Hackney children partake in thousands of extra hours of activity thanks to Play Streets, report finds

Play Street

A pioneering Hackney project to get children playing outside in the streets and estates where they live has reached more than 1,600 youngsters and led to thousands of hours of activity, an independent report by a children’s play expert shows.

Parents volunteering to run the scheme, called Play Streets, said it is helping create a greater sense of community and making streets feel friendlier and safer, the report by writer and researcher Tim Gill says. 

He presented the key findings at a formal reception held in Hackney today (27 February), involving some of the residents who volunteer as organisers, councillors and partner organisations.

The report shows that in the 12-month period until September 2014, the project has:

  • Led to 380 hours of street play sessions in 29 locations that have reached around 1,600 children and nearly 800 families.
  • Supported 8,100 hours of children’s physical activity – equivalent to 14 extra term-time classes of PE lessons.
  • Caused drivers minimal disruption, with an average of nine cars affected per session.
  • Recruited and supported parents to run Play Streets across most parts of Hackney, including areas of disadvantage.
  • Assisted three schools and a children’s centre to run termly Play Streets at the end of the school day.
  • Supported parents in three estates to run play sessions.
  • Revealed a strong consensus among organisers about the perceived benefits for children, families and communities – especially in terms of improving social interaction among neighbours, and giving children more freedom and choice in how they play.

Tim Gill said: “This report shows that Play Streets are not just a popular, effective way to get many more children playing outdoors and being active. They also have the potential to transform the way people feel about their neighbourhoods. I suspect that councils across the country will be looking to follow Hackney’s lead in promoting the idea.”


Cllr Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Hackney Council
Growing up in the city can be tough for children which is why we have made it as easy as possible for parents, schools and estates to close residential roads near them in order to get youngsters outdoors and running around.

Play Streets has been a resounding success, helping to get more children physically active, creating tighter-knit communities and making our neighbourhoods more liveable. I would like to thank all those who have been involved and look forward to seeing more Play Streets around Hackney.
Cllr Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Hackney Council

The full report also indicates residents are broadly accepting of the scheme.

Hackney Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board commissioned Hackney Play Association, a local charity, to deliver the Play Streets project.

The charity provided training, mentoring and practical support for residents and schools wanting to start a Play Street. As of February 2015, there are 32 Play Streets in Hackney.

During the sessions, children ride bikes and scooters, bring out and share their own toys and take part in games of yesteryear like hopscotch, chalking and skipping.

Zoe Eisenstein, a resident organiser in Clapton, said: “The scheme has strengthened the sense of community, and has been a stepping stone for other community groups, including a park user group. It is an amazing initiative with the potential to work magic."