Conference inspired by infamous Mass Observation project to be held in Bolton

Worktown photographs taken by Humphrey Spender as part of the Mass Observation Project

Worktown photographs taken by Humphrey Spender as part of the Mass Observation Project

First published in News The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , education reporter

A MAJOR conference — inspired by the 1930s Mass Observation project — will be held in Bolton.

The 2014 Recording Leisure Lives Conference, will take place in the town which made Mass Observation history when it was identified as a “Worktown”.

Academics, curators, photographers and historians are invited to present at the conference, which is being staged by the University of Bolton with Bolton Museum.

Keynote speakers already include Dr Selina Todd, Fellow in Modern History and Vice Principal St Hilda's College, Oxford and Professor Mike Huggins, Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, University of Cumbria.

And organisers are now looking for a further presenter to join the conference, which has grown each year since it was first held in 2008.

Leisure in Worktowns in 20th Century Britain takes place on April 15. The deadline for submitting papers is Friday, February 7.

Dr Bob Snape, Reader in Leisure and Sport at the University of Bolton, said: “While popular and mass leisure practices were all-pervasive, local customs and practices and differing associational cultures were also influences on the shaping of leisure.

“This conference focuses on the history of everyday leisure in the urban environment and aims to explore the leisure cultures of working towns in inter-war Britain through investigations of the relationships between leisure and work in their widest sense.

“We welcome proposals for paper presentations of 20 minutes on any aspect of leisure, including sport, in 20th century Britain that relate to one of our themes.”

Themes include work, leisure, relationships; gender, holiday, wakes weeks and spare time, To find out more about the 2014 conference go to this website.

Mass Observation factfile

  • The creators of the Mass Observation project were anthropologist Tom Harrisson, poet Charles Madge and filmmaker Humphrey Jennings. Collaborators included the critic William Empson, the photographer Humphrey Spender, the collagist Julian Trevelyan, the later famous music medium Rosemary Brown, and the painters William Coldstream and Graham Bell.
  • Mass Observation aimed to record everyday life in Britain through around 500 untrained volunteer observers who either maintained diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires.
  • They also paid investigators to anonymously record people's conversation and behaviour at work, on the street and at various public occasions including public meetings and sporting and religious events.
  • Worktown was the Mass Observation code name for Bolton, which was a study of a working class town.
  • Humphrey Spender took hundreds of photographs between 1937 and 1940, which included politics and elections; religion; street scenes; industrial landscapes; the public house; market scenes; new buildings and developments; observers in action; sport and leisure time; work in the textile mills; on holiday in Blackpool; street hoardings and advertisements.
  • During the Second World War, Mass Observation research was occasionally influential in shaping British public policy.

Comments (2)

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9:36pm Wed 15 Jan 14

steveG says...

There does seem to be a large number of professional people with too much time on their hands.
There does seem to be a large number of professional people with too much time on their hands. steveG
  • Score: 0

10:35am Thu 16 Jan 14

I, Ludicrous says...

So can anyone turn up at this conference or do you have to fall under the umbrella of 'Academics, curators, photographers and historians'?
So can anyone turn up at this conference or do you have to fall under the umbrella of 'Academics, curators, photographers and historians'? I, Ludicrous
  • Score: 1

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