By Kimberley Cleland
Neighbourhood gatherings have been going on for 13 years in Kathleen’s street and they now share skills, resources and stories. To have their property interact with the street more, Kathleen and Ralph built a street seat.
A friend of mines’ young son had a developmental delay which meant that she was in need of some respite care. The District Health Board (DHB) had provided funding for a few hours of care a week. I was keen to help out but not to accept the money. My friend insisted – and so we compromised – I accepted the money and we agreed that it would be put towards a community project.
The next step from neighbourhood gatherings
Neighbourhood gatherings have been going on for 13 years in Kathleen’s street and they now share skills, resources and stories of the history of the homes in the area. This year for Neighbours Day Aotearoa she invited her neighbours to join them for afternoon tea in the backyard where she says“neighbours found it was a great opportunity to catch up and hear about what has been happening in the neighbourhood”. But she wanted to go one step further and make the street more fun and interactive.
For a number of years my partner Ralph and I had been thinking about how we, within our property, interact with the street. Our house was beautifully designed for the site but essentially put its backside to our neighbours and community. “We had a busy, lively street and we weren’t a part of it”.
We needed a place to be on the street. A place for the children to set up shops. A presence on the street for our family and for others to meet. And the so with this mind, and some cash from the DHB, the Street Seat was born.
The street seat was born
Kathleen’s husband Ralph designed and made a simple bench and concreted it into place right by the footpath. It cost about $150 in materials for macrocarpa sleepers, coach bolts and cement. A diagram of the simple design is shown below:
And what did the neighbours and passers-by think?
“Is this a bus stop?”
“Why do you have a seat on the street and not in your garden?”
“Did the Council put this here?”
“Can we sit here?”
Once everyone was reassured that the seat was for the community they embraced it wholeheartedly. Now young children wait on it while their parents talk to friends, elderly people sit on it after the climb up the hill, children sell stuff from it and in the evening young couples canoodle on it under the romantic glow of the street light.
An ode to the street seat
And here’s our favourite. A week after the installation of the seat we found this poem in our letterbox.
“For those who come to rest their feet, we thank Ralph and Kathleen for their street seat.”