Like a scene from a bygone era, children temporarily took over an Inverness street to play safely without concerns about traffic.
For two hours, the noise of cars on the city’s Charles Street was replaced by the sound of youngsters having bike and running races.
They also learned to juggle, queued for the stomp rocket or helped cover the road with chalk drawings.
It is now hoped the Highlands’ first Play Street event at the weekend can happen regularly across the region.
Children hesitant at first
Emily, who is also the Inverness bicycle mayor, said the youngsters enjoyed the event despite initially being hesitant to leave the pavement.
“When they first arrived, it took quite a bit of encouragement to convince the children that it was ok to play on the whole street, and that they didn’t have to stay on the pavement.
“But, within a few minutes, they just owned the space.
“It’s been years since I’ve had a game of kerby or done juggling, and it was a great opportunity to see if I still had the skills.”
She added: “All our work campaigning and advocating to organise this session has been worth it.
“The morning was filled with so much joyous play and the sound of laughter and chatter on the street.
“It was lovely to see neighbours coming out with cups of tea for a chat, and to join in with all the games on the street.
She said Play Streets have been held across the UK, although currently only Glasgow and Edinburgh councils facilitate them in Scotland.
“We hope that the success of this trial will pave the way for a wider roll-out in the Highlands.
“I’d like to thank Highland Council for their help in organising this first trial session.
“I look forward to working with them to find a sustainable way forward.
“We’d love to hold monthly sessions here, and make it available to parents and residents across the Highlands.”
‘It’s a strange concept now’
Rebecca Robertson, from Crown Connects, added: “The boys loved getting to play outside their house with their friends and can’t wait to do it again.
“It’s such a strange concept now, because of the volume and speed of vehicles on the road, that it took the kids a while to adjust to playing on the street.
“We’d love to see this become a regular event, not just on our street, but on streets across the Highlands.”
The event was also voted a success by adults as well as children.
Heather McNee, who took part with Ruben, 6, Logan, 6, and Ethan, 3, said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity for children and adults to play together, and see their local street in a whole new light.”
The Playing Out movement, a resident-led organisation that helps run Play Streets, began on one street in Bristol in 2009.
There are now more than 1,500 involving over 90 local authorities across the UK.
Children need to play outside
Playing Out co-founder and director Alice Ferguson said: “Children today desperately need the time and space to play outside, to be more active, to have fun and feel part of their communities.
“This was a normal part of children’s lives until a few decades ago, but increased traffic dominance and other factors have changed this in a very short space of time.
“Play Streets are a simple and safe way to bring back a culture of ‘playing out’ on a temporary basis, as well as raising awareness about what needs to change longer term – calming traffic and ensuring children have access to safe space on their doorsteps.
“We would be so happy to see the idea take off in the Highlands, as it has all over the UK and beyond.
“Children don’t want to be stuck inside on their phones – they want to be free.”
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