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Sito di Fabrizio Bottini in italiano
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Urban allotments (1919)
Publishing date: 21.02.2009

Just after First World War, “There is to be a maximum working week of forty-eight hours for the vast majority of working men who dwell in towns. Some will do nothing with it, or worse”. Why not dig an allotment? The Times, August 25, 1919

Provision for allotments is more difficult and more necessary in urban than in rural areas. In the country suitable land is almost always obtainable, usually even at economic rents. Countrymen, whose daily vocation keeps them in the open air, have neither the longing nor the hygienic reason of townsmen for the open-air employment of their leisure. In the larger towns open spaces have a value far in excess of their agricultural or commercial value, and the authorities have done right to guard against encroachment on parks, commons and gardens which have been preserved with difficulty for games, foliage and flowers. In the later years of the war it became necessary, partly to increase the production of food, and partly to save transport by growing food where it could be used, to devote some of the urban open spaces to allotments. These temporary permissions are in many cases being withdrawn, and controversy has arisen as to the wisdom of the local authorities. It is said that space for games, playgrounds, for children, pleasant promenades for old and young must not be curtailed. We agree.

But there are few towns in which there is not room for these excellent function of open spaces, as well as for allotments. London is a salient example of a huge population thick set on the ground. But a glance at a coloured map shows not only the large extent but the wide distribution of public open spaces. It was a curiosity of the air raids that so small a proportion of the bombshells fell on houses. Londoners thus learnt that their city is not a serried mass of buildings. We remember, some dozen years ago, an interesting correspondence which thought to collect the names of streets from no part of which were trees visible. Very few successful discoveries were made. Nor can it be maintained that the actual areas devoted to vegetables during the war made any serious deduction from space devoted to the primary objects of London parks and commons. There is more justification for the contention that the total produce of London allotments made a very slight addition to the food supply.

There is a side of the question more important than the money value of the produce. The country is about to undergo an industrial revolution. There is to be a maximum working week of forty-eight hours for the vast majority of working men who dwell in towns. What are the artisans, clerks, shopmen, and the multitudes of indoor labourers to do with their new leisure?
Some will do nothing with it, or worse. But if facilities in the way of allotments and of instruction in the growth of flowers and vegetables are given to them, very many will gladly utilize them. It will be an interest, a recreation, and a health-giving pursuit for them. Even when the working day was long artisans and miners readily cultivated plots when these were within reach, and the dwellers in large towns should be given the same facilities.
The compulsory shortening of the hours of labour must be correlated with increased provision for the hours of leisure, and in this provision allotments should be included.


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