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When Six Feet becomes a whole street!

Yesterday East Marsh United – and our friends – spent the day on Rutland Street. We residents and founders of EMU started off seven years ago by cleaning this very street and now that we’ve built up our projects and our strategy we felt it time to get back to it. This time, however, we knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we called on the people in the street to come and join us. And they did, and it was lovely to meet so many of our lovely neighbours and be on our street together in the lovely autumn sunshine.

The day begin with the Equaan’s team smoothly blocking the street off (which they very generously did at no cost – and it isn’t cheap normally!) and EMU’s stewards patrolling to help car drivers in and out as they needed. Then we put up our marquees, with help from our stewards and volunteers, along with Together for Childhood – especially Nicola the Community Connector and WEA Emma’s Wishing Tree…

And the council’s amazing cleaning gang – what can I say except thank you guys! We had all kinds of cleaning trucks and machines out, cleaning roads, gutters and drains and the blokes themselves were such a pleasure to be with. And it was a real splurge of very focused activity, a great team – not too long after we had a pretty clean street, topped up with the guys from Smelloway cleaning some of the bins at no charge – if we can’t (yet) get them off the street, we can at least have them clean!

While all this was going on, Gaz Leshone’s ExpertSpray team were going out, along with Tom Plumb and friend of EMU Andy Haith, to carry out small repairs in people’s homes (because their landlords don’t!). They also painted over some offensive graffiti, to the resounding thanks of families across the road who no longer have to see that every day.

At 11am our Peace Choir marched up and down the street, today appearing as the Granarchists to honour the East Marsh nannas, led by a full-throated Sue, one of our Community Outreachers and we stood in the autumn sunshine at the intersection of Rutland Street and Castle Street, chanting and singing Bring me Sunshine, This Joy, I Can See Clearly Now and Proud Mary (‘Rollin’ down the Rutland’!).

At that point, people were pointed to Shal Church where Reverend Kay and her gang had laid on soup, cakes, sausage rolls and hot drinks for everybody – helped considerably by a generous donation of bacon butties from the Bun Shop in Wellington Street and other hot food for people to enjoy – the place was very busy and full of bonhomie…

And then Rutland Street became a ‘play street’ (with DJ Claire providing the bangers). The Together for Childhood gang swung into action and created a space in the street with all kinds of toys and games and it was like lighting a firework, standing back and watching the beautiful display. The kids were just joyous and clearly enjoyed their new-found freedom. On the face of it, a simple thing to do but we built neighbourhood bonds, fostered active and happy kids, and I knew when I saw the kids scootering and cycling up and down the car-free street, their sense of independence was being nurtured. It was actually quite emotional to see the growing sense of freedom in the beautiful chaos of children’s play – and hats off to the NSPCC Together for Childhood team who facilitated the play in such a gentle and encouraging way, everybody felt they could come along and join in – and they did!

And to cap it all, the brilliant actor, the East Marsh’s own Thomas Turgoose, came to visit and say hi to us all, and the Grimsby Town Foundation came along with goalposts, nets and footballs, so we had street football, livened by a great big fire truck sounding its siren and letting the kids in to the wagon to have a good look around at it – glorious! – there were even free tickets to yesterday’s Town Match that a good few people made good use of (result notwithstanding…).

So we cleaned the street, repaired homes, removed rubbish, connected with people about benefits and welfare advice, people were listened to and we all had fun together – it was something magical! Our Six Feet of Your Street day of action offered a real vision of what is possible for people living in the street and not accepting things as they are. When things are left in a mess, the mess increases and unloved streets bring nothing but trouble. Yesterday we worked with our neighbours and friends and showed how there is real hope out there to tackle the bigger challenges if we all stand together.

It was a really wonderful day. My takeaway from it was the children playing happily, and families out of their houses together, with not an ounce of fear and trepidation regarding cars and crime.
I’ve spent a lot of time in East Marsh the last few years and I never knew how many children were behind the doors on just that one street. Every child said thank you, and one even said they wanted to be like the people who came and cleaned the street when they grow up. It was a truly emotional and humbling day. Thanks to you and your teams.

Claire Thompson, Strategic Lead Insights, NELC

Thank you to our friends

Our deepest thanks to our generous and trusted friends: North East Lincs Council, NSPCC Together for Childhood (Amy, Becky, Bernie, Gemma, Kathryn, Lisa and Nicola), Jonathan Corbett from NSPCC, Equaans, Reverend Kay Jones and the gang from St John and St Stephens, Sophie and the Simply Refreshed gang, the Bun Shop, Thomas Turgoose, Gaz LeShone and his wonderful ExpertSpray gang, Andy Haith, Tom Plumb, Radio Humberside, Grimsby Live, GI News, ITV News, Chris Frear, WEA, Dr Jay Emery, The Fire Service, Grimsby Town Foundation, SL Medical, Pete Dalton from Seafood Village, Deep from Wellington Stores, Smelloway, Our Future’s very own Killian, our glorious community photographer Kelly McLaughlin, our East Marsh Peace Choir, our Stewards and volunteers and all of our neighbours and new friends from Rutland Street – let’s do this again!

All Photos: Kelly McLaughlin, Through Your Eyes Photography: