Supervisors: Krystallia Kamvasinou, Ilaria Pappalepore, Andrew Smith
Reimagining Leisure: Small-scale events and everyday multiculture in public parks
Cities are social products of the shared and conflicting claims of the multifaceted groups, institutions and organisations they host. Their public spaces hold a premise of equal rights to the city and its making. However, profit-driven transformations of contemporary urban public spaces that enable consumerism and control have been a predominant factor in disassociating public space from its connotations of democracy, equality and inclusivity (Madden, 2010).
When the UK put in place lockdown-measures in March 2020, public interactions which knit together city dwellers underwent temporary but drastic restrictions. Despite the limitations on the modes of civil activities, social distancing precautions also imposed interruptions on the consumerist occupations of public spaces. In the course of the gradual easing of safety measures and disruptions of private events, small-scale gatherings in public green spaces gained prominence. Now, the study of informal sociabilities and active co-existence in public parks holds a greater potential to reimagine public spaces, and their premise of equality that spans across difference.
Distinct to public parks are their associations with leisure, which renders them not merely as essential realms of public use, but also as spaces of preference (Neal et al., 2015). This highlights the materiality of these spaces, personal experiences and histories of their users, structural inequalities they reflect and reproduce, and the ways in which they cultivate social norms. Yet to be further examined is how these quotidian acts of elective place-making can be extended in the post-lockdown realities of cities. Accordingly, this thesis aims to explore the community gatherings prevailing and emerging in Finsbury Park, the alterations in sociabilities, and their spatial reconfigurations. Without aiming to bypass the constitutional arrangements of inequality, it undertakes a study of small-scale events, and the in situ experience of diversity in the park, using the lens of conviviality (Gilroy, 2004). By documenting under-investigated informal sociabilities in Finsbury Park, the project intends to prompt further interest in new practices and policies which encourage inclusive, collective actions.