winter wonderlands: public outdoor ice rinks, entrepreneurial display and festive socialities in uk...
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Winter wonderlands: public outdoorice rinks, entrepreneurial display andfestive socialities in UK citiesDavid Bell aa School of Geography , University of Leeds , Leeds, UKPublished online: 21 Jan 2009.
To cite this article: David Bell (2009) Winter wonderlands: public outdoor ice rinks,entrepreneurial display and festive socialities in UK cities, Leisure Studies, 28:1, 3-18, DOI:10.1080/02614360802260952
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02614360802260952
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Leisure StudiesVol. 28, No. 1, January 2009, 318
ISSN 0261-4367 print/ISSN 1466-4496 online 2009 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/02614360802260952http://www.informaworld.com
Winter wonderlands: public outdoor ice rinks, entrepreneurial display and festive socialities in UK cities
School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, UKTaylor and Francis LtdRLST_A_326262.sgm(Received November 2007; final version received June 2008)10.1080/02614360802260952Leisure Studies0261-4367 (print)/1466-4496 (online)Original Article2008Taylor & Francis0000000002008Dr DavidBelld.firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper provides a critical discussion of the uses and meanings of temporaryoutdoor ice rinks, which have become increasingly popular in UK cities over thelast decade. The installation of ice rinks in cities in winter time is framed in anumber of contexts, including entrepreneurial governance and civic boosterism,the uses of culture by the local state, invented winter and Christmas traditions, theeffects of cold winter weather on sociality and other forms of embodied playargued to be reshaping urban socialities. Conceiving ice rinks as a form ofentrepreneurial display, the paper also draws on theories of expressiveembodiment to explore how rinks also encourage particular ways of performingand interacting that contest current critiques of the effects of entrepreneurial urbangovernance.
Keywords: ice skating; play; urban governance; cultural policy; embodiment
Introduction: cities on ice
Too-tight boots, break-neck speed and the inevitable sprawling slide across the ice in wetjeans. Its the open-air ice-skating season: the time of year when councils across thecountry try their best to transform gritty inner cities into a rosy-cheeked winter wonder-land. (Ewing, 2007)
In this paper, I examine temporary outdoor ice rinks, which have become increasinglypopular in UK cities over the last decade. I situate the installation of ice rinks in citiesin winter time in a number of contexts, including discussions of entrepreneurialgovernance and civic boosterism, related issues of the uses of culture by the localstate, ideas about invented winter tradition and some previous research on the effectsof cold winter weather on sociality and on plays role in reshaping urban social rela-tions. I explore not only how ice rinks might be seen as a form of entrepreneurialdisplay the use of spectacles in the service of promotional urban governance butalso how they can be seen to encourage particular ways of acting and interacting,which I will refer to as festive socialities. These, I argue, contest the assumptionsbehind critical commentaries of contemporary urban governance. The paper draws ondiscussions of expressive embodiment in dance and in play to develop this argument(Radley, 1995; Sheehan, 2006; Stevens, 2007; Thrift, 1997). My analysis thus offersa critique of the literature on culture-led regeneration by focusing on how people
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make use of the spaces created in the entrepreneurial city, through a discussion of onesuch space, the temporary outdoor ice rink. I proceed to assess the urban outdoor icerink as illustrative of what Latham (2003) refers to as the contemporary enthusiasmfor the city (p. 1699) an enthusiasm that exceeds or eludes the authorised practicesof entrepreneurial governance. To achieve these aims, I draw on observations of icerinks in selected UK cities in the 200506, 200607 and 200708 winter seasons, aswell as selected media coverage of the phenomenon.1 While cities in different parts ofthe world host ice skating in various forms (Ewing, 2007), my paper is limited ingeographical scope to the UK, since growth in rink provision has been particularlypronounced there (Mourby, 2005).
The paper begins by outlining some of the main issues surrounding entrepreneurialgovernance, culture-led regeneration and civic boosterism. It then considers the wintertime, and in particular the Christmas season, pointing to some of the ways in whichfestive activities and attractions have been packaged under the conditions of entrepre-neurial governance. I then discuss the current popularity of ice rinks in UK towns andcities, identifying some of the ways in which these are framed by those who pay for,manage or support their use as part of culture-led regeneration. I connect ice rinks toother forms of entrepreneurial display and highlight the distinctive features of thisform of event. This is achieved in part by drawing on work on how people interact inpublic spaces in winter time, discussion of the festivities of Christmas and New Yearand research that explores how play is productive of particular ways of acting andinteracting. I centre the discussion around debates on the uses and meanings of publicspace in the context of entrepreneurial urban governance, and here I will focus onLeeds, a large, formerly industrial city in Yorkshire, in the north of England. Myoverall aim is to use temporary public ice rinks as a way to think through some largerquestions and debates, about cities and their management, about public space, aboutways of performing, relating and interacting in those cities and spaces. The paperdraws on opportunistic observational data, which are presented as a series of snap-shots or vignettes illustrative of the broader argument being put forward.
The entrepreneurial city and cultural policy
There has been sustained academic discussion about the changing ways in which citiesin countries such as the UK have been run and managed, and these changes are oftenshort-handed by talking of entrepreneurial urban governance or new urban manage-rialism (Hall & Hubbard, 1998). In the light of global (and national) economicrestructuring and changing political priorities since the 1970s, the articulation ofcentral government to the local state is argued to have changed, as cities (and, ofcourse, suburban and rural places too) have been turned from a welfarist relationshiptowards an entrepreneurial relationship with central government. The exact contoursof this are beyond the remit of this paper, and are well covered in the literature (see,for example, Harvey, 1989; Hughes, 1999; Ward, 2003). The main issue that needs tobe borne in mind here is that the shift towards entrepreneurial governance asks thelocal state to act in a business-like manner, to be enterprising and to no longer be in astraightforwardly dependent relationship with central government, especially in termsof funding. Cities are now in competition with each other for sources of revenue. Thisturn is parallel with, and intimately related to, the decline of the industrial base, andthe move towards a post-industrial economy. Cities now have to find new tradableassets to raise money, to attract footloose post-industrial capital, to maintain or
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improve their position on the urban hierarchy and to regenerate after the loss of indus-try. This had meant, among other things, a