Playing Out and Everyday Relationships: Mapping the Psychosocial Geographies of Street Play in North Tyneside

This new project, funded by the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, will enable me to assess the feasibility, value and relevance of a developing project of participatory, psychosocial research around the idea of ‘playing out’ (organised sessions of street play for children and families) and everyday relationships (with friends, family, and neighbours), which builds on my recent work on everyday relationships and the psychosocial geographies of austerity and extends existing work on ‘playing out’.

From around 2009, Playing Out CIC has promoted and supported the development of temporary residential street closures for play across the UK, starting in Bristol and expanding to over 400 streets in around 50 different towns and cities. Since 2015, House of Objects, an educational community interest company (CIC), has worked with Play England and Playing Out CIC to support neighbours to close their streets for play on a regular basis in North Tyneside. Ten North Tyneside streets have run one-off or regular ‘playing out’ sessions in the last two years, each attended by 15-25 children of varying ages, and their parents, grandparents and other carers. There have already been some studies of this phenomenon, in geography and beyond, but these have, not surprisingly, focused on play and on changing children’s geographies (e.g. Ferguson and Page 2015; Tranter 2016; Murray and Devecchi 2016). Attention to the wider psychosocial (social and emotional) geographies of street play have received important but incidental attention. It is commonly argued that street play supports increasing social cohesion and stronger communities, and these have become core ideas in the promotion of playing out. This project aims to interrogate this further, paying attention to ideas around security, belonging, trust, identity, attachment, togetherness, and neighbouring through a focus on street play and ‘everyday relationships’ in North Tyneside to ask if and how playing out transforms the psychosocial geographies of the streets involved. This pilot project asks the following key questions:

  • How do participants imagine, understand and experience ideas of community and neighbouring in the context of their street play sessions?
  • What changes have participants witnessed in the geographies of their streets’ everyday relationships?
  • How, if at all, have the effects of street play sessions ‘spilled over’ into the wider everyday life of the streets involved?

This will be a small-scale, qualitative, (auto)ethnographic and participatory project, developed with the existing North Tyneside street play organisers (of which I am one, through PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside), with the following key stages:

  1. Planning and preliminary meetings with key organisers.
  2. Focus group with street organisers to develop the notion of everyday relationships and street play. This will enable me to hone the focus to guide interviews and participant observation.
  3. Visit Playing Out CIC (Bristol) to interview national organisers to set research in wider context.
  4. I will join at least one street play session in each currently active street (likely to be between 5 and 8), observing and participating in the activities of both children and adults. During these sessions, I will also arrange follow-up, in-depth, qualitative interviews with participants (2 or 3 from each street) to develop responses to the key research questions.
  5. Write and present report to local and national playing out activists; present preliminary paper to internal seminar.

A reading list on the social and economic geographies of austerity in Ireland

Sander van Lanen, currently at Groningen but formerly based in Cork, sent me this list of readings on the geographies of austerity in Ireland. I spend a fair amount of time in Ireland (mostly the west, around Galway) so I’m very aware of and interested in the Irish experiences of recession and austerity, but more from a lay perspective than an academic one.*

There are a few Irish references on my previous lists, but it’s great to have this more comprehensive list. Ireland’s experiences resonate with the British experience, but there are also some particular aspects which reflect Ireland’s very different social and economic geographies, especially around housing and property (including ghost estates), and around family and generation (an area I’m increasingly interested in), and which encourage to see Britain’s particularities too.

So, thank you, Sander!

Sander has himself worked on the impacts of Irish austerity on disadvantaged urban youth in Dublin and Cork and his recent Urban Geography paper is well worth a read.

*As an aside, one of the best novels I’ve read recently was Conor O’Callaghan’s Nothing on Earth, about Ireland’s ghost estates. It’s amazing. Read it.



Carney G.M., T. Scharf, V. Timonen & C. Conlon (2014) ‘Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt’: Solidarity between generations in the Irish crisis, Critical Social Policy, 34(3): 312-332.

Crowley, N. (2012) Lost in austerity: Rethinking the community sector, Community Development Journal, 48(1): 151-157.

Drudy, P.J. & M.L. Collins (2011) Ireland: From boom to austerity, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 4(3): 339-354.

Forde, C., D. O’Byrne, & F, Ó’hAdhmaill (2015) Community development in Ireland under austerity and local government change: Policy and practice, The changing landscape of local and community development in Ireland: Policy and Practice, Cork: Institute for Social Sciences in the 21st Century.

Fraser, A., E. Murphy & S. Kelly (2013) Deepening neoliberalism via austerity and ‘reform’: The case of Ireland, Human Geography, 6(2): 38-53.

Free, M. & C. Scully (2016) The run of ourselves: Shame, guilt and confession in post-Celtic Tiger Irish media, International Journal of Cultural Studies.

Kitchin, R., C. O’Callaghan & J. Gleeson (2014) The new ruins of Ireland? Unfinished estates in the post-Celtic Tiger Era, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(3): 1069-1080.

Kitchin, R., C. O’Callaghan, M. Boyle, J. Gleeson & K. Keaveny (2012) Placing neoliberalism: The rise and fall of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger, Environment and Planning A, 44(6): 1302-1326.

Mercille, J. & E. Murphy (2015) Conceptualising European privatisation processes after the great recession, Antipode, 48(3): 685-704.

Mercille, J. (2013) The role of the media in fiscal consolidation programmes: the case of Ireland, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 38(2): 281-300.

Murphy, E. & M. Scott (2014) ‘After the Crash’: Life satisfaction, everyday financial practices and rural households in post Celtic Tiger Ireland, Journal of Rural Studies, 34: 37-49.

Murphy, E. & M. Scott (2014) Household vulnerability in rural areas: Results of an index applied during a housing crash, economic crisis and under austerity conditions, Geoforum 51: 75-86.

O’Callaghan, C., M. Boyle & R. Kitchin (2014) Post-politics, crisis, and Ireland’s ‘ghost estates’, Political Geography, 42: 121-133.

O’Callaghan, C., S. Kelly, M. Boyle & R. Kitchin (2015) Topologies and topographies of Ireland’s neoliberal crisis, Space and Polity, 19(1): 31-46.

Waldron, R. & D. Redmond (2017) “We’re just existing, not living!” Mortgage stress and the concealed costs of coping with crisis, Housing Studies, 32(5): 584-612.

Waldron, R. (2016) The “unrevealed casualties” of the Irish mortgage crisis: Analysing the broader impacts of mortgage market financialisation, Geoforum, 69: 53-66.

Whelan, C.T., B. Nolan & B. Maítre (2016) The great recession and the changing distribution of economic stress across income classes and the life course in Ireland: A comparative perspective, Journal of European Social Policy, 24(5): 470-485.