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11Franklin Spade Bucket, and a Materialist Theory of the Beach (1)

TOU0010.1177/1468797614536331Tourist StudiesFranklin
On why we dig the beach:
Tracing the subjects and
objects of the bucket and spade
for a relational materialist
theory of the beach
Tourist Studies
2014, Vol. 14(3) 261­–285
© The Author(s) 2014
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1468797614536331
Adrian Franklin
University of Tasmania, Australia
This article investigates the origins of the bucket and spade as a foundational element in the
relational materialism of the beach as a space of vacationing. Using the intensification of Romantic
beach painting through the early nineteenth century alongside prose descriptions and the
development of photography at the beach, the article locates more precisely than ever before
how the bucket and spade derived from the cohabitation of the beach by pioneering Romantic
travellers and ethnic fishing cultures in which the former fell under the spell of the latter. It traces
material connections and relations that transformed both creating new visitor subjectivities around
an active engagement with the multiple affordances of the beach and a transformation of local
peasant cultures from fishing and foraging to livelihoods based on the provisioning and facilitation
of vacationing. The bucket and spade holds more significance than its role as a sandcastle-building
tool; seen through the tidal changes and the different angles of photography, and especially through
their relational engagement with the beach, the agency of the bucket and spade is revealed.
The beach, bucket and spade, relational materialism and tourism, seaside
To inhabit the beach for a significant period has had special and continuing significance
in the United Kingdom since the 1820s, and ever since the idea of beach holidays has
encompassed the world. Up until the mid-twentieth century, family holidays (parents and
Corresponding author:
Adrian Franklin, School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 22, Hobart, TAS 7001,
Email: Adrian.Franklin@utas.edu.au
Tourist Studies 14(3)
younger children particularly) were once synonymous with the seaside and long days
spent on the beach. After falling into a long period of severe decline in the United
Kingdom, seaside resorts and places sought to recover their historic popularity with
young families by using new marketing devices (Rickey and Houghton, 2009). By 2007,
the Dictionary of Leisure, Travel and Tourism illustrates how ‘a traditional British holiday where children play on the beach with buckets and spades’ was now widely referred
to in the industry as a ‘Bucket and Spade Holiday’ (A and C Black, 2007). In its birthplace in the United Kingdom, beach holiday is still more significant than countryside or
nature tourism; it is a major industry, larger than the motor industry, aerospace, pharmaceuticals or steel; it is worth around £4.6 billion pounds per annum and caters to around
24 million holidays a year (Beatty et al., 2010; Tourism Insights, 2010). According to GB
Tourist (2011), 20% of all domestic trips were to the beach, but 43% of longer trips were
taken at the seaside accounting for 38% of all holiday nights.
At first, it may seem strange that the decidedly low-tech bucket and spade was chosen
as a marketing device just at a time when children’s play had become increasingly electrified and technical (places such as Blackpool required increasingly sophisticated new
fairground rides) (Bennett, 1983). On the other hand, it surely played on the nostalgia of
parents whose long, pleasure-filled days from their own childhood had seemingly
required nothing more than these two basic tools. While we might accept that they
wanted their own children to relive these fondly remembered experiences, we actually
know very little about them, what they were or where they originated. Such innocent
pleasures have been taken as self-evident by tourism researchers, and it is only very
recently that the nature of bucket and spade play has been described and examined with
any seriousness (Bærenholdt et al., 2004; Bingley and Milligan, 2007; Obrador-Pons,
2009, 2012; Urry, 2006). Some important questions remain, not least how the bucket and
spade came into use on the beach and why it provides for such a strong metonym for
these family holidays. Is the bucket and spade just a nostalgic, decorative emblem to better niche ‘mum, dad and kids’ holidays or is it more significant as an ordering (Franklin,
2004)? As such, could the ordering of bucket and spade holiday describe the manner in
which the beach is performed as a choreography of humans engaged with other forms of
agency on the beach and thus offer an alternative understanding of what (and who) is at
play on the beach? Might the elevation of the humble bucket and spade to name an entire
form of vacationing recognise its role as a mediator, a special object identified by relational materialist analysts as possessing agency. Might it in some way structure days at
the beach, encompassing the spatial, temporal, embodied, environmental and performative engagement of humans with a range of non-humans across the littoral zone? This
article argues that it does and that the bucket and spade has played a long and formative
role in the emergence and development of inhabiting beaches as a form of vacationing
(Hinchliffe, 2002; Obrador-Pons, 2009).
The performance and agency of the bucket and spade will be revealed through an
investigation into their connections to the complex materialities, archaeology, ethnography and relational materialism of life on beaches since the early nineteenth century.
Despite its association with restful, sedentary beach holidays, it will be shown to belong
to a tradition of active engagements that are more like work than not, less about seeing
and gazing than feeling and doing, and connected to multiple relationships within and
beyond the human world of the beach (Obrador-Pons, 2012; Urry, 2006). It may be more
than just a sensual and active presence on the beach too because it describes a dialectical
engagement with the beach as a lively and forceful agency in its own right; more specifically, a gathering together of a heterogeneous community of agencies and objects with
whom humans must, as they do everywhere, negotiate relationships (Clark, 2011;
Franklin, 2003; Haraway, 2008; Ingold, 2008; Latour, 2010; Pickering, 2008).
Structure of the article
The article is divided into two linked sections. The first section considers why and how
recent research has begun to question the humanism of the beach, an ontology which
informs almost all conceptual foundations of the beach and beach-based activities in
tourist studies. It then reviews how recent research interest in sandcastle building was a
response to the largely representational and structuralist conceptions of the beach and
how sandcastle building revealed the significant sensual dimensions of embodied performances there. While this critique demonstrated a radically different conception of active
and creative beachgoers engaged with the materiality of the beach, the emphasis was still
very much on the human body and human agency against the largely passive nature of
the beach itself.
Such research inevitably prompts new questions about the wider material contexts of
the beach as a lively materiality as well as the technical and cultural presence of the
bucket and spade as a primary tool of engagement (see Haraway, 2008), and here, beach
theory connects with beach history. Ironically, it was the liveliness, power and agency of
the beach to overpower humanity that created the aesthetic of the sublime among the
Romantic progenitors of beach inhabitation. For Schopenhauer and Kant, the sublime
was a pleasure derived from being in the presence of an overpowering object of great
magnitude, one that could destroy the observer. At the beach, visitors could feel ‘the
push’ of turbulent nature at close quarters; it was by definition a dynamic landscape, a
zone of transition where vast quantums of matter were shifted continuously in the epic
theatre of nature.
In response to the acknowledgement of more-than-human agencies in the constitution
of beach life, a series of relational materialist approaches sensitive to non-human agency
can be offered as a useful tool with which to investigate how the bucket and spade may
have become a mediator (Anderson, 2012; Haldrup and Larsen, 2006; Latour, 2010;
Picken, 2010; Pickering, 2008). But studies of sandcastle building not only made significant assumptions about the material agencies of the beach, they also made historical
assumptions. Aside from barely mentioning the principal tools, the bucket and the spade,
their historical presence on the beach was not accounted for, nor the cultural structure of
feeling on the beach that poses sandcastle building as normative or ‘traditional’
(Bærenholdt et al., 2004). The presence of buckets and spades on the beach as a children’s toy designed for ‘sand play’ barely needs explanation in the context of modern
forms of play in which the sandpit is a ubiquitous feature of homes, gardens, schools and
playgrounds (Bingley and Milligan, 2007). Yet, its arrival and its manner of arrival first
on the beaches of England may hold important clues for understanding what the human
body was actually doing there holding something to dig with and something to put things
Tourist Studies 14(3)
in – with intriguing potential for building, forming, gathering, collecting and foraging.
We are entitled to ask, therefore, why did the bucket and spade of all things come to the
British beach in the first place and once there what role did it play in structuring the
nature of coastal vacationing subjectivities?
The second part therefore traces and analyses the subjects and objects of the bucket
and spade from their earliest appearances until the arrival of contemporary forms of
beach vacationing. Although there is a scattering of literary records relating to the bucket
and spade, the most useful and consistent have been captured by the significant pictorial
and photographic records that accompanied the earliest glimmers of interest in the early
nineteenth century and continued into the period of mass beach holidays in the twentieth
century. Sufficiently large numbers of paintings and photographs have been made of
entire beach landscapes to provide a detailed understanding of changing beach practices
over that period. A representative selection of these was made in order to identify key
changes in culture and practice, and although examples are referred to from most decades of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, inevitably some works are more
important for their documentary detail. Because many of these images were expressly
painted or photographed to illustrate and instil the excitement and interest in beach holiday scenes, they typically contain sufficient detail to comprise ethnographic snapshots of
beach culture. Their profusion also allows for the recognition of similarity and variation
as well as shifts of practices across days and states of tide at the beach, so although any
one is only a snapshot, combined they allow glimpses into the structure of diurnal change
and movement. Through this detail, the article is able to identify not only the cultural
origins of the human subjectivities that brought the bucket and spade into play but also
how the bucket and spade connected the human body to a heterogeneous assemblage of
objects and agencies that together constitute beach life. It will show how, through the
example of the bucket and spade, human beach performances respond to the beach and
sea through its liquidity, energy and agency in the designation of space, texture and life
across the littoral zone. It finds material traces that link first fascinations with ethnic fishing communities, and relationships with them, to the development of a new materialities,
aesthetics and relational materialism of the beach once the political economy of beach
occupancy shifted from fishing to vacationing, and how performatively there were certain overlapping qualities and continuities between living on the beach and vacationing
on the beach.
It also suggests that the temporal rhythms of intertidal associations through the bucket
and spade had implications for the sociality of the beach, particularly, for example, the
transition from the ‘perambulating party’ to the shifting encampments of family groups.
The problem of the humanist beach
Anderson’s (2012) and Lambert et al.’s (2006) notion of human geography as a ‘landlocked field’ is pertinent to tourist studies, whose central metaphor of landscape demonstrates its antecedence in visualism and land, which, combined, suggest a nature overseen
and controllable by humanity. For Anderson, the metaphors of assemblage and convergence are the most useful for his understanding of surfing, where humanity has inserted
itself on the very force of the sea. This problematisation of the humanist beach is an
insight clearly applicable for most other activities in the littoral zone, the space between
the shallow shelf where waves break and the tideline, for this is where all things must
respond first to the force and presence of the sea, its tides and its many conditions and
moods. This is by definition a turbulent zone. For Stranger’s (2011) thesis on surfing, the
human experience is correspondingly not one of human mastery but of flow, a state of
mind and body in which human subjectivity dissolves into a wider engagement with
kinaesthesia, matter and movement (which unfold on the beach), giving rise to a characteristic ecstatic ‘release’. This is the release from a separable human agency and subjectivity, something only maintained by humanist ontologies, which Pickering (2008)
contrasts with an ‘ontology of becoming’:
One entails a dualism of the human and the non-human, a detachment from and domination of
the latter by the former, and an erasure of time; the other entails an intermediate symmetrical
engagement between the human and the non-human and an intrinsically temporal becoming in
that engagement. (p. 3)
Researching these processes of becoming necessarily involves paying attention to what
actually happens and to see dialectical forms of agency at play in human worlds, because
we are long used to seeing only our own human capacities to shape, form and control the
worlds we inhabit. ‘Philosophical thought, social and cultural thought, critical thought
has kept its focus firmly on the various achievements and potentialities of human agency
… by and large we have left the rest up to the physical sciences to sort out’ (Clark, 2011:
xiii). Posthumanist research reunites them.
To relational materialist thinkers, this is not a mere oversight or failure of intellectual
balance; it is the audacious arrogance of humanity not to recognise the raw physicality of
the earth and its history of dominating rather than being dominated by humanity. Andrew
Pickering (2008) showed how vulnerable New Orleans was to hurricane Katarina, in part
because of the arrogance of the US Marine Corps of engineers and their belief that they
could control the Mississippi. Clark’s (2011) Inhuman Nature reverses the starting point
of humanist investigations:
Instead of beginning with what we believe to be our powers and capabilities, I set out from the
position of our susceptibility to the earth’s eventfulness, from our all-too-human exposures to
forces that exceed our capacity to control or even make full sense of them. (p. xiv)
The danger of not doing this in all cases is one reason for the ‘methodological or generalised symmetry’ insisted on by actor network theory (ANT), which always assumes that
all things human and otherwise have potential agency and matter. To ANT analysts, some
things in a network such as a beach can be referred to as intermediaries because they only
transfer the force of others and make no difference to the overall network. But mediators
multiply or create difference and are the proper objects of study. The trouble with humanist analysis in ANT terms is that it has tended to treat everything besides humans as
intermediaries. So, in ANT terms, we might propose to study the bucket and spade as a
mediator. Despite its name, ANT is not really theory but a methodology for looking more
carefully at the world (Law and Hassard, 1999).
Tourist Studies 14(3)
We must therefore deploy new concepts to rebuild the posthumanist beach, perhaps
after Latour’s (2010) Compositionist Manifesto, by putting together humans and nonhumans on the beach as ‘a topic to be carefully studied’ rather than as a scene to be
decoded or revealed for its underlying ‘reality’. In Fiske’s (1987) widely regarded (and
much reproduced) structuralist account, the beach was presented as a semiotically powerful boundary between nature and culture, which thus rendered what actually happened
there as less relevant or formative than its (putative) hidden structures and its underlying
representational elements in opposition. In a paper entitled ‘Surfalism and Sandiotics’,
Fiske (1983) wrote, ‘People use beaches to seek out certain kinds of meaning for themselves, meanings that help them come to terms with their off-beach normal life style’ (p.
121). Worse, the beach was also rendered as an in-between space, neither nature nor
culture and certainly not a promiscuous becoming of the two, as we might want to stress
now. The hidden structures of the beach decoded into its constitutive elements became a
reality counterposing the delusions of appearance. This is why in such accounts there is
so little detail of what nature does, so little detail of what humans actually do with nature,
nor what they do together, for they are indeed ‘oppositions’. What they do is less significant than their structural arrangement, as the playing out of universal truths. In structural
critiques, the material reality is merely a manifestation of something else and therefore
explained away, and this trivialises rather than problematises the bucket and spade.
Representations of the beach can also be deceptive when they are manifested as snapshots of ‘things’ that are properly processes; engagements that are frozen by the technologies of representation and rendered timeless and fixed, rather than ‘becomings’.
Paintings or photos, seen individually, or as abstracted visual descriptions (advertising
copy, holiday brochures, excerpts from holidays and other bits and scraps from the cultural evidence cupboard) can create the impression that vacationers at the beach are
immobile, ideally still and restful. Many key points of Fiske’s work on the semiotic study
of the beach rely on the deception of the ‘still’. When seen at, and through, different
states of the tide and times of the day, as will been shown below, the opposite is demonstrated, that beaches respond intimately and dialectically to a lively environment.
Paintings and photos of the beach also deceive because they are selective rather than
representative; they are typically taken for familial and aesthetic rather than documentary reasons. As Urry (2006) argues, they deliberately record happy families together at
a place: contrived images of family happiness rather than the typical seaside scenes of
individuals absorbed at their various beach activities. In the photos and pictures analysed
below, it was therefore important to look beyond or beside the family photo to see the
working bodies or use the wider angles of professional beachscape photography to see
the pattern they make at different states of the tide.
How human agency, human design and imagination act on and construct a largely
inert, passive world around them, largely for human visual consumption, has been the
dominant paradigm of a humanist tourist studies (Franklin and Crang, 2001). In recent
years, this has been challenged by investigating the consequences, orderings, networks
and compositions of tourism as ‘a topic to be studied more carefully’ (Anderson, 2012;
Franklin, 2004, 2012; Van der Duim et al., 2012). Occulocentrism not only suggests the
humanist/dualist view of the world via the detached human subject, contemplating the
world from a distance (thereby gaining ‘perspective’), but also omits the countervailing
experiences of attachment, because the observations made by the ever-more-seeing
human eye were privileged over experience, participation and embodied presence.
Jokinen and Veijola’s (1994: 149, quoted in Davidson et al., 2005’) celebrated critique of
the tourist gaze showed its disembodied tourists and pointed out the scale of this omission by considering how much tourist behaviour, experience, performance, time and
money on the beach is actually channelled by and through the body, emotions and
through senses other than vision (which of course is important, but not defining)
(Davidson et al., 2005).
The emergent relational materialism in tourist studies that resulted from sensual and
embodied analyses developed connective tissue between human and non-human elements through a range of concepts such as proximities, place, networks, dwelling, inhabiting, mobilities and ordering (Franklin, 2004; Hinchliffe, 2002; Urry, 2006) although
how well they removed entirely human-centred perspectives has varied.
Obrador-Pons’ (2012) ‘socio-historical construction of the beach as “sensorium”’ has
immediate advantages. Through his ‘focusing on the significance of the haptic sense on
the beach’ and how human touch leads us into all kinds of connections with materials and
their apprehensions as ‘lively’, ‘textured’, mobile, open, proximate, intersubjective and
emergent, we begin to understand how embodied connections open us to the world of the
Even so, his ‘haptic geographies of sandcastles’ focuses attention first on a human
world apprehended and transformed by the human body. We might say it allows us to
recognise the materiality of human experience in ways that vision alone cannot, but as
the focus of analysis is still directed through the human sensorium, how human apprehension of their world is more roundly organised, it still foregrounds and privileges
human experience and agency. This was illustrated in the way Obrador-Pons studied
sandcastle building. The focus of analysis was not the wider environment of the beach
within which sandcastles were made but more narrowly on individual built projects, successfully completed castles or structures and this directs attention to human narrative,
design, and mastery over the material agency of the beach. His account ‘expose(s) the
beach as a skilful and technical accomplishment thus confirming that humanity is technical from the start’ (Obrador-Pons, 2012: 9). Although the modelling of the sand ‘facilitates … access to new layers of meaning and experience and enables the invention of
other spaces’, this creativity is all human, a human creativity facilitated by, but not partnered by the sand:
Building sandcastles is … about making things present and tangible … a place in which it
is literally possible to make virtual worlds actual and touchable. On the beach inert masses
of sand are transformed into solid material configurations that evoke a wide range of aspects
generally related with childhood play experiences, ideas and fantasies. (Obrador-Pons,
2012: 13)
While haptic geographies are important, their focus on a specifically human experience does run the risk of over-emphasising the human body at the expense of other
non-human agencies in the environment. It is a breathtaking simplification to describe
the pathways of water and sand that constitute the material for sandcastles as ‘inert’.
Tourist Studies 14(3)
As we shall see, it is anything but. It is equally important to trace the materialities of
the bucket and spade at least over long periods of time and across tidal cycles, and it is
significant from Obrador-Pons’ account that the bucket and spade are rarely mentioned
as significant objects, something requiring explanation. A haptic approach alone cannot account for or grasp the ways in which the bucket and spade was assembled in a
becoming of naturecultures, histories and materials and how the very subjectivity of
the ‘human building with sand on the beach’ is, in fact, an artefact of objects such as
the bucket and spade.
While it is necessary to observe and record human touch in action, it should never
of course be privileged over the action of the world it connects to, and here the symmetrical methodologies of relational materialism offer extension and elaboration. The
approach adopted here will focus equally on the human subject and the heterogeneous
community of non-humans on the beach, including the bucket and spade. With this
more distributed focus, it will be possible to see non-humans and non-human orderings
of tide, morphology and material acting on human projects and creating human subjectivity in a dialectical manner and to see how a day at the beach became a co-determined
For Urry (2006), sandcastle making was approached from a mobilities and placemaking perspective, and its analytical frame was more distributed and heterogeneous.
Despite this heterogeneous and mobile assemblage, the sandcastle was still described in
mostly humanist terms: ‘The sandcastle is a social project involving face-to-face bodyto-body proximity among the family who both construct it and act as an impressed audience … ’. Or more strongly perhaps
Through the sandcastle, the space and materiality of the beach is domesticated, occupied,
inhabited, embodied. The sandcastle transforms the endless mass of white, golden, fine grained
or gravelled sand into a habitat; a kingdom imbued with dreams, hopes and pride. Nature is
reconstructed as the social space of an embodied family performance. (Urry, 2006: viii–ix)
The perspective usefully shows how, through the articulation of human and non-human
worlds, the materiality and mobility of the bucket and spade can be both humble and
constitutive of significant places such as the beach. Its brevity as a sketch necessarily
limits its scope, and such a view is at odds with most children’s view that whatever they
‘will’ into being on the beach with sand will come to nothing, since it cannot be tamed or
domesticated. The 1967 song by Jimi Hendrix, ‘Castles made of sand fall into the sea’,
is something that all children know very well. And they do not just fall, they are claimed
by the sea.
So, the approach adopted here has been inspired by Pickering (2008) who trace human
and non-human genealogies of becoming, a ‘posthumanist’ project to decentre the
humanist ontology, avoiding views of the world where humans are only seen as a controlling centre acting on a largely inert substrate. Instead, an effort must be made to
understand how vacationers came to dwell by the sea in specific ways and how the accretion of activities-with-objects there interpellated new subjectivities from visitors, who
responded to the flows and push of the sea and the beach, to what Latour (1993) referred
to as the ‘extended democracy’, a reconstitution of humans and non-humans.
‘And so castles made of sand fall into the sea eventually’: Tracing the
subjects and objects of the bucket and spade1
In this section, it will be argued that the specificities of the materiality and agency of the
bucket and spade originated from a period when the first Romantic travellers and artists
began to break down historic attitudes to the beach as a ‘demonized, repugnant, horrific’
social space (Urbain, 2003) shunned by almost everyone apart from the indigenous fishing and gathering communities living there, set apart by this fact from mainstream
English society. As a remnant folk tradition, the heroic lives of these people battling the
sea for meagre livings appealed to Romantic thinkers and artists who championed them
to a growing public through art and writing (Gellner, 1983). However, these Romantics
also sought access to their worlds and began to participate in them, through periods of
living with them in their communities and eventually through finding ways to inhabit
the beach independently. They championed their lives as a struggle against powerful
natural forces and sought to place themselves where they too might encounter such nonhuman agency.
There is a tantalisingly undeveloped hypothesis in Urbain’s account that suggests that
the pleasure of the beach derived from participating in the lives of the fishing cultures.
Defoe’s fictional Robinson Crusoe found accommodation and satisfaction through demiurgic qualities that life on the beach demanded: he was always busy transforming his
beach world, always at work, a creative impulse driven by the practice of multiple ‘craftwork’ dominating his time and energy. However, Crusoe was alone and left to his own
devices and ingenuity. By contrast, the Romantic visits became cohabitations with their
admired ethnic beach communities, and clearly there was considerable scope for participation, learning skills and putting them into daily practice. Urbain describes how fishermen would often take visitors into their home, as paying guests. We learn of their being
taken out in boats, guided on walks and entertained with stories. There is a sketch of visitors collecting fishing ethnographica and even of fishermen becoming retailers of ethnographic curiosities and other souvenirs (dried fish, shells, model boats and seafaring
objects) (Urbain, 2003: 57). Yet, there are few accounts of their material and demiurgic
engagements with fishing communities nor how these may have translated and transformed into the material engagements with the beach, becoming cultures of occupancy
and when fishing cultures themselves began to dwindle and disappear. It is this account
that we must find here.
This section of the article therefore seeks to extend Urbain’s analysis, to see whether
it is possible in the English case initially, to identify the lost genealogy of material traces
of beach culture and somewhere in there the first signs of the bucket and spade. I am
going to argue that the bucket and spade were central to transformations of this experience, participating in the work of the foreshore, and the notion of an active beach
The Romantic attraction to a newly ‘discovered’ coastal peasantry of fishermen
encompassed their work at sea and on the foreshores, as well as the material cultures of
their work: their boats, nets, sails, baskets, rakes, buckets, spades, moorings, beach
anchorages, havens and villages. These were apprehended in great detail. These were
important subjects for painters in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and
Tourist Studies 14(3)
their combined works have been recognised as forming entirely new coastal sensibilities and aesthetics: ‘More than any travel account, the tremendous labour accomplished
by artists along the coasts between 1800 and 1840 is proof of the rising prestige of the
seashore and the growing interest in all forms of coastal life’ (Corbin, 1994: 173). At
first, the beaches were painted as a timeless primordial gaze, ‘a population not only
maritime but exotic, at least in the eyes of the discoverers who saw, experienced and
described it as such, in the form of pastoral scenes or ethnographic clichés’ (Urbain,
2003: 38). The archetype here is J.M.W. Turner’s Pembroke Castle: Clearing up of a
Thunder Storm (1803). Two leather-skinned fishermen prepare their catch on the foreshore beside great anchors and tethering equipment, the prow of their boat, wicker carrying baskets and drying nets. Out at sea in the bay, other fishing vessels provide the
evidence for a community of the sea, a community who live in this lively, dangerous
and timeless world. The coastal castle, a more or less continuous presence across the
length and breadth of the English/Welsh coastlines, became a motif of these paintings,
recognising how these places were frontlines with human enemies too. The heroic occupation of fishermen doing daily battle with wind, tide and tempest was a regular theme
and was elaborated by Turner’s 1806 painting of The Iveagh Seapiece or Coast Scene
of Fisherman Hauling a Boat Ashore. Here, on the shore, a team of fishermen, perhaps
an entire fishing community cooperate to land a craft safely on an agitated high sea,
with dark storm clouds threatening. It is a muscular struggle. The team and their craft
are bathed in the rich light of a stray sunbeam, giving them, and the scene, an intentionally heroic, sacred air. In Scarborough Town and Castle: Morning Boys Catching Crabs
(1811), Turner painted a quieter scene, a local fishing culture on the sands at low tide,
with women spreading drying laundry on rocks beside a freshwater stream and young
boys busy gathering food on the foreshore, some with nets, others appearing to dig the
sand for cockles. It is perhaps the first ever scene of children preoccupied on the sands.
