10 December 2010

Playing in the Street - Smacking The Culture of Fear on the Nose

What a brilliant - and simple - idea. Playing out. Children playing in the streets. As children did, including yours truly, before the Culture of Fear (and its army of profiteers) clenched its fist around our societies. Playingout.net is the website. This is the film about it.

Transforming the streetspace into playspace.

"When we limit our children to organised activities and formal playspaces we reduce their opportunities for play. Particuarly the kind of free play that develops really important life skills, their physical well-being and their sense of belonging."


The faint of heart and safety nannies alike should refrain from watching this. It features not only rational dialogue and sensible parents but also children playing happily in all manner of 'extremely dangerous' situations. I spotted dozens of children inhaling chalk dust, a great deal of 'irresponsibly unprotected' skateboarding, scootering and bicycle riding, at least one spine-threatening backflip and numerous tubs of water in which the entire population of the street could drown.

I need a lie down.

Roald Als. Cartoonist at Politiken newspaper. "Now you're free to play"


Green Idea Factory said...

Wow. And they could get about 50% more play space if they moved those horizontally-stored private conveyances. Since their operators and owners might object, why not lend them bikes for a day or give them a free shuttle ride to and from a nearby area set up for temporary parking?

This is more progressive than what is happening in my Green Party-controlled district in Berlin.

Anonymous said...


There are a few things that strike me about this film.

Firstly, when you see small children playing on the street next to parked cars you suddenly realise how much of our public space is devoted to the motor vehicle - it is disgusting.

Secondly, children WANT to play in the public space but this has been shrinking over the years. You see this in Australia - almost everyone has a large backyard, a pool, a jungle-gym and yet you'll be hard pressed to find a public pool or decent park for children to play in. As a result, we're breeding a generation of anti-social children that have never thought for themselves (cue the 'safety equipment' & 'health & safety' industries).

Thirdly, it is sad to see how many people don't know their neighbours and that there were so many other children on their street. It is like they're all in prison...

I hope this sort of thing catches on. I know my brother and I (neighbours) have been tempted to close our street and have a street party with a barbeque and drinks. This has given me the courage to actually do it!

Dr Paul Martin
Brisbane, Australia

Cap'n Unclefather said...

Love it! Ciclovia: Kiddie Edition.

Paul said...

A glimps of the world I use to know.. I have talked to many people who played outside, day after day for years.. Every single one said "Kids today do not know what they are missing"..
I wish I still lived in that world - it was so beautiful...

kfg said...

That kid could fall down and garotte himself on those "safety" ropes. They should be replaced by netting to a level at least three feet above his head.

Sometimes I feel like doing what I often did as a kid when I wanted to get away from it all; put an apple, a knife and a box of matches in my pocket and wander off into the woods for a while.

Only now they have woods nannies to make sure people don't have too much fun there as well.

l' homme au velo said...

It is still like this in many parts of Dublin. In the area I live it is full of small little Roads where Children play and there is a local Park where they play all kinds of Games and also Football.

In these Roads there is a speed Limit of 15KM or 10mph but it is not enforced no Cops around so you will get the occasional Idiot speeding especially in the very early morning. This does not stop anyone from playing though and nobody wears a Helmet while on Bikes or Scooters.

However if you go to the more well of Districts of Dublin there is not a Child to be seen anywhere no matter what time of the Day it just is not done,different sort of People.

When I was a Child,I lived in the Centre of Dublin on one of the Main Streets out of the City and we would often play Football on the middle of the Road without any Danger. The occasional Car would go by every so often and they would sound the Horn and we would wait until they went and resume our Game after that. Eventually we could not do that anymore and had to use a side Street after 6pm when the rush Hour was over.

We could do with a Car free Day every Week where it is forbidden to Drive,a bit of Breathing space is needed,but it is not going to happen unfortunately.

joris said...

Yes, absolutely great!

In Belgium (not exactly the most progressive when it comes to traffic safety, but hey, you can't have it all...) this exists for quite some time already.

We call it "Speelstraat" over here. Neighbours can hand in a form at the local community and ask for their street to be a playstreet for a period of time (only possible during summer vacation). The local government then blocks the street for all motorized traffic, put signs up, etc...


While I'm here, I'd like to add that I love this site, claiming freedom of thought, re-building up the ratio around traffic, and reclaiming the public space (or something like that).

However, after me and my brother were driven over by a car when we were biking to school, it is hard for me to suggest that "streets are per sé safe or fun" or anything like that.

There is a lot to be changed in the drivers' mentality (at least over here) before we get to that point.

A car is a potential murder weapon (1,2 million a year worldwide), but it has an enormous lobby behind it (creates jobs, ... and frustration, and bad lungs, and...).

Personally, I believe a car should not be democratic at all (but many people will not love me for having said that).

Support our campaign in Belgium for a safer traffic by signing our charter on www.savem.be/charter (all in Dutch -- sorry).

Anyways, keep up the spirit. I like this, and so would my brother, if he were still alive.



mikey2gorgeous said...

Simply beautiful.

shuichi said...

Ah, we used to play outside in a small town's field every day when we were childen in the past time. We enjpyed playing baseball at a small field near our houses. Now it is a really pity that there is fewer field where our children would run around or play baseball or soccor than ever before. I wish our children would run around outside, would not play Nintendo DS or wii...

pedalpusher said...

Wonderful to see kids out on the streets!

As you said, it is a constant commercial and media drumming of a certain mindset within our culture that keeps on raising cars above people and raising the flag everytime any risk beyond rug burn is determined.

Ringo-levio, tag, stick-ball, touch football, skelsies and more, all played on the street and amongst parked cars. In my growing life time, not one injury on my block resulted from passing cars.

But then, the mindset of drivers may have changed as of late.
The "Driving Priveledge" has morphed into a "driving right", others be damned.

Anonymous said...

Charming video. Thank you for posting the link.


Miguel said...

Hi there Mikael,

I searched Copenhagenize. and was suprised to find out, that you haven't mention once Tim Gill's perspective on the culture of fear: http://www.teachers.tv/videos/tim-gill-risk-and-childhood

Really Inspiring!

check out his book "No Fear" (You can buy it, or freelly download it in PDF format - or for those who don't have time, you can download the 4 page summary): http://www.gulbenkian.org.uk/publications/education/no-fear


andreas said...

Isn't it interessting that there are only women to see in the video, talking about the initiative and its advantages?
And it looks like that the whole initiative is done by women.

Where are the men? The former young boys? (well, two of them can be seen in the video)

May this initative inspire as much people as possible.

Thanks for posting.

Patrick said...

So delighted by that kind of simple action.

I'm surprised by the presence of cars surrounding kids playing.

That's make me think about the place that the car needs.
For instance, in Belgium, there are more than 5 000 000 personal cars. If all these cars were put toghether, the place needed to park them is 15 time the distance between Brussels to Marseille !!!

What a crazy thing!