Councils across the country will be helping to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend with thousands of approved street parties set to take place.
Street parties are a great way to bring neighbours together to get to know each other better. There is lots of research to show that these informal, resident-led events have a positive and lasting impact on the communities that take part. They can help reduce isolation and loneliness, strengthen community spirit and civic pride and bring people of different ethnic backgrounds together. They also offer a good opportunity to bring together communities for fundraising for local, national and International good causes.
Play streets (short, year-round regular road closures for free play) also have additional benefits for children’s health, wellbeing and physical activity. They can also support the active travel agenda by demonstrating the value of less traffic-dominated residential streets in a temporary and unthreatening way.
National events such as Remembrance Sunday also see requests for community activity and potential road closure requests for parades, in partnership with The Royal British Legion and other armed forces charities. They act as a way for communities to come together to remember significant events and sacrifices in UK history, and pay tribute to those who have or are serving their country.
Councils involvement in supporting community events
- Promoting initiatives such as The Big Lunch, Thank You Day and Playing Out through their communications. These organisations all provide communications tools to make this easy.
- Offering small grants, where possible – provide funds to support residents to organise events. Eden Project Communities’ research shows that neighbourliness delivers substantial economic benefits to UK society, representing an annual saving of £23.8 billion in total, so this kind of investment is advised.
- Arranging for the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Councillors or MPs to attend events – if the community agree. This provides a great opportunity to engage with local community groups and support further community action. Attendance and positive press coverage can be a good incentive for those taking part.
- Streamlining road closure application and organisation processes – Applications for road closures and licences can be the most daunting part of organising any event, and is often a crucial first point of contact between organisers and the council. Getting this part wrong can have significant implications for the community’s ability to hold events, as well as for the council’s local and national reputation. For national events such as jubilees or Remembrance Sunday, it is a good idea for elected members to consider the council’s approach and any resource implications needed to support local participation. This could include waiving fees for road closures and ensuring that any insurance requirements are clearly explained and proportionate to the scale of event – there is no requirement from central government for small street parties to have public liability insurance. Some examples of this include:
- Making the process cost-free for residents (benefits vastly outweigh admin costs)
- Ensuring the application process is clear, simple and accessible
- Minimising turnaround time
- Simplifying signage and traffic management requirements
- Using an indemnity clause rather than requiring insurance
- Planning public events – Public space is an incredible asset for communities. As well as encouraging communities to organise their own get-togethers, council-led events can also enable a wider diversity of organisations and residents to get involved. By taking some of the administrative work on within the council, you can free up partners to bring their full creativity and skills to the event itself. Working closely with residents to put on events that anyone can attend and providing some basic food and soft drinks is also a good way to ensure inclusivity and enable everyone to take part.
- Providing advice and guidance to prospective organisers – the key information is usually to set out any timescales by which they should aim to engage with councils, as too many applications are sent through at the last minute. This leaves limited or no time available to discuss concerns or adaptations and is a major reason for applications having to be refused. It can also help to signpost organisers to guidance from established schemes, such as Play Streets video: How to close the road safely and Eden Project Communities Template Risk Assessment. For medium to large events, councils may also direct organisers to the Purple Guide, which is developed by the Events Industry Forum (to which the LGA contributes).
Good practice examples
Surrey County Council has been supporting The Big Lunch for many years.
Councillor Mark Nuti, Cabinet Member for Communities explains why:
Councils are being called upon to help communities take part in The Big Lunch and The Big Jubilee Lunch. Surrey County Council is leading the way, with its libraries, communities and communications teams all working together to promote The Big Jubilee Lunch and organise and encourage events all over the county."
Our goal is to ‘Leave no one behind’ – to give every resident an opportunity to be involved, to empower communities and, as a result, build healthier, safer and greener places to live. The Big Lunch is proving to be an excellent vehicle to help drive this philosophy forward.”
Gary Pritchard, Senior Engineer at Leeds City Council says of the play streets scheme:
Everything we do is aimed at improving life for children. In Highways there are few things we can do to improve children’s lives, but this is a massive one. Allowing children to play safely in the street is something I remember doing as a child and it’s great that the next generation are able to have that benefit as well…it’s great to get pats on the backs from our politicians as well…play streets is working for Leeds and it costs next to nothing.”
Further reading, evidence and useful links
- LGA guidance
- The Purple Guide
- Research and evidence
- Street parties
- The Big Lunch
- Play streets
- Example street closure procedures