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Thursday, 5 September 2013

On civic boosterism

Sunday, September 5th., Waterloo Road, Cobridge.

That 'in-between time', awaiting the funeral.
See 'Death by drowning' - September 2nd., 

Filling the time by strolling about and reflecting on local politics.
Yesterday walked along the canal from Middleport to Harecastle, up into Tunstall and then back to Burslem along Scotia Road. Also to the new park at Burslem.

It occurs to me that the park is a first rate example of what might be called 'civic boosterism'. By that I mean actions or policies which are designed to promote a particular town in relation to its competitors. Since the great Reform Act (and probably before) there have been suggestions to incorporate the pottery towns but they have met with fierce local resistance. The fear of being 'taken over' and losing autonomy has been particularly strong in Burslem. Hence, civic boosterism - things like town halls, public baths and public parks as examples of civic capital emphasising identity. It is like a man taking particular pride in his personal appearance (perhaps spending more than he should afford) so as to distinguish himself from the herd. And of course individuals do gain identity from their association with civic matters. The elaborate celebrations at the opening of Burslem Park were an indicator of the confidence of the civic elite as they demonstrated their status - the park is full of gates, fountains and shelters donated by local worthies.

Park entrance on Moorland Road

The pottery towns seem to be addicted to boosterism, and to be first with a new scheme is everything. So, Hanley Park opened in July 1894, just a month before Burslem Park which was started later but progressed more quickly. 
Incidentally both parks were designed by Thomas Mawson, and are a tribute to his skill.

There is something more sinister to be said about the park at Burslem. It is constructed on old mining and waste land owned by the Wood family and sold by them to the borough council. The purchase price was £5,000 which seemed good value and was presented as a philanthropic gesture by the Woods. However, I have had sight of correspondence between the Woods and their solicitor Ellis (who just happens to be the borough solicitor) suggesting that they were glad to find an opportunity to get rid of this redundant land, and expected to make a handsome profit when the land adjacent to the park, which they also owned,  was developed for housing.

Additionally for September 5th., see 'French disappointment' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/french-disappointment.html

We cycled down to see Madame Bourges on Saturday, but naturally she had gone to Paris days ago. Afterwards I went to bed with influenza, but found that I hadn't got it.

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