Looking back on it now, the earlier days of lockdown were gloriously quiet and peaceful, if you were able to set aside the anxiety and fear. The weather was remarkable and the evening air was heady with the smells of early flowers. The loudest of all noises was the fluid luxury of blackbird song.
From the first realisation that this virus was going to take control of our lives, Playworkers were deeply worried about how children would cope without the opportunities to play with their friends. Playing is how children make sense of the everyday world. So at this time when the world has changed around them, and adults are having a hard time coping with the fear and bizarre new rules of survival, the one thing children need to do most of all is to play, preferably with their friends.
So our playing at sociable distance on the street became a bit of a lifeline.
We invented things to do on breezy days, making kites out of plastic bags and string and flowing super hero capes from fabric. We played marbles and carried on chalking, blowing bubbles and hopscotching.
The children became very proud of their friendships and their playing. They relished the quiet freedom afforded by the street and the novelty of being allowed to use it, protected by the adults in their new extended kinship groups, who drew two metre circles so they could feel and see what that distance looked like, played with tape measures with them, brought them hand sanitizer and stood guard over the stray cars that ventured down the road. By doing these small tasks, the grown ups were creating a safe space for the children to get on with their playing.
The Junior Citizens showed how proud they were of their playstreet by making signs to put on the lampposts to give drivers a heads-up that this was now a shared space. The grown ups helped them out, but the artwork and the designs were theirs. And when it came to fixing them up, the children decided where the street signs should go, and the adult did the work for them.