Birmingham is one of the UKs greenest cities and boasts more public open space than any other European city – but how well connected is it, and how easy to access? (more…)
Charlotte Richardson writes:
After being away with university for a few days I was excited to finally get stuck into my first few sessions with Project Brum. On Saturday 1st July I was up bright and early for the CoCoMAD festival at Cotteridge Park. I had never been to this park or even heard of this festival before so I was a little nervous. Despite the traffic I arrived quite early and so felt a sense of relieve when I spotted the others arriving.
Once everyone had had a quick catch up it was time to unload the van and set up. The set up was quick and easy, with only a little hold back when I hadn’t a clue how to put one of the pieces of equipment together, someone spotted me struggling and helped me and we were back on track. Myself and Elisha were then asked if we could assist at the arts & crafts station and bellyfit sessions. As someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy the heat I jumped at the chance to do something more laid back, that was in the shade and didn’t require me to run around. It was bound to be an easy day.
Oh how I was wrong. There was an hour or two where only a handful of children came to paint and chatted with us about how many times they had been to the festival or the park itself when all of a sudden so many children arrived we couldn’t move. Between a toddler opening the glitter and pouring it everywhere then another knocking water over everyone I welcomed home time. Don’t get me wrong I had a great day but there’s something about being overly hot and covered in glitter that just makes me crave home.
The next day I was at my first ever road closure for active streets. It was a shorter but just as busy day. Stepping foot onto the street I was instantly transported back to my childhood, the residents had organised a bouncy castle, their own food, drinks, got an ice cream and even the fire brigade brought an engine down for the kids to sit in. After all the negative press around at the minute it was totally rewarding to be part of something that brought a community together.
Charlotte Richardson is part of Project Brum, Wellbeing team
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The single most important thing about Active Streets is getting neighbours out onto their own streets, talking and playing and yet the most common question Active Streets gets asked is what do you do then?
Thanks to the enthusiasm of Project Brum Activators we continue to grow in numbers of Active Streets. Even more exciting than that is the move towards more creative and ‘wild’ active streets, working to develop our service to better bring more people together about the issues important to them.
Our first events in 2013 were in partnership with Parks4Play – their excellent play leaders brought creative play to the streets in the form of cardboard boxes, chalk, giant bubbles and many other simple, cheap creative play ideas. Slime has been a big hit on our streets this year (more accurately non-Newton fluid or Oobleck from Dr. Seuss). It’s also a good opportunity to do the sort of activities you might think twice about doing in your own home – painted hand and footprints on wallpaper is fun, and maybe if you’re campaigning for something locally, banner making might be useful.
Your event might naturally have a theme of some kind, which might help – this year we’ve supported street events for National Clean Air Day, in memory of Jo Cox, and to raise awareness Birmingham’s 20mph limits.
We’re run events by the side of a canal and within a school canteen this year where a healthy drink was needed – our bicycle smoothie maker came into it’s own.
We nearly always bring some sports activities to our events, but maybe you could organise teams beforehand for a game of cricket on the evening of a big game, like one road near Edgbaston will be later this year?
Active Streets have occasionally been caught out by the weather, but what if your event takes advantage of the weather or the season? Why not keep some plastic bags to one side to make mini kites, or what sort of garden activities could you do in the street? This year in September and October we’re looking to support more streets who may be interested in planting up or ‘wilding up’ areas of ground that are less well cared for on Streets.
Active Streets may be getting more creative and wild this year, and there’s more evidence to demonstrate the health benefits, but whatever it does, it’s still first and foremost about bringing people together.
Melton Road was one of the most exciting and action packed events that I have been to, with so many different things going on throughout the whole street. (more…)
The Active Wellbeing Society (or TAWS, just to make life easier) is a growing organisation dedicated to providing people with spaces to get up and get active for no cost at all! (more…)
Today was my first event with Birmingham Active streets. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and had poured it down for pretty much the entire day. But that didn’t knock the confidence of the flood of kids that came running out to get stuck in with the activities and equipment we’d set out. In fact, I’d say they probably had more fun in the rain; whether they were battling it out in the tug of war, trying to hit the elusive bullseye on the archery set or even just smacking a ball around with the tennis/cricket sets. There was always something for them to do, and the fact that they already knew each other already made them all the more competitive and willing to take part.
The only downside of the afternoon (apart from the rain) was the turn-out of the parents and volunteers. We were however fortunate enough to be donated a bag of sand to make a sandpit with, which the kids loved (c’mon, we basically made a beach in their own front gardens if you count the puddles as the sea).
