The little ankle biters play on this street almost every non-drenched day. The neighbours know/hear them. During our walks/rides, we recognised other anklebiters/ bobbling mops of hair and feet playing on their minuscule slice of footpath. Imagine uniting all our little slices and little people. Thus a street for play.
These folks have been doing it right for some time. Inspired by such creative acts of community, I thought this wedge of asphalt needed a temporary makeover. Nothing fancy, just a closed street so the anklebiters can play TOGETHER. Sure, a few balloons and bubbles to make other passbyers go, “This is a neat street.”
Although low key (chalk, tables, a few chairs), it was grand. The anklebiters never talked to me save to ask if they could have a piece of chocolate (only one) or crisp (no, not the bag, a handful). Neighbours introduced and chatted. Future plans made (bonfire night, community garden, next play street). Granted there was a hiccup at the beginning: the wind knocked down the parasol attached to the table presenting the potluck of snacks. Not the velvet cupcakes. Oh no the vegan pralines! Did my favourite glass bowl just shatter? Not to be deterred, we all hopped back into our respective homes and returned with replacements. People from other neighbourhoods joined in. All children welcomed here.
Interested in starting your own? Give yourself a juicy peach and just say yes. The official process requires
Dusting off your social skills and talking to your neighbours (they won’t bite, promise!)
Requesting permission from council which may involve, neighbour letters, risk assessment, a street map and an application (7 weeks for approval here!)
Distributing flyers/reminders to move vehicles, bring cheer, chairs and something to share
Thinking how simple or elaborate you want the hours to unfold. Pentanque? BBQ?
And on the day of, check that wind, blow up some balloons and play.
I knew even before the boisterous arrival of my two anklebiters that play is inherent in the everyday. It’s more about taking it all in, of finding opportunities and enjoying where you are. I see this unrelentlessly in the doings of the anklebiters. Call it play, call it work but the children, they are engrossed in what they are doing. Of what is available around them to invite into their worlds. Smiles and tears but always an experience. So yes dear friend, I’m not telling you to go out and procreate but rather take a journey with me and nourish your inner child.
Along the way, I met David. He has worked in Early Years in the US, Australia and most recently the UK since 2007. He is becoming bit obsessed with the power of play and what it can do for personal and community health when it is properly valued. Together, we are looking to re-engage the young, the not so young and everyone in-between in play and playful experiences.
We believe playing and being playful are good for the heart, mind and body. Watch out for us and come join in the fun!
The diversity of urban life lends itself to street ballet every minute every day. As diversity has a spectrum, so echoes the spectrum of the street ballet. The Meanwood ballet’s got nothing on the St Kilda’s ballet. And I would say St Kilda’s street ballet is akin to Venice Beach’s ballet. No destinations? No people. No people? No ballet. William H Whyte was right. People are attracted to people. In neighbourhoods, that means that there are places to see and be seen.
Lucia’s Neigbourhoodby Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek elucidates the manifold footpath improvisations occurring in one girl’s neighbourhood. Like Have you Seen my Dragon? or Footpath Flowers, a child walks through the neighbourhood. The intent here, however, is to give you a tour. From an early morning walk through the park, to the opening of the corner shops all the way through evening night markets, Lucia narrates the life of the people in her neighbourhood. She even lends cultural credo by talking about the Senhor Da Pedra festival where the street is decorated like Portugal. Lucia talks about porches, grandmas sitting in the sun, teenagers hanging out and the comings and goings of the tram driver. Illustrations are digitally rendered and are significantly replete with people.
community through local shops
The life of porches
Ankle biter 1 indulged me with this book. It’s not his thing. It encapsulates what he already lives. Honestly, he’d rather live it than read it. (And so he should). The problem with the tour concept is that for him, nothing happens. There’s no ‘adventure’ for him. (This book or this book provides ‘adventures’). It illustrates ‘community’ with all the people out and about but honestly, the static of the scenes doesn’t invite him to participate. Perhaps this will come back out when he’s ready to practice reading. Ahhhh for him to recognise the words ‘street ballet’, ‘neighborhood’ (even sans ‘u’) and porches.
