We enjoyed the last day of our playing out session at Alton Close in Penhill a few weeks ago. Before I talk about that though, I would like to mention Penhill Street Reps.
Street Reps are a group of volunteers who work to improve where they live - not just by litter picking or reporting repairs, but by getting involved in positive activities. They have supported Uplands Community School, got involved in a road safety campaign with local schools community groups and help to run a free café. We now have 22 Reps in Penhill that each have different levels of involvement. Some people do lots and others do less but all involvement is appreciated. We also have junior reps who have the same aim as the adult reps, to put something positive back into to the area they live. All of these things and more would not happen without Street Reps, they have become hugely significant in Swindon.
Now, back to playing out. It’s a great event but it takes time to set up. We have to apply for the road to be closed, at no cost as the Council fully support the initiative, and then talk with the residents of the street to find out what they think and to invite them and their children.
At the last session I arrived at 12.30pm and Penhill Street Reps had clearly been there for a while, setting up the road closure signs and lots of activities for young people to get involved in. It was looking great and walking around talking with Reps Di, Emily and Jim, along with a few of the different junior reps. Lots of them were there which was great to see.
I then noticed a van with BBC Wiltshire on the side and I went to find out why they were here. They said they had heard about playing out and would like to do some filming and recording with everyone involved. “Yes, why not” I said. They sought permissions and set to asking me some questions and went off to film.
The playing out was well underway and looked very busy. I did a quick head count of the children and got to 36. It’s difficult to count moving children though and it may have been even more than that.
The fire service turned up and everyone is interested in them. The crew let youngsters sit in the engine and talk about their equipment and show what they have aboard.
There was so much going on so many games to play and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I took a moment when I spotted mums and dads chatting and laughing together, and I realised how important playing out is on a social level too. Neighbours were spending time with each other chatting and sharing jokes at the same time as children were playing with friends.
Di is getting consent forms signed by parents so that we can use pictures of their family and I then start taking photographs.
I then grabbed one side of a skipping rope, a parent the other, so that two youngsters can skip side by side. This went for about 20 minutes as the children seemed to have endless energy until they decided they wanted to do something different and ran off in the direction of the table tennis set.
Later, Di and Emily emerged from a local shop which had donated free sweets for the youngsters to have. It was a very nice gesture and worth mentioning too that Aldi provided some of the games for playing and water for refreshments.
Towards the end of the event we had a visit from the police. They chatted to parents and their children and knew some of the junior reps from visits they used to do at Kingsdown School. One officer seemed very happy that the junior reps are involved in positive things in Penhill.
Before I knew it, it was 3.30pm and playing out was coming to an end. Street Reps started litter picking and putting things away and I thought to myself ‘what a great bunch of reps we have’.
The BBC left, we cleared up and Di handed me a bag of rubbish to take away. The remaining reps and I had a chat about how everything went and then we all jumped in our cars to head home.
I am very fortunate to be involved with the Penhill Street Reps group. I wonder if I tell them that enough. But it is a partnership (Street Reps and Housing) and I hope they all know that I genuinely appreciate every bit of energy they use to help keep the process going, and being active in making a difference.