Voluntary Action and the History of Leisure

 Bob Snape, VAHS Seminar, 22 October 2012
The new leisure, voluntarism and well-being in interwar Britain

Like many concepts and terms associated with the history of voluntary action, the term ‘volunteering’ is contested and can be interpreted in a number of different ways.   Mention the word ‘volunteer’ to one person and they may think of someone giving time on a regular and fairly formal basis to a well-established charity providing health or social care services, for example.  To someone else, their image of a volunteer might be the parent that helps out with the local kids football team or the person leading the local amateur dramatics group.  In fact, the more one thinks about it, the more one realises that there are innumerable types of volunteering activity – many of which relate to leisure and social activities.

As Colin Rochester and Meta Zimmeck pointed out in a previous VAHS blog post, the history of voluntary action relating to leisure is a relatively under-researched area.  They’ve been calling for more research to understand the history of voluntary action relating to areas such as culture and the arts, education and self improvement, physical activity and sport, sociability and recreation. Too often our  focus is fixed on charity and poor relief.

In an attempt to address this imbalance, Colin and Meta are organising a VAHS day seminar on the subject on 4th May 2013 at the Institute of Historical Research in London.  The aims of the events are to identify key issues and sub-fields and plan a strategy for further research. One of the speakers will be Bob Snape of the University of Bolton, who recently gave a VAHS Seminar on interwar leisure in Britain (which you can listen to above). More information about the event, including how to book a place can be found here.

Do you volunteer your time in a group or organisation focused on ‘leisure’ activities?  Or are you a researcher looking at these forms of voluntary action?  What do you think are the main issues that those interested in voluntary action and the history of leisure should be considering?

Adult education class in Cambridgeshire, with thanks to the Institute of Education Archives

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