Date: 10-11 May 2023
Location: School of Law, University of Leeds
Across the UK, 27,000 parks give much-needed green space and access to nature for urban areas. They give us spaces for exercise, for play, for socialising and for relaxing – as well as walking and cycling routes away from cars and busy roads. And they have huge untapped potential – for health, wellbeing and connecting communities. Whilst parks and public spaces are open to all there is still a long way to go to make sure they are used and experienced as safe places by everyone.
This national conference, organised by the University of Leeds and partners, brings together researchers, parks and built environment practitioners, women’s organisations, police and wider stakeholders to share diverse perspectives and consider lessons from research and practice to improve women and girls’ safety in the UK’s parks.
This conference comes at a critical moment in the development of national and local responses by police and local authorities to women and girls’ safety in public spaces. Following high-profile violent crimes against women and regulatory failings in streets, parks and other public spaces, alongside evidence of the prevalence of public sexual harassment, creating safer spaces has become a strategic policing priority.
A recent UK-wide survey by the Office for National Statistics puts a spotlight on the extent to which women feel unsafe in public. It found that women feel considerably more unsafe than men across all types of public settings, especially after dark. This is not a new development but a consistent finding from research across time, and is particularly stark in the UK. Disparities in perceptions of safety are greater in parks and open spaces than in residential streets, busy public spaces such as high streets or train stations and on public transport, where 4 out of 5 women (82%) in the UK report feeling very or fairly unsafe after dark in a park or open space, compared with 2 out of 5 men (42%). While there are no comparable national statistics for teenage girls and boys, Girlguiding found that over half (53%) of girls aged 11-21 years do not feel safe outside alone. If parks feel unsafe or unwelcoming, women and girls are less likely to spend time in them, limiting opportunities to socialise, improve well-being or fitness and take greener journeys.
Against this backdrop, the conference draws together research on women and girls’ safety in parks. These will be complemented by practical examples of work by women’s organisations, local authorities, police and Friends of parks groups to improve women and girls’ safety and inclusion in parks. The conference aims to foster discussion between research and practice and learn from different perspectives, organisations and places to challenge assumptions, share new ideas and consider future directions.
The conference serves to launch new, research-informed national guidance on designing and managing parks to make them safer and more welcoming for women and girls, developed in partnership by the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Make Space for Girls, Keep Britain Tidy and the University of Leeds. This follows research into how women and girls feel about safety in parks and park play spaces. The guidance is aimed at various audiences, including parks managers, landscape architects/design professionals, developers, Friends groups and council officers.
This conference will be of interest to researchers, parks managers, local authorities, police, landscape architects and other design professionals, women’s organisations, and wider stakeholders. You are warmly invited to join us.
Conference aims (Day 1):
* To bring together researchers, parks and built environment practitioners, women’s organisations, police and wider stakeholders working to improve the safety and inclusion of women and girls in public spaces.
* To share lessons from research and practical examples of work on women and girls’ safety in parks.
* To learn from leading women and girls’ organisations in the UK on the problems and solutions relating to women and girls' safety in parks and other public spaces.
* To launch new national guidance for creating safer parks for women and girls.
To register for the 10 May (Day 1), please complete the Eventbrite invitation here.
Conference aims (Day 2):
* To share lessons and reflections from different perspectives, approaches, methodologies and countries for researching women and girls’ safety in public spaces.
* To identify research and evidence gaps and discuss future directions for UK-based and comparative research on women and girls’ safety in parks.
* To develop new ideas and foster partnerships for potential future research funding bids, across academic and non-academic partners, disciplines and countries.
To register for the 11 May (Day 2), please complete the Eventbrite invitation here.
Conference programme: Safer Parks programme
Registration: Attendance is free but it is necessary to register in advance due to limited space. The conference is in person only.
As this is a free event which has stimulated a high level of interest, we ask that you only book a place if you can definitely attend the conference, and ask that you kindly notify us well in advance if for any reason you are unable to attend, so that we can offer your place to another delegate.
Further information: Enquiries about the about the conference should be directed to Dr Anna Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conference organisation: This conference is organised by the University of Leeds in collaboration with the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Make Space for Girls, Keep Britain Tidy, West Yorkshire Police, Leeds Women’s Aid, and the ESRC Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre.