Giant game on the streets of Sheffield 'a great way to reorientate ourselves with the city and explore new areas.”
Get ready, Sheffield, for thousands of people running about looking for lampposts.
“There’s one!” they’ll say, before apparently making a contactless payment to the obliging street furniture and crying: “Where’s next?”Alasdair Menmuir, runner, cyclist, canoeist and Senior Engagement Coordinator for Beat the Street Sheffield, can explain.“It’s a giant game that’s a free, fun accessible event to get people active and moving,” he says.
Beat the Street is part of the city’s Move More initiative, with the Sheffield version mostly funded by Sport England and the National Lottery.All Sheffield primary age pupils are receiving a Beat the Street fob this week, while older kids and adults can pick up a card at 25 libraries and other public buildings. Once equipped (and registered at https://www.beatthestreet.me/sheffield/) you wave your fob or card at the nearest ‘Beat Box’ then follow the map to find at least one more of the city’s 450 or more Beat Boxes within an hour.
Points, prizes and accolades from fellow lamppost seekers will follow over the six week game period (from 16th June to 21st July).Individuals and households are encouraged to keep their distance from each other if they happen to arrive at Beat Boxes at the same time, but Alasdair hopes that whole families can get out to Beat the Street together, with toddlers in pushchairs and great grandparents in wheelchairs tagging their points at local railings, signs and lamposts.
After taking place in over 100 cities across the world thus far, “Sheffield is the biggest event that Beat the Street has ever run,” says Alasdair, adding that it comes at the right time with the nation facing both physical and mental health crises as we return from a year of lockdowns.
His colleague Natalie Grinvalds says people are excited about taking part. “They often say, ‘Ooh it sounds like Pokemon Go.’” Not quite, she adds, since the idea is actually to explore their home city rather than capture virtual pocket monsters.After growing up in Ohio, Natalie says the network of paths and trails of the Outdoor City was a revelation for someone used to travelling everywhere by car. “I don’t have one here, I don’t drive because I can take public transport and walk.”
Although there is criticism of Sheffield’s cycling infrastructure at least there is some, she says, and unlike in rural Ohio, “it’s possible to walk from A to B here wherever you live.”All of which makes Sheffield a great city to explore via a game like Beat the Street, she says.Getting to places on foot or by bike all helps to make people healthier, Natalie says. “People don’t think of that as healthcare, but it has a huge impact.”Dr Anna Lowe from Move More and Sheffield Hallam University agrees: “Sheffield, as a city, has so much to gain from becoming more active,” she said at the Beat the Street launch at the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, adding that as we come out of a difficult time: “Beat the Street is a great way to reorientate ourselves with the city and to explore new areas.”
Beat Boxes are all over the city, from Stocksbridge and Totley to Beighton and Batemoor, and will encourage players to visit parks, green spaces and active travel routes along waterways.
The game has weekly themes, including travelling to places on foot and by bike, exploring the natural world and linking in with local events like Love to Ride and Bike Month in June and the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival and the Bears of Sheffield in July.
The ultimate aim is to get 10 per cent of the city Beating the Street this summer, says Alasdair, who adds that games in other cities have seen 70 per cent of previously inactive players still active six months later. In Sheffield he and Natalie are working with community groups to offer follow on initiatives like ‘Couch to 5K’ running courses and ‘Learn to Ride’ cycling events.
Alasdair hopes the game will attract Sheffield’s running and cycling groups as well. “Maybe someone will try and run or ride to all 450 Beat Boxes,” he says. The challenge is set, Outdoor City. Look out for those lampposts.