But they are clearly not holidaymakers. Nearby, their male kinsmen are shrimping with
large nets and baskets.
Closer to London, John Constable’s Brighton Beach of 1824 establishes the point that
beachfronts of even the busiest towns like Brighton were ethnographically segregated
and were more or less exclusively a working place for its indigenous fisher folk. This
composition provides a wider angle along the shingle beach to take in more than just the
prime subject; a fishing boat and its crew freshly arrived with a catch. It shows an ethnographic context: other fishermen at work and at rest, working women battling against a
strong onshore wind and other boats out at sea. What other Romantic travellers there
might have been in such locations are invariably bracketed out. However, we know they
were there from literature, and we also know that for them the beach was mostly performed by the ‘perambulating body’. There are no accounts of long days spent on the
beach performed by the ‘stationed’ body, with parents surrounded by playing children as
they became accustomed to being in the twentieth century.The Romantic travellers were
often men, but it became fashionable in the early nineteenth century for young men and
women to walk along beaches, and it was a good setting for Jane Austen’s Persuasion
where a house party might stretch their legs and reshuffle their romantic cards. But the
coast offered a frisson too and Jane Austen ([1818] 2006) writes that ‘The young people
were all wild to see Lyme’:
… the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay … the Cobb itself, its old wonders
and new improvements, and the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the
town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not
see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better … these
places must be visited and visited again, to make the worth of Lyme understood. (pp. 110–12)
This enthusiasm owes something to the groundswell created by William Daniell’s popular Voyage around Great Britain, a lavishly illustrated eight-volume survey of the British
coast, published 2 years earlier in 1813.
Also by J.M.W. Turner, to the east of Brighton, Hastings: Fish Market on the Sands,
Early Morning (1824) shows a smaller town beach: it includes Hasting’s East Parade, its
Battery and again a coastal castle in the immediate distance. The painting strongly contrasts modern middle-class society making their fish purchases against a more primitive,
fishing culture depicted by tan frocked men, basket-carrying fishwives with fish spread
out before their boats and top-of-the-beach winching gear.
Such fishing cultures lived in poor ghettoes, sub-villages or ‘lower towns’ of coastal
settlements on the beach, and these too were a strong focus of the Romantic gaze on the
littoral zone. There was great ethnographic variation in the genre, from affluent Brighton
in the East whose homes were captured in paintings such as Mackerel Fisherman by
Alfred H. Green in the 1860s or in prose such as Stephen Reynolds’ A Poor Man’s House
(1908) and account of his life among fisher folk in the slums of Under Town, close to the
beach at Seacombe, Devon. In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, we find Captain Harville living
in the rustic fishing village in ‘rooms so small that none but those who invite from the
heart could think capable of accommodating’.We also discover Captain Harville to have
gone native, ‘he fashioned new netting needles and pins … and if everything else was
done he sat down to his large fishing net at one corner of the room’ (Austen, [1818] 2006:
It is clear from Turner’s painting of Hastings that in 1824 the beach was not yet a
middle-class playground, that for the middle-class fish buyers, the beach was merely a
place on the social margin, a spontaneous unlicensed market on the commons beyond the
respectable precincts of town. Here, the materiality of the paintings as objects exhibited
in urban galleries performed a space of imagination and longing, suggesting the appeal
of a new landscape and way of life by the sea. This quality qualified the seaside perfectly
for the newly constituted flows of middle-class Romantic travellers with their longing
for a folk golden age, their discovery and recovery of its dying remnants, material culture, costume, music and song (Gellner, 1983: 53–57).
These pioneering tourists sought to buy everyday objects as the ethnographica associated with local peasant cultures, and in the case of coastal tourism, this later extended to
objects that were useful to tourist participation in local fishing, boating and foraging
cultures. In addition to the fishing harbours, boats and villages, the coastal Romantic
imaginary took in the ‘littoral zone gatherers’. Shrimping nets for adults, and then children, wooden rakes and local designs for fishing tackle (such as mackerel spinners)
became tourist objects in this way as did the bucket and spade. In fact, to this day, plastic
sets of buckets and spades also commonly include a rake. All around England and Wales,
livings were made from gathering cockles, lava bread (sea weed), razorfish, mussels,
Tourist Studies 14(3)
shrimps, prawns and later lug and rag worm for bait. Gathering tools for these were the
spade, the rake and the bucket, and the presence of these on the landscape was very
prominent as workers of the sandflats and ‘diggers of sand’. Such tools are still used
today among professional cocklers. In paintings, the evocation is decidedly not the pleasure beach, but the working beach of a picturesque folk remnant. Influential here is J.M.W.
Turner’s Calais Sands at Low Water: Poissards Gathering Bait, which was exhibited at
the Royal Academy in 1830. In this, a reddening evening sun reflected in the sea and wet
sand fills the centre, while a number of semi-naked peasants trail off to the right, digging
the sand and filling buckets with lug worm. The details of their toil, their tools and posture is clear only for the study of the figure closest to the artist, but the entire group
compose a scene of quiet concentration, not unlike cows grazing. Turner’s paintings of
the coast between 1803 and 1830 reveal a transition from narrative clichés of fishermen
battling nature to the ethnographic detail of their everyday lives.
The desire and longing for spatial and social marginality alongside ethnographic
detail continued late into the nineteenth century, particularly in the paintings of the various forms of shellfish gatherers, such as John Crane’s The Cocklers Return of ca 1875
(Figure 1).
Shellfish gathering, usually by young women, was a frequent Victorian theme for its
popular and increasingly sentimental art. The work of William Holyoke, Alfred H. Green
and Henry James Johnstone all include a composition called ‘Gathering Mussels’, and
Edith Hume did a similar composition called Gathering Cockle Shells. Again, the women
were all in peasant costume and often posed as young Britannias, looking out to sea.
