How to Run the Best Street Party Ever!
Street Parties are a wonderful British Institution, but can they be part of a strategy for building community in your street?
Or even part of how you reach out to your neighbours with the kindness and goodness of God’s Kingdom? On this page you will find all that you need to run your very own Street Party as well as some ideas of other fun events you could try that will help shift the culture in your street.
7 steps to your street party
Focus on getting support for your Street Party.
Everyone needs help to begin so let’s start with prayer. Share your desires with God. Tell Him what is on your heart. Invite Him into your circumstances so He can inspire you.
Find a friend who will encourage you through the process, even if they just listen to your dreams for your street.
Do your homework. Have some idea of what you want to do & when you want to run it. E.g. The Big Lunch is usually the first Sunday in June.
Gather support. Talk with a few neighbours you know about what you’d like to see happen in your street. Ask them what they think of the idea of a get together. Make it personal and relevant so the dream is big enough for them to find their place.
Once you’ve found some interested people invite them to a planning meeting. So everyone can feel heard it’s helpful to have the group number eight or less. This will ensure those who want to help shape the event can contribute. Find a mutually suitable time to have it, at either someone’s place or a local venue. If people can’t come, you may still be able to get their ideas so you can present them at the meeting.
Street parties on quiet streets that don’t affect the wider road network count as small events. Read the details on your local council website as most councils require between 4-6 weeks notice. It will be useful information to bring to your planning meeting.
Plan for your Street Party and make decisions.
Gather together to see what you can do. Arrange a planning meeting of interested neighbours. Invite them to join you in organising the event.
Make sure you allow space for people to bring forward their ideas. If all the arrangements are organised by you prior to the meeting, there is little need for a planning team and you might find yourself having to carry out the event with only a few helpers; so NOT having everything organised before the planning meeting will help you to build team and ownership amongst your neighbours.
These people can be neighbours, a home group if it’s in your street or some like-minded people from church if you plan to hold a street party for those who live around your church. It’s important to find willing people who will share the dream and become committed.
At your meeting, discuss who, what, where, when and how.
A planning meeting will help you decide together what you want to do. Decisions include the date, time, theme, format (i.e. BBQ, lunch or afternoon tea, sit down or buffet style).
Make sure you allocate some of the jobs to others. When people grasp the Street Party concept, they are usually proud to take it on so don’t be afraid to share the load. It’s great to share the responsibility so the group can own the event.
Congratulations! All of the hard questions have been decided and your Street party can now take shape.
Gather all the information required for the invitations. See if someone on the street can create them; this is a great way to get some of the young people involved. There are lots of ideas on the internet.
Divide up the houses/flats etc amongst the available planning team and door knock every home to distribute the invitations. Don’t just letterbox drop. This personal approach allows your neighbours to meet you in person and discuss any questions or concerns they might have but also to catch your enthusiasm for the event.
Make sure the invitation covers what food or drink to bring, possible road closures, wet weather plans and a contact detail. Speaking to people face to face often gets a more positive response and even if they don’t attend, it is a great way to start getting to know your neighbours.
Some Useful Tips:
Toilets – No need to worry about toilets as if the need arises most people will return home for a few minutes.
Safeguarding – Children should be in the care of a parent or guardian at all times. Keep a watchful eye and let common sense prevail. Avoid children wandering off or entering into homes without your permission. There is usually no requirement for people to be DBS checked, but check with the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service to make sure on 0845 120 45 50.
Insurance – Insurance is not compulsory for a neighbourhood event but make sure you are well planned and have assessed all possible risks. Public Liability insurance is available for as little as £50.
Food – hopefully it has been hygienically prepared! If you are having a buffet, food can be left at room temperature for 4 hours. Keep it out of direct sunlight if possible. Beware of food allergies such as nuts. Have some extra serving bowls available as some people may just bring something directly from the supermarket.
First Aid – have a kit available but parents should also be on hand to deal with any problem arising with their child.
Barbeques – Place barbeques well away from any foot traffic or games area. An adult should supervise the cooking of meat. If the barbeque has been left to cool, ensure it is left in a safe place.
Noise – Try not to run the street party late or allow it to get too noisy. After all, you want to bring the neighbours together again sometime and keep them onside!
Photos – Have neighbours with an interest in photography on photo duty on the day. Check with people they are happy for photos to be taken and shared. You need permission from parents to take pictures of their children.
