Report on BSA Leisure & Recreation Study Group Workshop, Friday 16th February

BSA Room, Imperial Wharf, London, 10.30am-4.30pm


By Alan Tomlinson, L&R Study Group Convenor

The group met from 10.30am-4.30pm, and after an opening discussion welcoming the reinvigoration of the Study Group and confirmation of a revised mailing list comprising 24 individuals from 18 universities/HEIs, framed too in the context of a discussion of the importance of leisure in the wider sociological agenda, three papers were presented on research relating leisure and leisure practices to aspects of the wellbeing field/debate.

Gokben Demirbas, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Glasgow (College of Social Sciences), talked on Women’s Leisure in Urban Turkey: A Comparative Neighbourhood Study. Gokben has undertaken ethnographic fieldwork in two comparative settings in an urban context in Turkey. One of these settings was her own family background, allowing her to talk fascinatingly about modes of access to subjects for qualitative data gathering. The presentation provided a context-based interrogation of women’s everyday experiences of leisure in urban Turkey, looking to contribute to a more global assessment of the significance of gender and class in shaping women’s access to and enjoyment of opportunities for sociability and relaxation. Gokben pointed in particular to the commonalities of experiences of leisure for women of different social classes, and to the significance of leisure, for many of these women, as an antidote to boredom.

Louise Mansfield, from Brunel University, talked on The Power of the Qualitative in Wellbeing Research: Reflections on Community Sport Intervention. She reflected upon the potential and power of qualitative research in understanding and building evidence on wellbeing in community sport. Established quantitative approaches inform UK wellbeing debate and policy but such numerical data cannot provide a full picture of the wellbeing benefits of taking part in community sport activities, and fail to bring the complexities of wellbeing in sport to the fore. The presentation provided examples from a range of research projects to demonstrate the power of qualitative research in building evidence on wellbeing. Louise argued for the persuasiveness of story narratives as against number narratives, and for focused qualitative study of wellbeing that takes us to an understanding beyond the formulaic measures adopted in some policy spheres.

Alan Tomlinson, University of Brighton, spoke on Visual Arts, Mental Health and Wellbeing: Findings from a Systematic Review. The talk presented selected findings from a Systematic Review conducted in the CSaW (Culture, Sport and Wellbeing) Evidence Programme, an ESRC-funded programme of systematic reviews and related work focused upon the identification of effective programmes and interventions for the enhancement of wellbeing through various forms of participation in and engagement with sport and the arts. Whilst recognizing the value of synthesized analysis in the Systematic Review model Alan  also raised methodological issues concerning the de-socialized nature of subjects in such studies, the lack of mid- to long-term longitudinal studies to evaluate effects of interventions, and the need for sociological perspectives that can inform over-generalized conceptions and accounts of wellbeing.

Workshop participants valued the time that was dedicated to group discussion, and Louise Mansfield encouraged both presenters and participants to consider submitting articles for consideration for publication in a forthcoming special issue of Leisure Studies. The BSA was thanked for the use of the Imperial Wharf venue, and participants thought that the Study Group might consider meeting again at the venue to hear presentations on the sociologically relevant submissions being considered by the journal.


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