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O'Reilly, C
Languages: English
Types: Unknown
Subjects: DA, GV, HN, mem_text_and_place, other
This paper argues that municipal public parks in Manchester provided the citizens with the space not solely for recreation and sporting facilities but for a whole range of often transgressive behaviours. Despite the efforts of the civic authorities, parks had always attracted convention-breaching activities such as drinking and gambling. However, the failures of attempts to impose middle class norms on parks users during the Victorian era (‘rational recreation’) led to Edwardian parks becoming more intensely contested spaces in which different users struggled for supremacy. This paper is especially mindful of Mumford’s dictum that ‘mind ‘takes form’ in the city and, in turn, urban forms condition the mind’. Parks as an urban form sought to condition the minds not only of their creators but their users.\ud The paper examines the actions of Manchester City Council and its Parks and Cemeteries committee (often in conflict with each other over matters of park policy) in attempting to enforce their vision of the role of the park in the modern city. This will be set against the actions of both individual and group users of the parks who sought to pursue their own agendas. Examples to be discussed include the uses of urban parks for political meetings by groups such as suffragettes and members of the co-operative movement, attempts by the Parks and Cemeteries committee to regulate park user behaviour and user resistance to this and acceptance of and challenges to the provision of paid-for sporting amenities in the parks.\ud These struggles were the crucible in which various definitions of the urban public park emerged – the park as recreational space, the park as a symbol of civic pride and authority and the park as theatre in which various social and political movements asserted their dominance. It was in this era, not the Victorian, that the full flowering of the municipal public park took place.\ud The role of other tangential commentators will also be studied – for instance, local newspaper reports, the influence of prominent businessmen, vested interests on Manchester City Council and the former parkland owners – all of whom tried to exert both overt and covert control over the directions taken in the development of open space in the city.\ud The tensions and contraventions of these actors reveal municipal public parks to be truly theatres of transgression in which various alternatives to the prevailing social order were explored and debated. Such parks thus became political playgrounds of competing and contrasting ideologies about citizenship, social responsibility and self-help – all hallmarks of the Edwardian period and of the modern city.
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