On Wednesday 16th March, Dr Robin Mann, Professor Howard Davis, Dr David Dallimore and Dr Marta Eichsteller presented their emergent findings from the WISERD Civil Society project ‘Researching Civil Participation, in Place, and Over Time’ at Bangor University. The seminar was entitled: ‘Bowling Alone? Civil Society in a North East Wales Village’.
The team presented the fieldwork undertaken at their research site, the village of Rhosllanerchrugog (“Rhos”) within the local authority of Wrexham Borough Council. The village provides an interesting site for exploring continuity and change in local civil society with its rich history of associations linked to religion, the Welsh Language and employment in heavy industry. Data collection, to date, has included 16 biographical narrative interviews with key individuals in local community groups and institutions; 101 structured interviews with local residents; participation observation at community meetings and events; and analysis of documentary and archival material.
The presentation focused on one key emerging finding to do with the way some community groups and institutions have evolved over time in quite significant ways. In some cases the personnel involved in community groups has remained constant; in other groups they have been succeeded by new personnel. A good case study illustration of this is the village bowling club. It used to be a traditional working class male activity; the team was all-male and the club-house was a male preserve. Today however the club has both female and male members and players. The park and clubhouse is now multi-purpose and used for a variety of local associational purposes. The reasons for this change are multi-faceted and include the crucial role of a Heritage Lottery Grant fund and the maintenance of the site through Wrexham Borough Council. Cuts to funding lottery and council funding mean the long-term future is uncertain. But bowling in Rhos does seem relatively secure for the foreseeable future due to a supportive civic infrastructure and the character of local networks, and not just because of the commitment of local enthusiasts.
This particular finding suggests a more complex picture than the one painted within some broader claims about a decline in participation in traditional associations. It also indicates that researching participation within their situated contexts is important for uncovering and understanding these ‘subtler’ forms of continuity and change. As the fieldwork in the Rhos draws to a close the team are currently finalising their plans for research at a second contrasting research site.
Click here for an overview of the project.
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