The effect of place and space: Understanding everyday participation

The research project ‘Understanding Everyday Participation – Articulating Cultural Values’ (AHRC 2012-2018) explores the ways in which the ‘situatedness’ or the social/spatial context of participation is an important factor in understanding the socio-political dynamics of cultural participation (Miles and Gibson, 2016). Our report on the geography of library and leisure centre discusses the impact of geography and attractiveness of physical places has on particular kinds of cultural and leisure participation.

Our report proposes that everyday participation can be a part of a ‘trip-chain’, a pattern of travelling that incorporates multiple visits (between home and work for example), to complete a range of tasks such as shopping, social activities or other personal business. Such participation involves a level of spatial decision-making, weighing up factors relating to the destination(s), and the time and effort of getting there. How much do these factors impact on participation, and are they quantifiable?

In assessing the effect of geography on participation within our two study areas, Gateshead and Manchester, we sought data that would provide us with a pattern of movement between home and a destination-based participatory activity. The use of libraries and leisure centres offers an insight as we know where the member lives and which centre or library they are using. We hypothesised that using libraries and leisure centres could be part of trip-chaining activity, in conjunction with the user visiting other ‘everyday places’, such as shopping, health care facilities, schools and so forth (Delrieu & Gibson 2017).

In the report, we conclude:

  • Geographic proximity to the home is more important for the users of leisure centres, but a more complex picture emerges for libraries.
  • Opportunities for trip-chaining (the practice of undertaking more than one activity while out of the house) are an important factor in the use of many libraries, but not so important for leisure centre use.
  • Patterns of use in urban and suburban libraries reflect the impact of relative attractiveness, whereas peri-urban or rural libraries have much more localised usage.
  • Neighbourhood perception and personal attachment (e.g. because of cultural identity) are influential factors in determining the use of particular libraries and leisure centres.
  • Standalone libraries and leisure centres are as likely to be used as those which are co-located together or with other services such as academies, community hubs or learning centres.

Find out more information regarding the project.

Dr Varina Delrieu and Dr Lisanne Gibson