The High Explosives, the Cunard Shell Works concert party, Birkenhead - Bedford Lemere, 1917Leisure

English Heritage, paperback, £9.99

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This is the latest in the The Way We Were series of historical photography books. In juxtaposition with the previous publication, Work, this deals with leisure.

Needless to say it is another stylish and absorbing trip down memory lane published by English Heritage. It will delight many nostalgia buffs.

Unfortunately today, a lot of people's concept of leisure is sitting down watching a range of hundreds of mediocre television channels. What is striking about the Leisure book, containing many photographs taken before the invention of the idiot box, is how resourceful people were in persuing leisure activities - it was not served up to them at a flick of a TV mobile control.

The other aspect to remember is that generally compared to today, people until the 1960s were fortunate to get even a week's paid holiday during the summer, with only bank holidays to supplement this meagre ration of time off work. In addition, people often worked five and a half or even six days a week.

The opening up of the railway system in the late nineteenth century gave working class people the opportunity to move out of the often grimy and polluted city environment into the fresh air of the countryside or to the coast.

The growing popularity of the motor car and the bicycle also created new ways for people to spend time away from their local surroundings.

Among the most vivid images in the book include a Helter Skelter amid a mass of people in Oxford (1907); a workers concert party in Birkenhead (1917); a tea interval in a cricket match in Sussex (1946); people in a cafe at the Odeon Cinema in Scarborough (1936); a crowd of people (no women in sight) outside a pub in Botley, Oxfordshire (1892); and people punting on the River Cam in Grantchester, Cambridgeshire (no date given).

Read the review of the accompanying book Work

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