Two people walking

BBC Two's Fighting For Air was a great example of how communities can make their neighbourhoods more liveable - and the Walk to School made a starring appearance.

Matt, our digital coordinator, loved it and thinks you will, too.

Matt our digital coordinator

Start at the beginning


Are you:

  • concerned about air pollution?
  • looking for inspiring stories about community organising?
  • a parent or carer?
  • a teacher?
  • a fan (spoiler alert!) of hope?

If you answered yes to one or more of these, and you did not watch Fighting For Air (which first aired on BBC Two on 10 January, and is available on the iPlayer at least until early February), you should.

No really. Here's a link and everything.


Hang on. What is 'Fighting For Air'?

Fighting For Air is a documentary which follows TV doctor Xand van Tullekem as he helps organise a one-day experiment in the Kings Heath district of Birmingham to see if they can reduce air pollution.

In it we see members of the local community pull awesomely together and adopt a number of tactics to reduce pollution - if only for 24 hours.

As the BBC succinctly puts it, it's about "using people power to try and bring about a quantifiable improvement in air quality for a single day."

From the outset this seemed like it was, in the parlance, relevant to Living Streets' interests.

So for once I stopped tweeting videos of cats and trolling the manager of my football team, and instead got Living Streets involved on the #FightingForAir hashtag.



Fighting For Air was like a free advert for the power of active travel - with the Walk to School leading the way forward.

The show does a pretty good job of clarifying the science and the maths of air pollution.

From the hard facts about 40,000+ deaths attributable to air pollution in the UK every year, and the harm done by diesel particulates.

To experts' ingenious ideas for ways to tackle this.

And then putting them into action.


Child stars

But things got really interesting with the appearance of pupils at a local primary school.

In a scene not remotely dissimilar to the kind of fun, energising school assemblies some of my ace colleagues deliver with their eyes closed, Dr Van Tullekem spoke to a hall full of some of Kings Heath's finest at St Dunstan's Primary School - and before you knew it he had a tonne of new recruits.

And without wanting to spoil it (seriously, just watch it), the vision of the children walking together to school was adorable.

Every bit as adorable as any of the tumbling panda bears I would otherwise have been tweeting about at 9.45pm on a Wednesday night, to be frank.

And it was all worth it when some of the stars of the show at the Kings Heath community group tweeted us to let us know they wanted to work with us.



Parent with pram and young child

The results of Fighting For Air were really emboldening.

If we were being really picky, we might have thrown in a little more about the fact that the benefits of active travel for most healthy people still outweigh the exposure to the rubbish air in our cities.

In response to the idea that getting rid of cars can be detrimental to business, we might point towards what John Lewis told us about welcoming the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street or our own research into the 'pedestrian pound'.

But to be honest, we could not have scripted this much better.

And I was punching the air at the end as the difference at the school gates were the take-away symbol (on Twitter anyway) of the success of the experiment.

Not only was this an empowering message to communities looking to make their streets more liveable.

It was a free advert for the power of active travel - with the Walk to School leading the way forward.


How you can get involved

Walk to school

Walking children


Find out about our groundbreaking schools projects.

Walk to School


Mum and child crossing the road


Responsible for getting children to school? Step this way.

How parents and carers can support the walk to school

Local groups



Inspired by the good folks in Kings Heath? Let's work together.

Local Groups


Add your thoughts on Facebook




Tweet using @livingstreets & #FightingForAir.