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Club Life: Third Place and Shared Leisure in Rural Canada

A few years ago now, Dr. Heather Mair of the Department of Recreation and Leisure started attending the CCA’s National Curling Congress to begin the process of gathering information for her study then simply known as a paper on the impact of curling clubs on rural communities.

Dr. Heather Mair

Dr. Heather Mair

Well it is done and it is published. I know you will find it fascinating as we have played in small bonspiels before but even more intriguing are some of the conclusions Dr. Mair has reached.

Here is the document in its entirety – Club Life: Third Place and Shared Leisure in Rural Canada (PDF 126kb).

Finally, the study is not over and Dr. Mair plans to travel to the NWT this winter (if all goes according to plan).  If you would like to contact her, feel free to do so at [email protected].

Club Life: Third Place and Shared Leisure in Rural Canada
by HEATHER MAIR, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
ISSN: 0149-0400 print / 1521-0588 online Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

This paper presents a day in the life of the Walnut Lake Curling Club. The reflexive analytic story is crafted from ethnographic research undertaken in 18 curling clubs across rural Canada. Contrary to a growing tendency toward individualized and privatized leisure, curling clubs in rural Canada remain sites for shared leisure. Building on recent efforts to position leisure sites as third places, the paper enhances an understanding of curling clubs’ construction, dynamism and fluidity. Ethnographic approaches are offered as presenting opportunities to comprehend how third places are constructed, particularly within the changing context of leisure in rural life.

Because curling clubs in Canada are unique sport settings, my study is not a traditional sport study. The insights gained from this specific endeavor enhance an understanding of collective leisure and sport more generally. Moreover, my approach helps address challenges outlined by critical sport and leisure sociologists such as Maguire (2004), who argue the growing tendency to concentrate on individuals and their performance over play, community, power and access should be countered.

This article has four parts. First, I introduce the sport of curling and its status in Canada. Next, the strategy of inquiry guiding the study is provided emphasizing the opportunities and challenges presented by this particular approach. Third, an ethnographic narrative brings the reader into this understudied setting. In the last section, Oldenburg’s notion of the third place (1999, 2001) is assessed in light of the findings. I argue curling clubs act not only as a “core setting of informal public life” (Oldenburg, 1999, p. 16) in small communities across the county but also as key sites for communal or shared leisure. The concluding discussion sets the stage for similar investigations and argues ethnographies can be used to more fully comprehend the changing political, social and economic context of third places and shared leisure in rural areas.

All clubs and individuals have been given pseudonyms in an effort to protect participants and to guard their confidentiality.

To date, 18 clubs have participated in the study. In total, more than 500 hours were spent in the curling clubs, averaging about 30 hours per site over these bonspiel weekends.

The “Walnut Lake Curling Club” is an amalgam of the clubs, and the presentation of the events, individuals and conversations is organized so as to reflect a typical Saturday at a bonspiel and to illustrate the extent to which these are important yet changing third places for shared leisure.