Public space claims

The recent quiet of Shanghai’s streets and public spaces has made the absence of activities that used to occupy those spaces all the more keenly felt. While many parks in Chinese cities across the country host forms of public outdoor dancing groups (see the above photo, also from Chongqing), that is far from the only sort of group social activity that happens in urban China’s public spaces. Often when a group of (generally, but not always) older folks takes over a space in Shanghai, the only thing needed to kick things off is a boombox. Not all activities that unfold in China’s public spaces are so minimal, though.

On weekend mornings starting in late spring, this section of public square located in Chongqing’s central Shapingba district is taken over by somewhat the opposite end of the demographic spectrum: a trio of instructors and a gaggle of elementary school-aged rollerbladers-in-training. Dividing students by age and ability, instructors lay out various configurations of small orange cones and guide/coax their charges through them. They also provide a loudspeaker for music, a limbo pole (for more advanced students to sharpen their balance, I imagine), and a collection of plastic stools so parents and grandparents can observe in comfort as their kids/grandkids slip, slide, and tumble across the paving stones. 

Naturally, a rollerblading class for which one is paying creates greater expectations than simply showing up at a pre-determined time and park to dance to a Chinese cover of Ricky Martin. That said, from the minimal setup of a boombox for China’s “square dancers” to the far more considerable kit needed to run Chongqing’s public square-based rollerblading class, what does the range of options for takeovers of your city’s public spaces look like?

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