Street parties come in all shapes and sizes, from Diamond Jubilee celebrations complete with Pimm’s, bunting and teacakes to free-roaming bulls and makeshift outdoor bars. Free, open to all and self-organised, they are a great example of the power of the collective. They’re also often unpredictable, because so many unknown factors come into play to shape the experience, not least of all the weather. But as spontaneous and improvised as they might seem, the key to their success is careful planning and production.
In Toronto, the Dundas West neighbourhood is currently planning a 1-day street festival on 8th June, with “arts, music, kids’ activities, food, drink and shopping” on the menu. Dundas Street West, a busy artery, will be closed to cars and public transport between 11am and 10pm over 1.6km, between Landsdowne and Ossington.
The Festival team is offering a glimpse into the planning of such a big street party with a free Jane’s Walk titled Anatomy of a Street Festival: the Birth of Dundas West Festival on 4th May from 3.30 to 5pm. The Jane’s Walk format – walking conversations that link places and people, past and future, causes and consequences – is ideal for a production walk-through.
In the meantime, I found some great Street Party Planning online resources that the City of Toronto Special Events Unit put together for the benefit of community organisers. They cover municipal regulations and formalities, such as street closures, permits and licences, and they also offer a comprehensive community-led street events resource guide, with planning and safety tips, advice on liability, waste management and municipal by-laws, guidelines on dealing with vendors and performers and useful contacts for each step of the process.
In the UK, Streets Alive is non-for-profit organisation specialised in street parties that provides advice and support to residents, community workers and councils and campaigns at national level towards building stronger and more resilient communities. They also run the Street Party website, full of practical advice, resources and case studies. They’re based in Bristol and claim to have transformed the city into the Street Party World Capital, with over 210 car-free, self-organised and self-funded celebrations per year.
For inspiration, check out this readers’ tips list of the world best street festivals published by the Telegraph a few years ago. Top pick: the Narrensprung masked parades in south-west Germany, where locals dress up as legendary characters and dance and chant for several hours through the town.