The Turfing of the Methleys (1996)

Purpose

When the children in the Methleys had been asked about creating a new play area, they had been unanimous. When asked where, they weren't so sure: "Outside my house" "In all the streets" replied some of the youngest.

Looking at the results with architect Eddy Walker, he focused on these answers: what they are talking about was a Home Zone; a neighbourhood where the streets were designed with priority for people and cars had to give way to pedestrians...

We'd never heard of Home Zones, in fact they didn't exist in the UK. So how do you go about getting a neighbourhood to talk about something that doesn't exist?

Details

What about if you completely changed a street to inspire people to use their imagination: if you laid turf all down a street and created a village green for a weekend?

Partners

People have often asked about how we got to do the turf. Well, once we'd decided that the idea of turfing a street made real sense as well as being a great thing to do... we faxed two turf companies, and the managing director of one of them, Inturf in York, phoned straight back...the rest, as they say...

Apart from being the perfect planning exercise for the Methleys, we knew this could be more, and teamed up with two national campaigning organisations–Transport 2000 (now the Campaign for Better Transport) and the Childrens Play Council (now Play England) who were about to launch their own campaigns for Safer Streets. 

That partnership was perfect–and that's why the Methleys turfing went national–in every national newspaper, television, radio...and on the Methleys own website

Spotty Lottie the Dalmation couldn't believe it; neither could her friend the black labrador, who was flat on his back with his legs in the air...Methley Terrace was covered in grass. It was like a pathway to heaven!

The Guardian

17th August 1996

What We Learned

Laying the turf certainly sparked people's imaginations. It was creative. It was beautiful. But it was rooted; it had a real sense to it...a real purpose. To show people how you could change a street. The turf was relatively easy, and the community did the rest. Everything from brass bands to pony rides, from egg and spoon races to camping, the weekend was amazing.

The learning was to realise the power of creative processes to effect change.

Where Next?

We were in campaign mode. Working with Transport 2000 and the Children's Play Council, the direction was clear. We just had to change government policy and people's attitudes, find the investment and create a network of Home Zones in the country. 

But for some reason, anything seemed possible!

The turf from above