From the fringe of London to the heart of fairyland: Suburban community leisure, voluntary action and identities in the Ilford Carnival, 1905 - 1914
MetadataShow full item record
The Ilford Carnival was a procession of costumed individuals and decorated vehicles held annually in this then outer-lying London suburb between 1905 and 1914 to raise funds for establishing a local hospital. This thesis utilises the carnival to provide an insight into how different suburban organisations and social groups came together in a particular performance of community. It argues that the carnival’s administrative body, and other organisations involved, provided opportunities for inclusion and social capital attainment. It also demonstrates how a local culture of voluntary action provided the basis of a large-scale charitable initiative with an ethos of communal self-help. The suburban setting demonstrates the continued relevance of carnival, originating in the premodern ritual year, within a modern urban environment. In the wake of Ilford’s drastic expansion, the carnival’s annual recurrence provided reassuring familiarity, and an opportunity for inversionary performances, with the carnival’s philanthropic rationale providing a justification for what might have otherwise been seen as transgressive. The thesis illustrates that the procession functioned as a suburban public sphere. Performances throughout operated between poles of artifice and sincerity, with dominant ideals about national and imperial identity, or class and gender roles, being projected through acts of dressing up, while such ideals were both transgressed and upheld through practices like crossdressing and blackface. The suburb too was reimagined, as both rural idyll and metropolitan tourist attraction. It also highlights how the carnival’s timing, structure and content were impinged upon and influenced by expanding cultural industries, with the carnival commodified by participating businesses and media, but also appropriating fundraising models and imagery from commercialised formats like sport and theatre, connoting the topicality and recognisability that enabled it to compete within the metropolitan market for people’s spare time and money.
- Theses