This chapter considers the establishment of public parks in England, and their role in cultural policy formation and everyday participation in the urban context. It provides an historical overview from the 1830s to the mid-twentieth century, drawing on archival research which focuses on Queen’s Park, Phillips Park and Cheetham Park in Manchester and Peel Park in Salford . These early public parks were at first viewed as disciplining spaces for moral regulation and ‘improvement’ by local legislators, but the strategies and objectives for using parks have changed over time. Over the period we examine, the cultural policies implemented through park administration were contingent on social and economic factors. In addition, the tastes and views of particular individuals involved in park administration had a powerful influence on the ways in which various policies were pursued, albeit in constant negotiation with the publics who were involved in campaigning for and using parks.
The chapter explores how new administrative practices both regulated behaviour and provided opportunities for participation, popular entertainment, education and taste formation. It considers the management of parks and their users through their design and their provision of live music, sports and recreation, and visual arts and education and connects these to the production of civic identity and everyday local governance in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Finally, in the context of current local cultural policy and management strategies for public parks, the chapter asks what can be learned from the past about parks and their contribution to the cultural policies and everyday participation within contemporary cities.