Taverns, Locals and Street Corners: Cross-Chronological Studies in Community Drinking, Regulation and Public Space

  • Nevola, F (PI)

Project: Research council

Project Details


The image of communities of binge drinkers in city centres is a familiar one, portrayed in the media as a crisis of our culture and of our time. With this project we ask: was it ever thus? Are patterns of drinking with people congregating in public spaces late at night, sold alcohol by commercial enterprises and revelling new or are these familiar and recurring practices and representations of drinking and of competing communities. Can we investigate past times and places to discover whether these spatial, cultural and economic patterns have their distinct roots in individual localities and communities or are there are resonating themes and behaviours across communities? In particular, is the performance of drinking, notions of community spectacle and carnival still part of modern drinking culture? Conversely are the practical and 'every day' questions for community policy and practice on drinking and anti-social behaviour in public spaces today also resonant for the past? To answer these questions, this research project will investigate three different places, three different periods, three different pursuits. Place and period are united through three case studies, while pursuits offer a unifying set of themes through each case study: profit (sellers of food and drink), pleasure (consumers) and policing (social controls). The first two case studies are historical. Case 1 considers 16-17th century Florence; using primarily administrative sources it will map the city's most prominent taverns and the streetscapes around them to understand their crucial place in the community. Case 2 looks at 18th Century London where the widespread outcry around public drinking was matched by the public championing of the value of commerce and sociability that public drinking also implies. We will ask the sources: how important were drinking places in attempts to define communities and class behaviours? To what extent was this effective, resisted, and how it did change the actual sociability of the tavern and its place in neighbourhood/community life? The third study is contemporary; a questionnaire will be used to collect research data and will form the basis of semi-structured interviews with policy makers and practitioners in Bristol today. While Bristol's city centre was made a 'no street drinking zone' in 2004, alcohol is routinely served in large-scale, commercial drinking establishments. This has implications both for how and where drinkers congregate and affects our understandings of conviviality and connectedness and what constitutes 'anti-social' behaviour in the community. In formulating our research questions for past and present we will work closely with our collaborators - the Centre for Cities - and other policy-makers and practitioner networks in our advisory group, scoping the research, reviewing the historical data, developing the questionnaire and disseminating results. Our final dissemination event will bring in participants from PI and CI Connected Community projects: urban designers, planners, the police, private security guards, public health officials, community stakeholder groups (see Impact). In so doing it will develop further the 'cross-historical' method developed by the PI, Fabrizio Nevola, in earlier AHRC funded research on 'Street Life and Street Culture'. In these ways, the project aims to advance a distinctive 'Connected Communities' approach, building interdisciplinarity and connections with 'the real world' from the ground up, rather than including these retrospectively. This pilot demonstrator aims to produce an innovative, comparative, trans-historical understanding of competing communities (commercial, local authorities, residential, drinkers) in civic public spaces. Our research findings, which will also be presented in the form of GIS-based map visualisations, will be made available through a project website, a dissemination event, policy briefing paper, and two co-authored academic papers.
Effective start/end date1/02/1231/07/13


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council


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