From ‘the people’ to ‘the citizen’: Municipal leisure in Manchester’s urban parks

O'Reilly, C ORCID: 2010, From ‘the people’ to ‘the citizen’: Municipal leisure in Manchester’s urban parks , in: City and Society in European History: Conference of the European Association for Urban History, September 1 - 4 2010, Ghent, Belgium. (Submitted)

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This paper examines the evolution of the municipal public park in Manchester from the Victorian people’s park to the Edwardian (and later) citizen’s park. The linguistic shift from the people to the citizen is mirrored in the change of emphasis from recreation (directed, purposeful, top-down, paternalistic) to leisure (less directed, more individual, utilitarian) in the early decades of the twentieth century. Manchester’s first municipal parks were opened in 1846 but it was the acquisition of the 650 acre Heaton Park in 1901 that initiated the gradual move away from the Victorian park and the reorientation of leisure towards a more socially independent model. The paper examines the key facets of this transition: the impact of the provision of diverse sporting amenities, the development of leisure and non-leisure uses of municipal parks (a new reservoir was built at Heaton Park, for example) and the park as a contested space where different visions of the civic order were enacted. The role of various local commentators, newspaper reports and influential philanthropists and businessmen will also be examined to determine their relationship to the significant decision-makers on parks and leisure within Manchester City Council. From these often-conflicting views, a new definition of the municipal public park emerged. The Edwardian park did not seek to unify all social classes but often unwittingly reinforced the differences of class and gender. Its spatial and temporal zoning and emphasis on paid-for sporting amenities prompted a new kind of leisure based on ideas about self-help and social responsibility, corner stones of citizenship in the early twentieth century. The concepts of physical fitness and citizenship were closely interlinked in ideas about health, national efficiency and the future of the British Empire. Newer social movements such as scouting also emphasised these elements, drawing leisure into new debates about education, child rearing and the common good. This paper will argue that the Edwardian park provides the ideal opportunity to study the emergence of a new definition of leisure and a world where leisure was a right and not a privilege.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Themes: Subjects / Themes > D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Subjects / Themes > G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
Subjects / Themes > H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Memory, Text and Place
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Urban History
Publisher: Cambridge
Refereed: No
Depositing User: Dr Carole O'Reilly
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2010 13:46
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 10:33

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