Sunday, 27 October 2013


Not an attractive photo of a very old 'No Cycling' sign on the wall of the South Parade flats to introduce what is a bit of a holding post, keeping the blog ticking over while I deal with the demands of teaching and spending hour upon hour writing applications for a bit of research funding so I can begin a proper study of the Middlefield Lane estate.

This sign almost certainly dates from sometime after Monday 12 July 1965. I know this because the Gainsborough Urban District Council Housing Committee minutes for a meeting on that day noted some ‘complaints received' about the 'nuisance caused by children riding cycles on footpaths near to old people’s developments on estate’. The committee agreed to put up some ‘No Cycling’ notices around the estate, and this is one of them.

The research money I'm after will fund a project that aims to analyse the design and planning of the estate to see how successfully it functioned as an environment for childhood play and development. I want to use Clare Cooper Marcus and Wendy Sarkissian’s brilliant but undervalued 1986 book, Housing as if people mattered (1986), which presented a comprehensive set of site design guidelines for medium density estates like Middlefield Lane. 

The plan is to critically ‘map’ the designed visual, physical and spatial characteristics of the Middlefield Lane estate onto those guidelines that related specifically to children’s needs. Perhaps more evocatively, I want to supplement this by using memories and experiences of childhood on the estate during the 1960s and 70s to find out how the children themselves interacted with the adult-configured planning of the estate, and how they were able to create and construct their own spaces and places there.

They did this in part by bombing around the pedestrianised estate on their bikes, up and down the 'parades' and the 'walks', gleefully exemplifying what Robin Moore, in his 1986 book Childhood’s Domain, describes as a child’s ‘intimate, fluid and intense’ interaction with a ‘flowing terrain’. Adult planners would refer to all of this as 'non-conforming use'; the adults on the estate however would just tell us to clear off if we were bothering them - and we would do as we were told, we'd move on, grumbling a little to ourselves, but I'm sure we'd be out there again the next day. But you don't have to take my word for it - if I can get some research money I can ask some others who lived there too. Fingers crossed.

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