The road, Kinlet Avenue in West Heath, was one-way, making it easy to block the entrance of the road. Although that didn’t stop one rogue taxi driver (who claimed he lived on the road) from driving all the way down the one-way street in the wrong direction and exiting through the road block.
All in all, it was a great first experience despite the setbacks and I really enjoyed myself. Praying for warm, sunny weather for my next event and maybe a few more volunteers to lend a helping hand.
This is the first ever project that I have worked on with other students in regards to putting together a programme for the Summer. Whilst I had planned for two weeks worth of inductions, I can see I overly compensated on the timetable, having to fill empty spaces with quizzes or activities for the students. Whilst they didn’t mind this, I believe in future we can do the induction in one week rather than two weeks. But after all, these first lot are our guinea pigs so to speak.
However, I think that the difference from day one is astounding. You can see that these students have come out of their shells and become comfortable seeing each other day in, day out. One students in particular has gone from being super quiet to super comfortable and talking louder with no hesitation, they are getting more involved rather than sitting in the background quietly.
But in all honesty, I could not have done it without the support of my mentors and partners in crime. They have been such a massive help – filling in for other staff members who couldn’t make it or just enjoying some time with the students. So thank you to those guys!
As part of ‘Project Brum’, we are working alongside staff at Birmingham City Council’s Wellbeing Service – a department which is continually striving to create new and exciting activities to improve the health and social lives of Birmingham residents.
I’m Rebecca, a 22 year old Politics and International Studies graduate from The University of Warwick! I’ve had a really insightful and eye-opening first week on ‘Project Brum’, which is a new summer work placement opportunity for students and young people living in/near Birmingham.
As a Politics graduate, I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the Council works to promote active living through free and accessible activities. In an era of austerity and wage cuts, it is more important than ever to widen the opportunities that residents have to access free and inclusive offers – such as Active Streets, Park Lives, Big Birmingham Bikes, Run Birmingham, and much more. I’ve been so impressed at how much the Council is doing to promote, run, and fund these activities: activities which are changing lives.
We’ve heard stories of women going from ‘Couch to 5k’, having never taken part in a running group before yet going on to run in marathons – which is absolutely phenomenal and inspirational. Also, we’ve heard how the Wellbeing Service is working with the BME community through community-led initiatives, and is promoting accessible and inclusive activites – such as adapted cycling for people with mental or physical disabilities. This work is invaluable to a diverse city such as Birmingham.
All in all, I’ve been inspired by the work that the Wellbeing Service does in our communities, parks, leisure centres, and streets. I’m thoroughly lucky to be a part of it!
No more power points and talks, this time we got a taster of what its like to be an Activator. It was a positive induction experience because we learnt a lot in two weeks, we where not thrown in the deep end, we had been given the necessary knowledge needed to be an activator and how to utilise the equipment in order to bring the community together so that they can enjoy their time.
The induction weeks enabled me to know the group a little better and build a social relationship which allowed me to seek advice and help if I needed it. However, I think that we needed to go out more to different parks and wellbeing centres’ around Birmingham, so that we can familiarise ourselves with the parks/centres, this could have been done by arranging a visit which allowed us to see a ‘wellbeing activator’ lead a session in the park and how they interact with the public, this would give us a visual experience on how we should carry out the sessions we go to.
We could have also been given our actual timetable which would have allowed us to continue the following week knowing what we had to do instead of being confused.
However, the event at Maypole Ln ‘Happy Valley Family Fun Day’ with Active Streets allowed me to interact with the public and play games with children at the event such as helping out with the ‘Bow and Arrow’ as well as signing people up with leisure cards, this was surprising because it was my first time at an event and I managed to sign up to 6 people which was great fun because it enabled me to build a strong relationship with the community living around the park.
For a project that is still in its pioneering days, ProjectBrum has already proven itself as a well organised scheme with a bright future and endless possibilities over the next few years.
Although it’s hard to gauge people’s true feelings towards the project, an overall positive attitude coming from those working with us this summer can definitely be felt. People were engaging and chatting through the ice-breaker activities and teamwork tasks given to us by Karen and Emma, and managing to stay concentrated and attentive or at least appearing so through the less exciting segments.
Overall I think the initial couple of weeks are going to be the hardest, as with anything new there are periods of awkwardness and lessons to be but as we progress through the weeks and start experiencing what the Wellbeing Service provides and gives to the residents of Birmingham on a personal level then people will find their places and settle into a comfortable routine and by September won’t want to leave.