Wednesday 27 May 2015

Know your neighbour

Best not to cut yourself off from neighbours
Last week it was time to put letters through the doors to invite everyone to our community group. It's a job I quite like doing, and one which our kids are always happy to volunteer for.  We were also delivering a first letter inviting residents to take part in 'Playing out' on two late summer afternoons.

Playing out is where we close the road for traffic for neighbours to meet up and play.  Wheelers lane is particularly lucky in that it has a stretch of green between the road and the houses which, when the service road is closed, is big enough for a game of football.  Local residents who have been there a while say kids used to play regularly on it, but since I've been living round the corner (15 years) it's mainly used as a car park, or sometimes a cut through for cars desperate to avoid traffic.

Last year we ran Playing out on national play day, 7th August  2014.  Having started our own community group earlier on that year, I thought I knew a lot of our neighbours, but I met many more, and a bit of luck with the weather gave me and my children a good chance to chat and play in the sun.

This year we're running it again, this time after school so we can invite Swanshurst school as well.  Birmingham City Council have once again waived the fee to close the road, Amey are willing to provide road blockades as and when required for free too, and Highways will give permission following assurance we will behave responsibly.

Both Swan Corner community group and 'playing out' work on different principles to gated communities, which assume keeping people away from where you live is safer:

A community group, and playing out, invites people in to where we live to make it a safer, better place.  By opening conversations and play, we hope to build trust between neighbours.  For example in our area litter, vandalism and agressive behaviour  are problems.  We've organised litter picking, planted trees and worked with residents, local groups and Swanshurst school on arts projects including making our fabulous Swan sculpture.

We're run by residents, not the council or a private business. Where there has been an opportunity to collaborate with others, like Swanshurst School, we've taken it - one of our 'playing out' sessions will also be with Moseley and Kings Heath woodcraft folk.

It's still all very new to us, and feels like an experiment.  From the start of Swan Corner Community Group many people have given good reasons to doubt it'll work. Who knows? Maybe they're right, but whatever happens, I know  we've done the right thing trying.

Useful links: