So, I’m John, I’m 32 years old and I’m a teacher at the local secondary school. I live at 45 Lynmouth Road in Norton Hammer along with my fiancé Aisha and cheeky cat Simba. We bought the house through a mortgage about two years ago to settle down and start a family. We hadn’t really spoken much to anyone on the road as we had been quite busy but since the new street project, we’ve gotten to know many of our neighbours and have actually become really good friends.
It was about a year ago when it all started. It was a Sunday morning in March and me and Aisha were making breakfast and planning a rather lazy day. As I walked into the living room I noticed a shiny flyer trapped in the letter box. It was a rather formal yet playful looking invitation with our house number written in large font across it. It also read…
“Welcome strangers of Lynmouth Road! Your street is changing! Please join us at the end of the street today’
Quite strange I thought. I opened the door and found a red carpet lining the pavement. Directly in front of my door were footsteps painted onto the carpet with a caption saying “This Way”. I popped my head out the door and saw a bright red tent at the dead end. I grabbed Aisha who was still in her cheetah patterned robe and we walked up the street to the tent. The tent front was draped with a red curtain, something like you’d find in a theatre. We walked through and found a few of our neighbours there talking to some guy who was wearing t-shirt and jeans. We later found out he was, in fact, the Architect who’s ideas this was. He said we were chosen by the council to trial out a new system of street living in Sheffield. In the centre of the tent was a large table with a bird’s eye drawing of the street. The walls were lined with whiteboards, each with a question. There were also post-it notes as well as a standing monitor with keyboard and mouse. Not long after the tent was buzzing with many of our neighbours along with their kids, the whiteboards were filled with doodles and notes of what our street was like to live on as well as what we wanted from our street. Several people were around the bird’s eye drawing and were quickly filling it up with the kids wildest fantasies. The parents also had fun doodling albeit with lot more practical ideas. By noon, Aisha and I were exhausted and decided to head back home. We left the tent with much to think about along with an A4 card with the same bird’s eye drawing as the one in the middle of the table for ourselves to have a go at doodling ideas.
A month had passed and the tent finally returned. This time a more legible coloured hand drawing was in the centre but had many of the streets fantasies albeit much more toned down. My neighbours and I made some amendments and had lots of interesting conversations on the practicalities of such a project along with nostalgic childhood stories of the streets we used to live on in the different countries we were from. We understood this would be expensive however the architect provided an interesting graphical breakdown of how we could, in fact, afford it. He said the council was to provide some sort of interest-free loan that would pay for this project and that eventually by saving on the practical solutions we offered such as solar panels and allotment gardens for fruits and veg, we would be able to pay with the money we’d save rather quickly. Many of us sent our agreements over email or phone a few weeks later after we had time to mull over our finances.
Another month came by along with the tent and this time we were provided with a graphical costing breakdown of all the components with coloured keys showing parts that we could do ourselves and others that required specialists installation. It would become relatively expensive for a few of the families so they suggested if we’d do roughly half of the scheme. We agreed as we didn’t know what the future would hold for us so were reasonably apprehensive.
Building day arrived. It was a Saturday during the early summer holidays when a van arrived with tools galore. We split into teams and started going around each neighbours house (external) and garden and began building, repairing and hacking. We painted and planted, dug and destroyed. It was crazy! Each house required about 30-45 mins of work which was light work for the 20+ of us for each house. It was like that show…err…, 60 Minute Makeover. By the end of the day, we had completed half of the houses on the street. Sunday was the same, but this time we were working on our house. We always wanted to change our door colour from that boring dirt-magnet white. We decided on a bright yellow with a golden metallic border. We also added a Boston ivy plant on a trellis that covered our house front and back
During the rest of the summer holidays and for about a year after building, the community was thriving with social interaction. We had all gotten to know each other names and knew others pretty well. I’ve tuitioned a few of the neighbours’ kids. For Halloween, we gathered with our chairs on the road in front of our houses and made a fire pit with Gareth’s (who lives at 22) incinerator. We told ghost stories and ate marshmallows. The kids loved it. It’s now about a year since we started on this project and we think we don’t want to lose what we’ve created in terms of friendships. We contacted the architect and confirmed that when there are enough willing neighbours to invest in the more expensive parts of the project, we’d like to also improve the street technically as much as we have socially.
One of the neighbours who is a real estate agent told us that all of our properties on the street have actually increased in price as opposed to the street across from us as the care we’ve put into our homes is quite visible to potential new neighbours which is great if we every want to sell although I don’t think we would.