PARK Pilot actions in Malta

Driven by a desire of the local community to claim back the streets and revive the long-lost art of healthy social interaction, a pop-up playground was set up in the quaint village of Gharb in Gozo as a PARK pilot intervention to support and inspire long-term change. Street play and habitual physical activity are something of counter-intuitive in Malta, where despite the small size of the island the car seems to have taken precedence, creating a hostile environment for daily exercise such as walking and social interaction. The pilot intervention, therefore, challenged the way citizens look at spaces and find ways on how to address this contemporary issue in a meaningful way. As a result, the intervention helped the local community to understand better the dynamics of the space around them, think of alternative options on how the space can be shared by different users and create a vibrant space that promotes physical activity and healthy social dialogue.   

The intervention consisted of four stages. 

  • The preparatory sessions focused on meetings with local stakeholders and discussing the challenges and opportunities for the designated space.  
  • The second session focused on introducing the concept of placemaking to the young community. During a hands-on session, young participants had the opportunity to spend some time in the piazza as part of a mapping experience. During this time, they had the opportunity to reflect on the streetscape, count the number of cars versus the number of pedestrians and think of how these spaces can be shared with all users.  Following this mapping exercise, participants had time to also express their thoughts in any medium they liked.  Most kids expressed their thoughts and ideas by drawing colourful images of their imaginary piazza which were presented to community stakeholders.
  • The third stage was the actual implementation of the project. Spaces that are usually taken over by cars and underutilised spaces such as the church parvis were given a second life and creatively revived and transformed into a vibrant playground.  Some of the selected games, were spontaneous, and an adaptation of street games like hopscotch, skipping rope, rounders, tug of war, bocci etc., These were purposely selected because the games require little or no equipment, can be played in any space or setting, they are easy to follow, fun, highly engaging, adequate for all levels of fitness and provide direct access to community engagement in public space.
  • Before the start of the project, active play did not occupy a prominent role in the children’s lives; they associated it mainly with something that can be practised only in a designated or structured place. Playing in the piazza was something that was not permitted because of the dangerous streets and the perception that streets belong only to cars. The perception of playing in the piazza and taking over the streets gradually changed over the course of the intervention. This was reflected during the fourth and final session, whereby participants created some more drawings to express their ideas of a more playful and happy village square.

The intervention was certainly appreciated by all the community, stakeholders, young children and adults alike. Mainly because the intervention did not simply focus on physical activity, which might be off-putting for some, instead through basic street games, participants were able to foster a sense of community and a deeper understanding of how community spaces can be easily transformed and shared by different users.

This project, led by BG Be Active, is funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Contacts

BG Be Active Association Bulgaria Plovdiv, 9 Sofia Str. [email protected]

Disclaimer

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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