Through the mid-nineteenth century, artists began to paint the Crusoe-esque visitors
just as readily as the coastal peasantries they emulated. For example, at Pegwell Bay,
Kent, an 1859 beach scene at low tide was painted in great detail by William Dyce. We
see half the foreshore of the bay beneath the chalk cliffs. In the foreground, the scene is
dominated by three women dressed finely and warmly in a rusticated peasant style; it is
a mother and her daughters aged 18–25, and they are gathering shells into little baskets.
With them, nearer the wet sand there is a younger daughter perhaps 11–13 years old, and
she has a wooden spade and a bucket. There are 12 other individuals on the exposed
sands stretching out into the distance; there is one older child on his own with a bucket
and spade and others in groups, mostly parents with younger children, all similarly
equipped. There is a man with four donkeys giving rides at the top of the beach, and there
is also the figure of a fisherman just on the very margins of the composition. This is the
earliest beachscape in which the bucket and spade has clearly become an essential tool
for beach going, and where its deployment arranges beachgoers into wider frames of the
beach and new engagements; it shows how holidaymakers had followed the sea down to
the lower end of the littoral zone at low tide. These are working bodies, stationed at particular points, both digging and gathering. In compositional terms, it is very similar to
Turner’s painting of poissards gathering bait at Calais, and it was echoed in many other
places. In Australia, for example, there were cognate paintings such as John Michael
Skipper’s Frances Skipper and another woman with collecting buckets on the rocky seashore, of 1840 (Figure 2).
The combined effect of these paintings, in conjunction with the arrival of railway
links from London (Brighton in 1841; Devon Coast 1849; Cornwall 1859 and Penzance
Figure 1. John Crane, The Cocklers Return, ca 1875.
Courtesy: Lancaster City Museums.
Figure 2. Frances Skipper and another woman with collecting buckets on the rocky seashore,
South Australia, by John Michael Skipper (1815–1883) ca. 1840.
Courtesy: National Library of Australia.
Tourist Studies 14(3)
1867), drew larger numbers of enthusiasts to the coast. But now, it was the spectacle of
the crowds that captured the imagination of painters and photographers, rather than the
‘natives’ or the earlier visitor-pioneers. They did not so much displace the natives as
mingle with them because most of their beach activities were modelled on their culture
and included an expanding range of pursuits such as sailing, rowing and boating, fishing
and foraging, and also a diet rich in seafood. And just as the visitors came to the seaside
beaches to live there after the manner of the fishermen, so the fishermen became increasingly less reliant on fishing and more reliant on the more numerous tourists. Thus (like
the tourists), they become increasingly dependent on the production of goods and services, though still centred on their traditional foreshores. Here, we have the material
orderings of an ethnic folkway on a line of flight with the Romantic imaginary, with
elements of a declining folkway framing the orderings of an emerging touristic performance and relational materialism.
Jane Maria Bowkett’s painting Folkestone Beach of ca 1865–1870 is significant for
its documentary qualities. It shows a beach scene set among the fishing boats and their
winch machines, and here the fishermen are interacting with a crowd of tourists and
extending their business to take advantage of their own ‘ethnic’ attraction. In this painting, we can see how sails have been adapted to provide an awning for souvenir objects
that the fishermen are clearly now making for tourists. Such lives still relied on making
a living from the beach, except from henceforth it was increasingly from flows of people
coming in with the seasons instead of fish coming in with the tides. One fisherman is
clearly leaning against his boat and showing a boy a model of his sailing fishing boat. We
are also to imagine that the boy and girl vigorously digging and making a castle bought
their wooden spades from the fishermen too and that the little girls behind them are lifting locally made buckets for sale from the trestle table set up on the beach. This is a
significant and rare record of fishermen selling buckets from the beach as well as their
use by visiting children.
It is the scene that these groups make together that provides the new subject, and it is
this mutual attraction and how both are changed by it that is of interest. The public who
first viewed such paintings and such scenes in real life are not imagining a disappearing
world of peasant beauty and simplicity but an emergent world that interpellates them
(Law, 2002). This is a scene that hails them, already contains the suggestion that this is
now part of their world and that their world has expanded and now includes new places
and ethnographic experiences such as this. Nationalisms of this kind suggested belonging in terms of its folk pasts and traditions and thus insisted on retaining them in ritual
and ceremonial forms (hence the widespread practice in Europe of wearing of peasant
costumes on national holidays). It also opened the public’s eyes to participation and performance in such worlds.
These spades were cut and shaped by the fishermen (highly skilled in woodwork from
ship building and repair) and their source of raw material came from the plentiful supply
of driftwood, marine planking being perfect for the purpose. There are many men obviously dressed as fishermen in this crowd scene and each one has tourists clamouring for
things they have made. At Brighton, Jefferies (1885) lists other items that were commonly made by their wives, notably shell-covered souvenirs such as pin cushions and so
on: ‘… sellers of wretched needlework and singular baskets covered in shells thrust their
rubbish into people’s laps’.
There are other ‘entertainers’ present in the Bowkett’s painting, a black minstrel
singer in a check and striped suit is handing out performance leaflets. The beach has now
become a spectacle in its own right, a self-propelled social effervescence. Richard
Jefferies’ description of life on the beach in 1885 shows how children were very involved
in the social ferment, clearly excited by it and armed with buckets and spades:
… the boats and small yachts are filled; some of the children pour pebbles into the boats, some
carefully throw them out; wooden spades are busy, sometimes they knock each other on the
head with them, sometimes they empty pails of sea-water onto a sister’s frock.
Here now is a recognisably modern beach.
Also from around 1860 onwards, the first images come to light of holidaymakers fishing themselves, using very basic rods and lines or handlines. Piers and promenades built
through the nineteenth century gave anglers access to deeper water, meaning that they
did not need to go out in boats, although fishermen also began to take trippers out fishing
for mackerel or for days fishing in party groups. Smelt fishing was a big attraction on the
piers in San Francisco, and a photograph shows large crowds assembled in 1869. A lithograph by A.L. Rossi titled Little Anglers of ca 1880 shows children fishing and sailing
toy boats from a groyne. By the turn of the century and through the Edwardian period,
sea fishing became an extremely popular holiday activity. A cartoon by S.T. Dadd in The
Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of July 1901 shows two boys fishing with handlines from a promenade, and after the founding of the British Sea Anglers Society in
1893, there were soon sea fishing clubs appearing everywhere which created their own
specialist flow of tourists to the beach (Figures 3 and 4).