Make sure the structures are in place for a successful Street Party.
Contact your local council to apply for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN). This must be done at least 10 working days before your event, though some council wish to receive 12 weeks notice! You may have to pay a fee of £21 though sometimes the fees are waivered e.g. The Big Lunch. You must send a copy of the TEN to the police at least 10 working days before the event – if you apply online, the council will contact the police on your behalf. Some councils are so supportive they will lend you road signs and cones.
You can apply for a road closure if the road is purely residential. Consult everyone who lives in a house or runs a business which will be affected by the road closure; it is your responsibility to make sure they are aware of the proposals and are happy with them.
Set up a spreadsheet with columns for names including children, house number and what food they will bring. When people RSVP you can add it to your list. If people ask what food they should bring, you will have an idea of what is missing.
To build community, you need to be intentional. Find someone who can act as the Master of Ceremonies for the day. They could be from your street or your community. The MC treats the crowd like family, makes everyone feel at ease and answers questions. They let people know what is ahead, helping people prepare to get involved. It is helpful for the MC to have a PA system with a microphone.
Prepare for the day of the Street party.
Begin to gather supplies based on your theme – decorations, bunting, cutlery, plates, tablecloths, serviettes, etc.
Start thinking about the programme for the day and the layout of your street party. How much room do you have to congregate? Where should the food be placed?
What games and activities will serve to bring the community together? Don’t leave it till the day of the Street party – start thinking about it now. Does your selection of games include icebreakers, all-age activities, something physical for the kids, an activity to stretch the mind, some friendly competition, some weather appropriate games, and a group activity? Download the Street Party manual and head to the activities section for further explanations and assistance.
Start with an activity to get people circulating. An “icebreaker” such as “the Autograph Game” is a pen & paper activity with lots of questions and is a great way to break the ice. Or you could play Celebrity Heads. When people arrive a sticker with a name is put on their back or forehead and they must circulate and ask questions to find out who they are. Be sensitive. Some may be new to the street and not know many neighbours whilst others may be quiet and need encouragement to join in. As new people arrive, make sure someone is on hand to explain the current activity so they can participate too.
Try to involve all ages, the kids too. Choose some different activities for younger age groups – e.g. face painting, badge making, Play Doh, a small sand pit. Have a rug and some soft toys for any babies. Don’t forget some chairs so those looking after the little ones have somewhere to congregate and some shade if it’s hot.
Having a variety of activities is likely to keep the kids busy and happy. It will also help to involve everyone so the Street Party is not just talking and eating. Have different people supervise an activity as well as participate.
Some other ideas to include in your Street Party include: a Quiz, Face Painting, Balloon Modelling, Lego Competition, Cake Competition, Biscuit Decorating, Dog Show, Plant Swap Stall, Giant Jenga, Pass the Parcel, Tombola, Talent Show, Hat Competition, Puppet Making, Musical Chairs. Include an adults game for a bit of fun: Pin the tail on the Donkey, Coconut Shy, Splat the Rat, Aunt Sally, Bouncy Castle, a History of the street (board/display), matching facts/baby photo to neighbours and Karaoke.
If you want to increase face-to-face contact with neighbours, have someone take group photos of each family and then print and deliver them to each family home.
After a time, everyone will relax, be less self-conscious and more willing to participate in some fun games with others. Make sure you’ve checked the street for its suitability e.g. running races on tarmac (asphalt) may not be a good idea. Suggestions include “In the Pond/Out the Pond”, Water Balloon Volleyball, Limbo, Sack Race, Egg & Spoon Race, Tug of War, a 3-Legged Race with family members, “What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?” Duck, Duck, Goose, Giant Beach Ball in the Air, Wellie Boot Throwing competition, Giant Tug of War – men against women, under 15’s against over 15’s, one side of your street against the other side.
Put up A3 sized Street Party posters in several house windows along the street as a reminder.
Make sure the resources you need will be ready on time.
Check on those bringing items such as tables and gazebos to make sure they haven’t forgotten.
What resources do you require for the games and activities – either for the children or the adults? If you are having prizes; who will buy them?
Be prepared for community dancing by having the music ready.
Meet with your Master of Ceremonies (MC) to go through the programme. The more familiar the MC is with what will happen, the more relaxed he/she will be.
Bring to God everything about next week. Check weather forecast and alternative plan.
The waiting is over. It’s time for the event.
