The business of leisure: sport, labour and co-operation in post-war Britain

Nicole Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Compared with the activities of its European counterparts, the sporting and recreational pursuits of the British labour movement are less well known. Yet the co-operative movement organised an impressive range of sports clubs, competitions and events. Whereas previous studies have examined the relationship between the labour movement and working-class leisure during the interwar years, this article considers the interactions of the co-operative moment with popular discourses on recreation in Britain from the 1950s to the 1970s. In so doing, it challenges assumptions about the Left's disconnection from sporting culture. The Co-op used sport to create a collective co-operative identity amongst its employees. Examining the social and political context of these activities in post-war Britain can inform debates on the construction of female identity through sport, the use of recreation for business advantage and the extent to which the co-operative movement shaped working-class leisure patterns. Although the article highlights that co-op sport formed a source of tension between the retail and wholesale sections of the movement and could be adversely affected by popular affluence, it argues that a reappraisal of the co-operative movement's recreational activities contributes to a broader understanding of post-war working-class culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-653
JournalLabor History
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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