Category : Active Streets

Canalside walk for Heritage

Canal walk signpost

Walking along Birmingham Canals, of which they’re really are more than Venice, you might question how and why these canals got built and who did it.  Well, it probably won’t come as a surprise that the Canals have a rich history and Birmingham Historical Theatre Group plan to bring to life the history of a small stretch from Bournville Train Station to Lifford Reservoir this weekend. (more…)

21st June 2017  |  Marcus Belben

With RoSPA 100 years on

On a dusty sunny day we entered in through that front gate of Buckingham Palace.  We were ushered across the gravel, under the famous balcony and through an archway into a large closed courtyard. The way then led through a gallery and onto the lawn for RoSPA’s Garden Party with Prince Andrew and some 3,500 other RoSPA guests.

I was with Nazan Fennell, Guardian and now Archangel for RoSPA and fellow Archangel Cynthia from Road Peace.  Nazan has campaigned locally, nationally and across Europe for greater road safety on a range of issues. Nazan’s approach and campaigning has been inspirational – It has fed my enthusiasm to see different use for our streets, not just for drivers, working with others leading to ‘playing out‘ and now ‘Active Streets‘.

RoSPA campaign poster from 1969 – anyone know more about this campaign?

RoSPA have their headquarters in Birmingham, and Birmingham Archives holds its Archives, including this rather interesting image of an unknown ‘Play Street’ from 1969, used on the last page of the brochure for the Garden party.  Interesting the concept keeps popping up  – I’d love to find the street this is based on, or any other street with those ‘Play Street’ signs.

Royal Cake just inside the ‘Diplomatic tent’ enclosure

Back to the party – it was fantastic to see Prince Andrew’s support for RoSPA, and I was pleased the work of our West Midlands Police for road safety was also recognised (and they got to meet Prince Andrew).  The bands played throughout the day and the cucumber sandwiches were fantastic, as was all the food.  I couldn’t help imagining Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant hiding by the lake.

Christine, Cynthia and Nazan at Buckingham Palace

On our way back we stopped at Camden, Cynthia’s home and one of the early Council CLOCs champions.  Following a series of cyclist deaths after truck collisions in London 2012, the CLOCs report offers some simple measures which Councils like Birmingham could enforce to reduce danger, as well as mud and rubble on the roads, and reducing disruption across the city.

Attending an event like this it does make you realise how much support there is to make our roads safer for all it’s users, not just the drivers.  Active Streets in Birmingham, working with partners like RoSPA, Live in Hope and Road Peace, can change attitudes further to make safer and better streets for residents and traffic.

26th May 2017  |  Marcus Belben

Interview with John Hill-Daniel, from Playing Out to Active Streets

Playing Out began in Birmingham 2013. Here’s an interview with John Hill-Daniel who helped coordinate in those early years.

How did you find out about Playing out?

I first heard about Playing Out in Bristol online, on Facebook I think. I was already running the Space Explorers community project with funding from Near Neighbours, but struggling to find ways to engage people in exploring and improving their local area. Around that time I attended a memorial march for Hope Fennell on Kings Heath High Street and it was there, while talking to Marcus Belben about the idea of a project with local schools to engage pupils, parents and local residents in discussions around road use and safety, (which became ‘Car Culture‘) that we first discussed the idea of bringing Playing Out to Birmingham.


26th May 2017  |  Marcus Belben

Playing out spreading out

It’s great to be a part of the larger playing out community – in the UK, Leeds, Bristol, Hackney and a few other places are all working with their councils to make playing happen on streets.  Even though Birmingham is implementing a slightly different model from the way street play and others are organised, it’s great to learn from their example:

Playing Out is a not-for-profit national organisation providing free resources and advice for residents about enabling street play. As well as instructional videos and a step-by-step ‘manual for organisers’, you can download template posters and other materials or contact them directly for advice.

They provide a free source of inspiration and advice for residents who want to close their streets and also have a national (closed) Facebook group for residents to discuss issues and to inspire each other.  We also encourage Birmingham folk to join our Facebook groups, or start your own for mutual support – KHMPlayingOut for Kings Heath & Moseley and Active Streets for all of Birmingham.

Daniella Radice from Playing out

Daniella Radice from Playing out

There’s a mailing list for officers setting up play streets or thinking about setting up play streets across the UK, and Active Streets will be sending to Birmingham Street Organisers a newsletter from other street organisers across the UK.  We’re also supported by Daniella Radice, whose role is to grow the street play movement across the UK over the next two years and is keen to find as many ways as she can to support people who are implementing it.

“I am looking forward to working with existing activators and residents as well as enthusing lots of new people to join our movement. I will be working with local authorities to help them make street play possible in their areas, and am keen to talk to any particularly helpful council officers that you might know. I would also love to talk to you about your experiences, and hear your ideas.”

Website: email: Tel: 0117 9537167

17th May 2017  |  Marcus Belben

Co-constructors of healthy habits

Obesity in the UK govt statistics 2015

Obesity in young people and children is on the rise – it’s widespread, growing and the consequences are costly.  The solutions themselves are pretty straight forward (improved diet, exercise etc) so why is it health professionals seem powerless to get their message through, and could social media help?


12th May 2017  |  Marcus Belben

Reasons to stop idling

Schools in America have partnered with Kern Green for the Just Say No to Idling Campaign.

Our car breakdown cover provided us with a nice new car for a few days which had an ‘automatic start-stop‘ after our old car died (thank you LV=).  It’s a nifty bit of technology which helps reduce car emissions, but you don’t have to buy a new car to stop idling; The first UK Clean Air Day (15th June) is the best possible time to change idle habits. (more…)

10th May 2017  |  Marcus Belben

Four Years of Playing Out in Birmingham

Olga from ActiveStreets with Councillor Tony Kennedy and support from WM Police setting up on Main Street, Sparkbrook

Olga from ActiveStreets with Councillor Tony Kennedy and support from KIKIT & WM Police setting up on Main Street, Sparkbrook

When a new street becomes an ActiveStreet, Playing Out for the first time like Main Street in Sparkbrook, it’s hard not to get excited.   (more…)

20th April 2017  |  Marcus Belben

Active Streets early beginnings

Active Streets concept was developed from “Playing Out”, which began in Bristol.  We began running Active Streets following National Playday 2013, where three streets in Birmingham were closed for children to play.

Active Streets recognised that by stopping traffic on a street local residents could lead their own events to bring local communities together for children to play and much more.

Active Streets developed the support needed to run any event that brings residents together on a street.  We have developed partnerships with Schools, Arts organisations, The Real Junk Food Project, a range of services in Birmingham City Council, Police and Emergency services, residents organisations and anyone interested in working with street organisers to promote community cohesion and to tackle issues important to our citizens.

11th April 2017  |  Marcus Belben

Making changes on Main Street

IMG_20170403_175612You could guess what problems there are on Main Street in Sparkbrook, but the only way to understand them is to meet the people who live there.  And how to make things better?  Active Streets and KIKIT are working together to support residents. (more…)

4th April 2017  |  Marcus Belben

Taking litter picking to the next level

It all started on Swan Corner when Oz, the Neighbourhood watch man thought we could do something about it.  He provided the pickers and the bags in 2015, and now we do it every year – next one for Swan Corner is 10:30 on 8th April meet corner of Cold Bath and Brook Lane . (more…)

30th March 2017  |  Marcus Belben