Understanding the past through leisure activities

Posted on Wednesday 12th April 2017

"Men’s, Women’s and Children’s Leisure in 20th century Britain" was the topic of discussion at the Recording Leisure Lives Conference, which took place at the University on Tuesday (11 April 2017).

Now in its ninth year, this highly regarded event promotes discussion and debate on the history of everyday leisure.

The conference is organised by Dr Bob Snape and the Centre for Worktown Studies at the University of Bolton.

Sessions included a diverse range of topics from “Everyday Leisure and Happiness in Bolton in 1938 and 2014” to “Citizens and Cricketers: Women’s Cricket and the Reshaping of Citizenship n Interwar England.”

‘Leisure is a major part of everyday life,’ said Dr Bob Snape.

‘We want to understand how people lived in the past; what they did in their leisure time, the ways in which they associated with one another through leisure activities, the hobbies that they undertook and the holidays that they organised.

‘Leisure gives an insight into many different areas of society, such as gender equality, the effects of class distinction, the impact of age and how people found different interests as they get older.

‘You only have to think about our own leisure lives and how important they are to us. Leisure was just as important to people 70/80 years ago as it is to us today.’


The conference was opened by Assistant Vice Chancellor (Quality) Professor Patrick McGhee.

‘At a time when community, play, individuality and leisure are all contested spaces, it is particularly important that we look at these historical contexts,’ he said

‘It’s not just a chance to understand the past, as intrinsically important as that is, but to understand the present and the possible futures.’

Professor Melanie Tebbutt of Manchester Metropolitan University delivered a keynote paper on “Crying for Flicka: Boys, Films and Feelings in the 1930s and 1940s”.

Said Professor Tebbutt:  ‘I think that Dr Bob Snape and his team have done exceptionally well to carry Recording Leisure Lives forward for nine years, each year it seems to go from strength to strength.

‘I think there are lots of parallels between leisure lives then as there today, such as adults’ fears about young people’s use of social media and leisure technologies.

‘If you look back, some of those fears are not that dissimilar to how people were worrying about the impact of the cinema and panicking around the effects it was having on young people.

‘I think there are lessons in the past, it’s not the same as the present but it’s important to know where we have come from and to understand how leisure changes over time as well.’