Put up the bunting a day or two ahead of the street party. It will act as a reminder and get people excited. If it’s going across the road the bunting must be at least 5.8 metres high.
In the morning, put up any gazebos and arrange tables. It’s helpful to have someone on duty so people who arrive early with their garden furniture will know where they can place it. Let people bring things from home so they feel they are contributing.
Balloons add a nice festive touch.
On the day, most people are happy to join a rota (or roster) for serving drinks or being available to open the road barriers if necessary.
You must also display a copy of the TEN where it can be easily seen.
When people arrive, have a friendly face to welcome them. Try to have someone who already knows many people in the street. Hand out nametags with both name and street number. Make it large enough for all to be able to read it.
Some popular music playing in the background will add to the party atmosphere.
You may have latecomers. Try to have someone on the lookout to welcome them so they feel included straight away.
People will often have other commitments so there will always be comings and goings from the street party. That’s part of its attraction. Some may even pop home for a bit before returning. And of course most people will return home to use their own bathroom. People with children may need to leave early and others will want to stay on even when it’s pack up time. Friends realized this and got out the BBQ despite not having any meat in their own fridge, and many more people enjoyed an impromptu evening. Stay flexible.
See if some of the teenagers will lead a simple game, like Duck, duck, goose or Simon Says. Invite some children to model some of the dance moves.
Some people may prefer to sit and watch the games from the safety of the sidelines, particularly the older neighbours, but they are still able to enjoy it and feel a sense of belonging. Its good to have some chairs out, someone may even have an old sofa they dont mind bringing out for people to use!
Towards the end of the Street Party, some will be ready for community dancing. Perhaps someone could teach a Zumba dance. Favourites are YMCA by Village People, Superman by Blacklace, the Macarena, a Giant Conga Dance and My Big Fat Pony. The Hokey-Cokey is always a great way to finish.
When clearing up most people lend a hand. Have some bin bags and clearly marked recycling boxes on hand to make the job easier. Distribute the rubbish and recycling amongst a few neighbours. Make sure the street or area is left clean so there is little to complain about afterwards. Have a designated place for lost property.
Follow up after the street party.
As your Street Party is finishing, use any excuse to keep the momentum going by having another event planned. See the section below for some ideas of other activities that you could do as a street together.
Share the idea of setting up a community website so the connections keeps building. There are lots of online social media platforms designed for connecting neighbours with each other with community notice boards, and tools for making it easier to talk, share and plan with your street. It might be a private page on facebook, or making use of streetclub.co.uk or streetlife.com, which are all places where neighbours can share photos as well as local news, views, recommendations and resources.
Suggest a time for the planning team to debrief. Celebrate their achievements and hear their highlights and stories not only from the day but the neighbourhood chatter since the big day. Listen to any suggestions that might strengthen another event.
It’s easy to assume these days that everyone is technologically connected but there may be people, particularly older folk in the street without the Internet. Organise a showing of the street party photos at someone’s home and find out what they enjoyed about the Street Party. Take note of other ideas they might come up with for next time.
Expect your street to be different after the party. There might be more conversations on the street, an increase in car waving as people drive by or a thank you note in the letterbox. You may or may not know what the lasting legacy will be from what has taken place. Community doesn’t just happen. It needs a group of people to build it intentionally. Hopefully after your Street Party you are well on your way!
Other great ideas for gathering the neighbours
Not ready for a Street Party?
Here are some other ideas to bring your community together that might be more your ‘cuppa-tea’.
- Host a small dinner party. Prepare all the food beforehand so you don’t spend all your time in the kitchen or have a friend over to help. After all, you do want to get to know your guests.
- Try something a little more traditional like a card night or a board game and invite some people who might not know each other. Try not to be too competitive…it’s only a game after all!
- Host a charity coffee morning and invite some neighbours in. Often if you choose a well known charity, people are more likely to come.
- Consider a “Bake-Off” of any description. See if you can hold it on the street or footpath and let neighbours know when the all important taste testing will begin. Put the kettle on to turn it into an informal social gathering. Make sure it remains fun!
- Christmas is a great time to open up your home for mulled wine & nibbles.
- See if others in the street would like to join a local sports club, e.g. tennis or netball.
- Suggest a time and date to meet at the local park for an informal picnic.
- Pray for your neighbours regularly, by name if you can. It is lovely to be known by name. Have a list of house/flat numbers so you can write down who lives where and be intentional in learning names.