Last Sunday was a dream come true for the Open Streets team. We would like to say a huge thank you to the people of Mitchells Plain for welcoming us into this part of our city. Not only did we have one of the largest turn outs yet, including the Mayor of Cape Town; the local communities truly came onto the street and took ownership of Merrydale Avenue for 5 hours on Sunday, 3rd April, 2016. Adding a distinct flavor to the day, the first ever Open Streets Mitchells Plain was kicked off with the sounds of the talented Mitchells Plain Crusaders Christmas Band as they marched down the street.
The engagement process (which began in 2015) showed us that, if given the opportunity, people want to invest in making their neighborhoods better. From our key partners, such as Mitchells Plain Alive, to all the schools that spread the news internally and the different sports groups that came on the day, we were overwhelmed by the support and interest amongst residents of Mitchells Plain.
On the day there was something to do for everyone. There was music and games, sports and overall a fantastic opportunity to watch the street come to life. The feedback was extremely positive with people commending the highly interactive nature of the activities.
Starting from the Westpoort Drive end of Merrydale Avenue, local artists entertained crowds at an open mic hub; a striking mural took shape by Mitchells Plain artist, Prefix66; Young Dreamers Academy and NEAD Community Development dance groups showcased their talent; MITS (Making an Impact Through Sport) coaches ran a games hub; and street cricket and soccer organised by the JP21 project and KFM kept kids busy. The team from KFM, broadcasting live, brought huge amounts of energy and vibe, joining in a Zumba session by local instructor, Bevil Lakay. And that was only one third of the route.
By the time you got halfway down Merrydale Ave, if you managed to not get sucked into a game of chess hosted by Mitchells Plain Chess Club, you would find 3 Bears Educare from round the corner inviting kids and adults to join their play hub; The Book Station and Read to Rise offering a quiet moment to turn pages; the WoW! Health Hub demonstrating their passion for basic wellness; the Come & Play Unit offering giant games; and a group of artists stunning spectators with a live graffiti display.
Moving on, IROK the Streets (Open Streets regulars) ran a dance cypher where you could be lucky enough to see some of Cape Town's most talented dancers; two more open mic hubs offered a chance to local artists to perform; resident, Leacretia Petersen, introduced passersby to South African Sign Language; and a local business (Mitchells Plain Online Store) kept us all hydrated with their free water station.
Bigger than ever before, the usual Bike Hub was brought to life by our key partners, PPA, Velokhaya and the Bicycling Empowerment Network, offering kids the chance to ride a bicycle for free and take a thrilling turn on a pump track.
Finally, just in case you weren't completely exhausted by this stage, the Oxford Street end of the route was owned by Terreiro Capoeira and Flames Basketball Club.
In amongst all this there were groups of skaters (Mitchells Plain Speed Skating Club), local bmx'ers and kids with chalk bringing the street to life; as well as a few food stalls selling samosas, akni, koesisters and other local flavours. All of these different activities were voluntarily contributed by people who believe in the power of coming together for fun and games.
Open Streets is a platform for communities to interact and jointly re-imagine the future of their public space. Mitchells Plain was a great example of what's possible despite the perception of fear and the reluctance to engage.
This brings us to the end of our pilot series of Open Streets Days with the City of Cape Town and we can confidently say that the test worked and that we have proven there is an appetite for more Open Streets around the city. Join us in spreading the magic by helping us engage with your local representatives and private sponsors who might be interested to come on board.
All photos in this article by Ference Isaacs