A painting by Samuel S. Carr of Coney Island, New York, of around 1880 (Beach
Scene) underlines the essential spectacle of the beach by showing a group of three sisters
making a sandcastle with tin buckets and wooden spades and being photographed by a
professional photographer as the ideal family look on and wait for a family portrait to be
taken. The camera was to take the place of the easel at the beach, but children brandishing buckets and spades in Wunderkammer beach scenes became popular studio portrait
themes (Figure 5).
From 1900 onwards, when photography begins to dominate the visual record of beach
life, we can see that the perambulating body on the beach gave way to a more sedentary
body. Now, families were predominantly stationed on the dry sand at the top of the beach
seemingly in order to provide a base for children’s play with the bucket and spade, but it
might be better expressed the other way that the expanded activities of the beach, predominantly those of children with buckets and spades, provided the basis for the seated
adult. It seems almost certain that the constant changes of engagements children had
with the beach laid the foundations for long summer days there. Photos of children in
these top-of-the-beach locations are invariably busy, working children and, seemingly,
from the time they are on the beach until they leave they are never parted from their
bucket and spade for very long. However, the photos also show how adults are now moving in relation to the tide and their children’s engagement with the beach.
Tourist Studies 14(3)
Figure 3. ‘The King of the Castle’. The Illustrate London News August 29th 1891.
Photos clearly show a choreography of children’s interaction with the beach mediated
by the bucket and spade. Depending on the state of the tide on their arrival, children may
have raced into the sea immediately or waited for a low tide to turn and provide more
depth, but children were not in the sea for very long periods (see Cross, 1990). They
were, however, engaged with the sand and the beach more generally in a multitude of
ways and over a much longer period of time.
To summarise the evidence from many photographs, it is possible to offer the following
stylisation of children’s play with their buckets and spades, if we assume a family group
arriving on the out-going tide, close to low tide, with most of the foreshore now exposed:
low water foraging trips to rocky headlands or shallows to gather rockpool life in
the bucket and show and tell back at the family encampment;
mid-tide building of sandcastles on the damper sand close to the family encampment midway down the foreshore;
Figure 4. Postcard of fishing on an English Pier ca 1920.
moating of castles on the incoming tide, then inundation of castles and the canalisations of high water;
digging of tunnels and or semi-burying bodies in the drier sand at high tide.
As a common construction, motif sandcastles cannot be taken for granted here. As
Obrador-Pons (2012) and Urry (2007) emphasise (with no apparent curiosity to know
why), it is the castle (or variants thereof) that dominate this sand play. However, a strong
explanatory case can be made that links castles to beaches and especially to representations of the beaches first encountered by pioneering vacationers. As the early works by
J.M.W. Turner and John Constable clearly show, at the time the beach was first encountered by visitors, there was practically no coastal architecture to be seen other than the
defensive coastal castles of England and Wales. A considerable period elapsed before
Tourist Studies 14(3)
Figure 5. Two little girls with bucket and spades, NSW, 1890.
Courtesy: National Library of Australia.
coastal suburbs or resort ‘fronts’ were added to most coastal places other than those of
ports (Walton, 2000). Turner’s coastal seascapes typically included a castle and his compositions (and the many others that followed his style) invariably placed the castle overlooking beaches, at the centre of the painting. These would have been how most people
first viewed the seaside as a place of visitation prior to visiting it, for the viewing of
exhibitions was extremely popular and influential in the extension of the Romantic gaze
and oceanic consciousness (Isham, 2004). Turner was not fabricating the centrality of
castles to the British coasts in these paintings, though there was compositional licence
taken in the placing of the castle at the centre of almost all of his beach scenes (at least
65 major paintings of coastal castles and many more sketches). Castles were built as a
ring of defences by a wealthy island nation; they were part of the all important panoptic
defence of the English coast and they were situated on headlands between beaches or
overlooking important ports, as at Dover. The castle thus became associated with beach
sand play through its ubiquitous, powerful, longstanding domination of views from
almost every beach (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Dover Castle overlooking many beaches below.
Photo: Adrian Franklin.
At the point where this stylised family day begins, paintings and photographs often
showed low tide to be a time of scattering across the sandflats, rockpools and out to
rocky headlands. Paintings from the nineteenth century (e.g. of Pegwell Bay in 1859
described above) showed low tide to be no less compelling for want of sufficient depth
of water for bathing/swimming. Here again, the children continue with a working body,
an exploring, collecting and gathering body and the foreshore and headlands, rockpools,
shallow waters and mudflats provide a very rich engagement with the marine world. The
bucket and spade are their universal tools, the equivalent of the inland hunter-gatherer’s
digging stick and collecting basket. Marine nature is encountered close-up and intimately
at all stages of the tide, but it is particularly the case at low tide when children use their
buckets and spades to explore. The spade provides a safe tool to prod and provoke wildlife which can be poisonous or aggressive, and the bucket is both a collecting pot and
As Payne and Riddell (1999) argued, such ‘play’ makes serious and lasting impressions on children and is foundational for building knowledge of environments: ‘I spent
much of my childhood at the “Sorrento back beach”. I knew it as an infant explorer
where, with bucket and spade, I waded through, dug up and splashed in every rockpool
and sand dune’. It was only one step removed from a diving experience, and the sharpness of the focus on entire ecologies was another unusually intense experience of the
beach. Organised natural history and children’s beach encounters produced the ‘knowable beach’, a literature of guides and observers manuals, often written for localities,
which linked the child to a specific place, not the universal beach but the particular
beach. Beach ecologies are refreshed with every tide creating unique episodes of discovery and leaving traces of memory and personal connections to place. Because the bucket
and spade enact work (the builder, the gatherer, the explorer, the collector), it traces what
Tourist Studies 14(3)
Figure 7. Queens Beach, Bellerive, Tasmania ca 1911—1915 (at low tide), held at the National
Library of Australia (nla.pic-vn5891397).
Ingold (1993) called taskscapes through the littoral landscapes. The ‘work’ can, in many
versions of bucket and spade holidays, extend to fishing and cooking, as well as camping, and often involves entire families (Figure 7):
The term ‘bucket-and-spade break’ denigrates the fact that, to a child, this classic bucket-andspade combo is the stuff of dreams. It is a symbolic gateway to a parallel universe, a Narnia
without the snow, … I would leave daddy to cook supper while we rockpooled, gathering
starfish, shrimps in a bucket to observe and admire before releasing them… (Woods, 2011)
Photos show how once the tide turns and begins to come in again family groups concentrate in lines along the mid-tide position. Children are invariably hard at work on the
damp sand, most usually making some kind of castle complex. The work required is both
intellectual and physical. Since beaches are dynamic systems, the sand is not always of
the right consistency for building and moulding, it is always an experimental exercise
and children can feel the beach working against their plans, foiling whatever designs
they may have for it. In the photographs of two very young children taken at Sydney in
1910 (see Figure 8 below), a series of failed attempts to mould sandcastle shapes with a
bucket can be seen alongside more successful outcomes.
