Active Citizenship, and other new ways to think about leisure, from Maria Dorthea Skov

Collective dance session at our    South Devon Friendly event   . Photo by    Dom Moore   .

Collective dance session at our South Devon Friendly event. Photo by Dom Moore.

by Maria Dorthea Skov

Just last week we announced a new strand titled AlterNatives. With it we will feature stories directly from the ‘forefront of change making’ through the personal testimonies of those committed to alternative ways of being, small p, political. Dave Prescott, Senior Advisor at the Partnering Initiative, kicked off with a profound reflection of his experience of joining his daughter on School Strike for climate change. Read it here.

AlterNatives don’t have time to wait for the politicians in Westminster (and other parliaments) to act and come up with solutions. They see what can, needs to and must be done - and they get together to act. They refuse to ignore the crises ahead and march through the streets, record podcasts, write blogs and books, cook food, make art and theatre etc. to create awareness and inspire others to do the same.

They harness their creativity and skills; organise and gather in groups, co-operatives, citizens network or collectives; and solve problems. A scroll though our D.A. archive serves up countless examples of this behaviour. If this sounds like you, and you feel called to share your experiences in your own words and images, please get in touch.

Some are fortunate to do this for a living while others dedicate their often limited leisure time to create better futures. They see their leisure time as a huge resource and choose to spend it meaningfully - to practice and actively actualise their responsibility as a citizen of this earth.

In my four years of leisure studies very little attention was brought to this kind of leisure practice which sociologist and theorist of leisure and stardom Chris Rojek describes as ‘active citizenship’ [pdf from Rojek]. Only briefly did we look at the leisure that exists within civil society and the voluntary sector, although its influence and reach is vast. Most of our focus was guided to commercial practices and pursuits.  

Unfortunate really, as the benefits of this leisure on both a personal, community or organisational and societal level are clear and needed in these times. We’ve previously blogged research on how volunteering, the core activity of active citizenship, make people feel happier, physically healthier and enrich their sense of purpose in life. And on how and why volunteering should be suggested as social and cultural prescribing.

Active citizenship is a leisure ‘fit for the future’ for (at least) these three reasons, briefly introduced below:

Photo by    Dom Moore   .

Photo by Dom Moore.

  • We have a climate crisis and there is an urgent need for people to live more sustainably, especially in their leisure time. We must seriously consider the consequences of some of our leisure activities such as extensive flying and other habits of consumption. Active citizenship provide a great alternative - the activities are often locally based so they do not require much travel nor needless consumption and often the aim of the activities is to counteract or reverse our more ones.

  • There is a rise in loneliness, stress and depression demonstrating a need and wish in people to find deeper meaning in their lives. As mentioned above volunteering as an active citizen can be a means for people to find exactly that.

  • The progress in automation and the possibility of an Universal Basic Income could provide conditions in which we are able to work less and have more leisure time. If and when this happens active citizenship can provide a framework for ways to meaningfully channel our newfound time and energy.

It seems essential that leisure providers, designers and organisers consider how this type of leisure can be developed and encauraged. I will be exploring how this can happen, and is happening, here on the Daily Alternative.

And in the coming weeks, in particular, I will explore how this practice becomes political, introducing ‘The Leisure of Politics’ through further contemplation of Chris Rojek’s leisure theory and Anthony Giddens theory of ‘life politics’. Stay tuned!

Maria Dorthea Skov is an original member of Alternativet in Denmark, and has been an associate of the Alternative UK since its foundation. She recently completed her degree, focussing on the politics of leisure, at the University of Greenwich.