Six-year-old Niamh Williamson and Abbie Fairful, 10, were among kids treated to a now rare freedom taken for granted by generations before – playing in the streets.
They and other children from their Kirkcaldy neighbourhood skipped, kicked balls and played with scooters and go-karts in their street when it was closed temporarily to vehicles thanks to the Play Streets initiative.
For two hours on Saturday through-traffic was banned from part of Milton Road to allow local kids to play safely outside their homes as their parents and grandparents might have.
Supported by local charity Greener Kirkcaldy, local parents brought the national movement launched by two parents in Bristol 12 years ago to Fife for the first time.
Minister Justin Taylor, who lives in Milton Road with wife Lesley and children Francis, 2, and six-month-old Joy, knocked on his neighbours’ doors to drum up support after learning about the scheme through Greener Kirkcaldy.
He told us the event went even better than could be expected, with around 40 children out playing and adult neighbours of all ages chatting.
He said: “It was lovely to see children playing in the streets again and just enjoying themselves, feeling safe and knowing there weren’t any cars around.
“The other side was just getting to know our neighbours.”
Even before the afternoon was over people were asking when they could do it again, he said.
“I think it has changed the street a little bit to a more welcoming community.
“We had young families, people in their retirement and one lady who’s probably in her early 90s.
“There was a broad spectrum of generations and people.”
This was just the sense of community Bristol parents Amy Rose and Alice Ferguson hoped for when they launched Play Streets in 2009, frustrated that their children couldn’t play outside like generations before.
Soon, they had persuaded Bristol City Council to introduce a policy to enable the initiative and as interest grew other councils followed suit, including Glasgow and Edinburgh.
By June 2018, the movement had over 660 streets across 67 local authorities where regular playing out was allowed.
Amy and Alice now run Playing Out as a community interest company (CIC) with the aim of making playing out near home the normal, everyday part of childhood it once was and creating streets where communities rather than traffic come first.
It was a presentation by a Playing Out representative hosted by Greener Kirkcaldy earlier this year that led to the Kirkcaldy event.
Susan Jeynes, of Greener Kirkcaldy, said: “I was inspired, as were other people who came along, by what a great initiative it is.
“It addresses so many things; it’s not just about encouraging people to think public space shouldn’t solely be for cars, it’s about creating a safe space for children to play on their doorsteps and for the adults to come out and have a chat and meet their neighbours, which I think is something we’ve increasingly lost over the past few decades.”
The group supported Milton Road residents in seeking permission from Fife Council for the temporary road closure, which maintained vehicular access for residents.
Susan said she would love to see Play Streets become more widespread, and Greener Kirkcaldy would support residents elsewhere in the town who want to try it.