If you’ve wandered down Kentish Town Road this week you will have likely noticed a colourful new addition to the otherwise dreary chewing-gum-dotted pavements. A rainbow of doodles, splashes and even hopscotch have splashed some much-needed fun upon the high street.
Tactical Urbanistas are an all-female collective, made up of professionals in urban planning and design, that have been painting streets all over London since April last year. The Kentish Town rejuvenation was a collaboration with Camden Council to brighten our streets in celebration of Monday’s reopening of local businesses.
A spokesperson from the group say they want to encourage local councils “to help empower residents to address issues in their neighbourhoods,” in a recent conversation with East London Lines. The collective recognises that residents tend to know what needs improving in their local area and that councils often don’t have the resources to deal with these problems alone. The group hopes their work can help facilitate these changes by designing colourful blueprints for potential solutions.
This work has been particularly crucial during lockdowns with many urban high streets struggling to make room for people to effectively socially distance, especially outside shops and near crossings. Tactical Urbanistas say that, “the pandemic has highlighted the lack of space for people in the design of our cities” but thanks to their vibrant street art pedestrians across London have been able to reclaim some desperately needed space in a way that is both practical and fun. In some places the group have also built plant pots out of donated tyres and pieces of wood to clearly separate pedestrian-friendly areas from the road.
Not only has it been difficult to maintain a distance whilst on busy streets, the group are also keen to acknowledge that many residents don’t have access to local green spaces and that lockdown has exacerbated this disparity. “Wealthy people are more likely to have access to a garden, whilst poorer areas, particularly in BAME communities, generally have limited access to green space.” As well as aiding social distancing efforts, the group’s cheerful interventions invite the public to play in and interact with their surroundings in ways that they might not have previously considered. So next time you drag yourself to your local shop, why not hopscotch part of the way?