It is the opposite of a toy (or a school sandpit) that has been supplied ‘fit for purpose’
by a controlling adult or human. As the tide recedes, children are confronted with a range
of problems to do with understanding (a) when this particular sand is neither too wet nor
too dry to hold shape and (b) where the correct sand can be found relative to their family
station. Other problems/opportunities might be encountered such as outcrops of clay,
shale or shingle, each of which offers challenges and opportunities for building.
Figure 8. ‘Jean and Rainbow at the beach, Sydney 1910’ by Harold Cazneaux (1878–1953).
Courtesy of Cazneaux family photograph collection 1870–1943, held at the National Library of Australia
In a photo of Greenmount Beach in Queensland by Frank Hurley (1955) (see Figure 9
below), the approaching tide is creating the need for engineering responses from sandcastle builders, by creating defensive ditches, or canalling the seawater away from, or
through, the fortresses. It is an animated, urgent world in which unpredictable and
unstoppable orderings of nature collide with human orderings: enchanted narratives and
fantasy buildings. Here, we might say that the child is engaged in a dialectical dance of
agency with water, sand, structure and engineering. It is a place where clear lines between
the human and non-human world do not exist, where sensual, muscular and mental
engagements are mediated by extensions of the body, the spade and the bucket. It is a
choreography of failure for humanity, in which nature, the sea, triumphs every time, even
though the child has an opportunity to struggle against it and to reimagine such relationships anew.
The retreat up the beach before the oncoming tide usually sees new parental encampments made above the high tide mark, and children faced with the new challenge of
engineering and building with dry sand. Young children learn that sand at the top of the
beach will defy all of their efforts to make it a slave to their will, at least, in the way the
mid-tide sand was. Whereas water had the last word at the bottom of the beach, sand is
master at the top. All efforts to build sandcastles here are ruled out by nature and children
soon learn that their efforts are redirected to where they may find sand that is damp
enough for construction. Whereas they built up at the bottom of the beach, at the top they
may only go down. Here sand requires a new human response and technology: digging
deeper into the sand to find moist malleable material has them tunnelling, chamber building, burying bodies or, in the case of two young boys captured in a 1950s photo from
Tourist Studies 14(3)
Figure 9. Greenmount Beach in Queensland by Frank Hurley (1955), held at the National
Library of Australia (nla.pic-vn5871398).
England, constructing a World War II trench, their buckets doubling up as tommy helmets (see Figure 10 below). A photo from around 1920 taken of the Heard family at
Blackpool (http://www.heardfamilyhistory.org.uk/family%20secrets.htm) shows the
family group pressed up against the promenade on the dry sand. Groups of 4 and 5 boys
were digging deep down into the sand creating massive pyramid-like spoils. In the foreground, two much smaller girls are clearly struggling undeterred to get down to the malleable sand.
Urbain (2003) concluded that the seaside holiday had transformed the tourist from a
mobile to an immobile body, and to a degree it is true, most seaside holidays are located
in one place. However, as we have seen, the images of immobility that holiday snaps
often suggest must be contrasted with the working and active body on the beach, stationed at various locations through what amounts to a busy and often working timetable.
Seascapes were just as muscular and active engagements with the landscape as any other
romantic forms of tourism (e.g. see Morrell, 1963).
In order to understand why the bucket and spade became such a prominent and enduring
metonym for family beach holidays, this article has argued that we need to first develop
a relational materialism of the beach in which human subjectivities and practices as well
as their objects (sandcastles, buckets and spades, etc.) can be seen in a choreography of
agency with other objects and agencies of the beach. Identifiable assemblages and convergences can then come into view and be documented across time, in processes of
becoming, rather than as human blueprints, or assumed faits accompli. For this reason,
this article has sought to locate the analysis of bucket and spade culture and practice, in
Figure 10. Boys with buckets on head, United Kingdom, location unknown, 1950s.
medias res, as it unfolded in relation to a complex set of relations between different
human groups and different objects and agencies of the beach from the early nineteenth
century until its heyday in the mid-twentieth century (Pickering, 2008). Ironically, it is
this heyday that is referred to when contemporary marketing refers to bucket and spade
holidays as ‘traditional’. The analysis of the habitation of the beach shows that the bucket
and spade was not introduced externally from the world of the visitors or from the commercial world of toymakers but from the peasant cultures that the first pioneering
Romantic travellers championed through painting and writing but also through convergence, by seeking ways to inhabit beach environments in similar ways, adopting earlier
ways of engaging with the materialities and affordances of the beach.
We find it obvious that objects such as buckets and spades are made by and for specific human subjects, but we forget that once unleashed on the world they have the
capacity to create a subject community of users around the object – which would not
exist otherwise. As Pickering (2000) argues, this leads us inevitably to the idea of a
mutual becoming, co-production or co-evolution of people and things. When we have
both humans and objects as our unit of analysis and not the usual humanity for the
humanities and non-humans/objects for science, we can see how, as Marx wrote, ‘production not only creates an object for a subject but also a subject for an object’.
In the case of the bucket and spade, this article has argued that these subjects include
the absorbed working child, encountering and engaged with the objects and agencies of
the beach, feeling their push and responding to a cascading range of beach events and
processes that come and go with the tides and the seasons. Such children, often in promiscuous association, were the new workers of the beach, and they in turn reconfigured
the socio-spatial arrangements of adults, families, family days and entire vacations spent
on the beach, cultures of beach inhabitation and, consequently, the broader organisation
and economy of the seaside. The bucket and spade was an object around which a nineteenthcentury coastal peasantry’s material culture was transposed into a commodified form
through a commercial life away from the beach, and through which a commodified travelling public was transposed into pre-modern forms of cultural inhabitation on it.
Tourist Studies 14(3)
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or
not-for-profit sectors.
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Author biography
Adrian Franklin is Professor of Sociology at the University of Tasmania. He is interested in tourism
and travel theory with a particular interest in relational materialism, post-humanism and materialities. He is currently reworking our understanding of ‘the beach’, conducting an investigation into
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) as the ‘anti-museum’ and reinvestigating the idea of tourism as carnivalesque. The Making of MONA will be published by Penguin in November 2014.