I won’t lie. I ordered this week’s book right off the bat when I read that “seven-year-old-Lucia” was learning about Jane Jacobs. I should have read the title. It’s not blatantly about Jane; it’s about Lucia. This book, however, elucidates the type of neighbourhood that Jane would advocate. There is high movement and involvement among and between people due to the density, mixed neighbourhood uses and small street blocks. This is probably a cheeky primer for undergrads. For children, meh. Although this book is based on Montrose Avenue which has been internationally celebrated. Perhaps better as a moving piece rather than a static one?
Our street ballet usually involves dogs and small kids and sometimes a perusal of our library. Slowly the delight of the daily improv will radiate here. So what time is the street ballet? Depends. Who’s out on your street? What about your neighbourhood attracts other people?
It’s been about a month or so since the opening of the free little library and here’s what I learned:
You get a superiority complex because with this little library, you initially curate books for people to read. Yes, I think you should read ‘Atonement’ but what? you’re not interested in ‘Moby Dick’?
I’ve seen at least two people take phone photos of the library. I don’t know if they think it quaint or if they are going to report it. Let’s hope it’s the former.
Gypsies exist. You heard me. One day, ankle biter shouted, “The movers, they’re taking away the library.” Yea, whatevs. Later during the day, just to prove to him that nobody took the fridge, I opened the door. Lo and behold, our library was a bit askew. The gypsies took the motor. Good on them.
I think the takers and givers are not the same people. I’ve been placing an additional adult novel or two per week just to keep it full. Right now there’s equal parts children, young adult and crime fiction currently donated and on offer. And thank you unnamed chef for donating an 80s collection of cookbooks. They may make their way to the op shop but who am I to say?
Have we made more friends? No. Any books that have been taken or given have been done anonymously. It’s like Christmas when we open the library. We never know if there’s something new- and if something is missing or something new, it means someone’s day is just a wee bit brighter.
I do love me a good summer. Summer for me has always meant days immersed in the sun languished in the Channel Islands, Albuquerque tribal lands, an Avonlea farmhouse, the Concord forest. Distant adventures courtesy of the pages of a book. No, not a passport but a bonafide book book. It’s no secret, if you’ve been following along, we love books here. A true passport for a quick getaway, an endless holiday or something inbetween. The library has always been and always remain our travel consultant for our holidaying minds.
This week’s book humbles us. Waiting for the Biblioburroby Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra is about a little girl Ana who loves making stories yet owns one book. One day along with the other village children, Ana encounters a man with two donkeys, Alfa and Beto with a sign that reads, Biblioburro (translated: donkey library). This moving library offers children the opportunity to borrow books for a few weeks. In the interim, Ana reads and dreams new stories. She waits for the Biblioburro to return. When they do, she has a surprise for the librarian. The illustrations are stunning with surreal mural montages that celebrate village living and whimsical imagination. It includes a glossary of Spanish terms used in the book.
the mobile book library
a library beneath the trees
Anklebiter 1 has recently relished the ‘story’. Move over picture books. He’ll sit and look at images but likes to listen to the unfolding narrative. He loved the notion of burros (donkeys) and a traveling library. He had many questions about Ana’s stories. “Why does the bird have legs?” “Can I fly on a butterfly plane?” He says ‘libro’ (book). This libro has been on rotation for a few weeks now. That says something.
I adore this book because it is inspired by Luis Soriano Bohorquez’s own acts of literary kindness. Bohorquez and his two trusty donkeys deliver books to children living in remote Columbian villages. It opened up my eyes to the various forms of libraries as well as the pulp deficiencies many children experience. An urban imagined for children should always include access to books. With free access to several libraries, we are fortunate and rather spoilt for stories both fiction and factual. Libraries need not always be brick and mortar. And we are sharing the wealth. Before television, before cars and video games, there were books. Books transport us and library cards are the true passports. Where will you travel during these remaining days of a northern hemispheric summer?
Jane Jacobs. (1916-2006). I’m late to the wishes but let’s call it a year long celebration! Godmother of Urban Design, thank you for being an observer of the urban. Of relishing your staircase stump in Greenwich Village. Of demanding that architects and planners (cough Edmund Bacon and Robert Moses) put people first over lofty illusions of the grandeur. Of highlighting the importance of street life. You became a planner not by formal training but sheer observation, reporting and activating the local. Thank you for introducing terms such as social capital, street ballet and eyes on the street. You leave a legacy that we should all endeavour to fulfil.