Make Space for Girls – Older Girls and Rowntree Park

‘Make Space for Girls’ in Rowntree Park

Events and activities for older girls in Rowntree Park to empower them to be themselves and help them feel welcome in the public space.

Through June 2023 we hosted a free programme of events and activities in Rowntree Park, and we were then offered Ward funding to extend the programme through the summer holidays!

Make Space for Girls in Rowntree Park – June programme of events

In June 2023, in Rowntree Park in York, we hosted a whole month’s programme of free events and activities aimed at older girls. Sessions included sports and fitness classes, art and craft workshops, music and dance performances, health and wellbeing, nature crafts and conservation, photography and awareness sessions.  There were over 30 events, and around 250 girls aged 8-18 who attended events through the month. A focus on reclaiming the public space, try new things, meet like-minded individuals – and most of all, have fun!

The month’s programme is linked to our ongoing work with regard to making the park more welcoming to older girls, led by Abigail Gaines. The Friends project started in 2021 and the work is ongoing and evolving! Read more below or click here.

The June 2023 programme of events

Check out our blog on the June programme of events here – and see the video!

Buy a bag and support our work

We have some limited edition tote bags on sale – a charity fund raiser for the project, plus they look extra awesome. Find out more and buy your bag here.

Why do we need to ‘make space’ for older girls in Rowntree Park? (Summary)

The Friends of Rowntree Park have been running the ‘Make Space for Us’ project since October 2021.  The focus is on looking at how to get more older girls (aged 10-18 approx) to use the park. We have carried out a range of research and are focusing on two key things at present:

How to improve the park for older girls (including getting new equipment)
More events in the park aimed at girls & women.

We are looking for funding for new equipment. If you can sponsor or donate – please do!

Abigail, our charity manager, was a presenter at a conference at Leeds University in May 2023 on ‘Safer Parks for women and girls’ which saw the launch of new guidance. Rowntree Park is featured as a case study in the guidance highlighting what we have done so far to help improve the park for older girls.

Research shows that after the age of 10 girls use public parks less and therefore this can affect physical and mental health. There are numerous reasons as to why girls use of park’s drops, however looking at how to both improve the physical space to make them more welcoming to girls,  plus having more events/activities aimed at girls that encourages back in parks should start to make a difference.  

Make Space for Girls’ is a separate charity organisation set up around 2021 to start raising awareness that parks exclude older girls, and they have influenced our work. MSFG highlighted the issue that parks design excludes girls. They collate research, connect people and want to influence councils, planners, designers and other related groups to think about older girls and make change happen. MSFG argue that public parks are designed for the default male citizen’ and the views of girls aren’t considered (equipment added for older children often becomes skateparks, MUGAs, BMX tracks and Basketball courts that can’t be seen as gender neutral when dominated by boys). The views of older girls (and boys) are rarely sought when new parks are planned and councils and designers default to what they know.   MSFG primarily focused on park design and that new parks should include views of older girls when being created.

Our own research has highlighted what our girls like and don’t like about the park, and what improvements they’d like. In addition, our research has shown that older girls like seeing events in the park and people of all ages using the park – this helps them feel they are welcome and also provides a feeling of safety.  

Events and activities for older girls

In spring 2022 we started running ‘Wild Ones’ – our weekly evening group for older girls. It’s basically a bit like an outdoor nature group where girls can come together in a relaxed atmosphere and chat and do activities. They do things such as campfire cooking, survival skills, whittling, eco crafts – and a lot of hammock swinging and laughing! The girls book for 6 week blocks so they become a close group and comfortable with one another – places have been subsidised by grant funding, currently funded by the North Yorkshire Fire Police Crime Commissioners Fund.

We intend to continue to look for funding to run events and activities for teenage girls.

Teenage girls need space and events in parks where they can feel safe, confident and empowered to be themselves.

Just a recap on why parks are important to older girls…

Parks are an important community space that promote social interaction and a sense of belonging. Events and activities for older girls in parks gives them the opportunity to connect with other girls their age and build social networks. This can help to combat feelings of isolation or loneliness and help self esteem.

Events and activities for older girls in parks helps promote gender equity and inclusion. Older girls may face unique challenges when it comes to participating in physical activity or accessing safe and inclusive spaces. By providing events and activities specifically for older girls, parks can create a supportive and empowering environment that promotes girls’ physical and mental well-being. 

Also such events and activities can help to promote the use of public space and encourage community engagement. This can have a positive impact on the local community, by creating a sense of ownership and pride in shared public spaces.

Safety of women and girls in parks

The issue of safety in parks for women and girls is a key issue. Research shows that things such as park staff, good lighting, clear areas, people of ages in the park, facilities like toilets, range of gates/open spaces (not feeling blocked in) and community events all help women and girls feel safer in parks. Therefore we continue to liaise with the council and local police on such issues to see what improvements can be made.


If you are interested in helping with our project – get involved! Contact abigail at to find out more.

Looking specifically for:
Business/corporate sponsors – helping us raise funds for equipment for older girls
Sponsors for the project.

Please note – how various groups use public spaces is an area where there isn’t much research. This project focuses on girls in general, however we would love to see more research on how other groups use parks and how various factors interact.