2020, the year of government sanctioned walking. This chapter examines the changing nature of leisure during COVID-19 restrictions, where walking outdoors has been the only option for leisure, exercise and/or socialisation. ‘Going for a walk’ has now acquired a new significance and, it can be argued, a ritualistic rhythm in our pandemic lives. It is arguably the purpose of rituals to maintain social order even through uncommon behaviour, and this can be seen to be the case during the pandemic through the practice of walking as rule-following. Yet, there are private transgressions to be found in publicly authorised leisure. Aligned with Gluckman’s (1963) conceptions of ‘rituals of rebellion’, where ritual is an expression of underlying social tensions (or, in the case of COVID-19, public health anxieties), walking can be seen as the ‘pressure valve’ that relieves such tensions through cyclical performances of daily leisure. Through in-depth interviews, we seek to gain understanding into the ritual of walking and what new individual and collective meanings are being formulated. By engaging in an activity perhaps once thought to be mundane, walking now can be experienced as a focal point providing structure to days of social isolation or quarantine, as liberation from the constraints of lockdown, as a change of scenery when travel is not allowed, as untypical socialisation from the pre-pandemic norm, as a welcome respite from family and caring responsibilities; thus, this type of leisure has emerged as a rather more complex and affective activity in these unprecedented times.

Cite as

Sharp, B. & Finkel, R. 2022, 'Beyond walking: The ritualistic nature of pandemic leisure', Transforming leisure in the pandemic: Re-imagining interaction and activity during crisis. https://eresearch.qmu.ac.uk/handle/20.500.12289/11514

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Last updated: 16 January 2022
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