be a common misconception. Play streets are indeed organised by adults (not necessarily parents) since a certain amount of setting up and monitoring is required. The aim of play quarters, on the other hand, is not to create 'events' but to make it more acceptable and normal for children to be out and about on their own, sans parents, a very different focus.

Just on the subject of play streets, our play street sees children aged 11-13 enjoying themselves and making new friends (and independently going round to each other's houses afterwards) so it's definitely not just for the pre-schoolers. Finally, there are many flats in our area and many children do not have access to gardens to play in.
Paul Mandel's Avatar
Paul Mandel posted a reply #2515 16 Dec 2016 17:17
Karl seems to possess an incredible amount of faith that people in power will do the right thing and that others holding themselves out to be experts are in fact expert at prediction or coming to the right conclusion in other ways.

History is full to bursting point of evidence that neither is the case. You don't have to look far, either in time or distance. Enfield Council has been very enthusiastic about making traffic orders on mini-Holland and there is anything but a clear majority for that. Experts have been make the wrong predictions since time immemorial. But, 2016 has been particularly spectacular, when it comes to experts getting it wrong.

I would love to find time if, if other activists could cope with my admittedly contrarian approach, to participate in London Play's more sensible ideas and initiatives locally and indeed would have gone to at least one of the Baskervilles meetings but was committed to other things at those times. But, many of the ideas seem a bit too leftfield and these need to be challenged. It is very easy to go along with something because it sounds laudable, but proper scrutiny can unveil all manner of problems.

A good idea may be the result of identifying a problem that either doesn't exist or is less significant than it is perceived to be. The proposed solution may not be practical and by its implementation, could create new problems.

Or at its limit of disastrousness, an idea implemented can result in a marginal benefit for a few at a greater cost to the many.

Marie, aren't walking buses and play streets before and after school, events? These were very much part of the Palmers Green Play quarter idea - I am not confused by anything. Have these been ditched?