EAUH Conference 2018


Session M29. Play, Renewal and Resilience in the C20th City

Coordinators: Lynn Abrams (, Krista Cowman (

Throughout the 20th century, cities beset by depression, degeneration or conflict have presented children at play as a sign of resilience and renewal. A number of diverse representations including Carl Theodor Sørensen’s pioneering junk playground in Nazi-occupied Emdrup, Copenhagen, Shirley Baker’s photographs of children playing in slum clearance areas in Britain and New York’s play street schemes have focused on the child as a symbol of renewal, suggesting innate resilience and the ability to transform sites of destruction into ones of pleasure and excitement. A belief in the potential of play to reverse decline has had policy implications too, encouraging civic investment in a number of different developments (static playgrounds; adventure playgrounds; skateboard parks; woonerfs/home zones) with varying levels of success.

This session seeks to extend 20th century urban history by considering the history of childhood and play not as a separate field but as an integral part of urban life, and a key feature of attempts at urban renewal. We are interested in papers that open up new ways of considering the history of play as part of a wider historiography of the 20th century city. We invite papers that consider the urban, social or cultural history of play and renewal in a variety of areas. Topics may consider
• Play as protest
• Community activism and play
• Planning for play/playground design
• Traffic protest
• Representations of play
Keywords: play; community activism; children; regeneration; playground; quotidian activism