Updated: Aug 6, 2022
No Ball Games signs, so ubiquitous, you can even find them at Eden Park Avenue, home of semi-professional footballing outfit Beckenham Town F.C.
The good news is that many councils now refuse to install them, and some such as Aberdeen -- inspired by Denis Law Legacy Trust -- and Haringey have even taken steps to remove them. Unfortunately, we're now at a stage where even if we take down these signs, the prevaling culture is that ball games -- and more broadly sport & play -- is unacceptable on our doorstep.
That means removal if these signs isn't enough. We need positive invitations to play in our public spaces. Like these signs and vending machines placed by UK Wallball, at Marlborough Sports Garden, and Surrey Quays Shopping Centre.
What does 'No Ball Games' even mean? No table tennis? No marbles? Some might find that facetious, but I'd guess anyone posting one of these signs would have golf as pretty high up the list on sports they'd consider inappropriate for the street.
But visit the Casino supermarket in the centre of Deuil La Barre, just north of Paris, France, and you can borrow a bag of 3 clubs, -- a putter, a wedge, a 7-iron -- and buy a few balls for 2€ -a-piece before taking to the street to play a course where the 'holes' are specially maked street furniture.
Hot on the tail of this world first is a new course in Saint-Brieuc. There the course was funded after it suceeded in a public vote.
From the residents of this town on the Brittany coast, the call of 'Yes Ball Games' was followed by 'fore'.
Finally, in the rare examples where that might not be possible, how might postive wayfinding and signage be used to support not prohibit activity? Like the 'Ball Games This Way' signs that I supported Street Space to test out with locals in pointing people toward Valence Park in Dagenham.
I'm hoping to visit Deuil La Barre as part of my fellowship. if you've been inspired by how others have adapted their sport for an urban environment or have great examples of invitations to play, please share them in the comments.
For more on invitations to play, check out these blogs on
the use of temporary art installations,