Call for Papers | “The Leisure of Grey Spaces, Urban Play and the Chromatic Turn”, Special Issue of Leisure Studies | Call ends March 31, 2024

    • Dr Paul O’Connor
    • Dr Indigo Willing
    • Dr Sander Hölsgens
    • Dr Ben Duester
(Freepik, modified)

We are pleased to invite abstracts of proposed papers for this special issue of Leisure Studies. Accepted proposals will be invited to submit a full paper by end of summer 2024. Please send a 300 word abstract to editors ( by 31 March 2024.


One of the most pressing issues for leisure studies in light of climate change is understanding how our play can lack sustainable approaches and create serious harm to the environment. Researchers, communities, governments, urban planners and policymakers face the challenge of how best to achieve time-driven benchmarks for change. For example, the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 11.7 aims to ensure cities can provide equitable access to safe and inclusive green and public spaces. While leisure practices relying on large public facilities like stadiums and playing fields receive ample attention, urban lifestyle and action sports are often less distinguished. Often these forms of play use improvisation and appropriation of city streets: their sportified manifestations have bespoke concrete stadia that are a simulacrum of these same environs.

Scholarship on lifestyle and action sports has grown in scope and context in recent years, taking on an assemblage of political and social transformations, and exploring diverse identities and subjectivities (Willing and Pappalardo 2023, Wheaton 2013, Atencio et al. 2018, Roberts, Lawler and Cline forthcoming). Concurrent with these changes is a rise in interest in the mental and physical health benefits of such leisure pursuits. Nature, and the study of both ‘green’ and ‘blue’ spaces are prominent paradigms in this literature – addressing surfing, snowboarding, fell running, and mountain biking (Toomey et al. 2021, Evers 2019b, Britton et al. 2018, Cherrington and Black 2022, Nettleton 2015, Carothers, Vaske, and Donnelly 2001, Olive 2022, Heintzman 2009).

However, the turn in what we call chromatic leisure has largely overlooked urban space and built environments as sites of informal leisure, urban play and lifestyle sports. We have theorised ‘grey spaces’ in the ‘anthropocene’ (O’Connor et al. 2022) as a new and specific frame to understand the spatial and material impact of skateboarding as a leisure sport and to flag greyness as both a material and symbolic element in its praxis. Additionally, greyness is tested in its contribution to the concept of polluted leisure (Evers 2019a) and pursued in symbolic terms to the nuances of political activism, inclusion, decolonisation, and social justice (Willing and Pappalardo 2023). The theoretical framework of grey spaces extends to and can encompass a range of leisure pursuits – from, parkour, roller skating and BMX (Puddle, Wheaton, and Thorpe 2019, Gilchrist and Wheaton 2011, Atkinson 2009), to the indoor/outdoor leisure of snowdomes and wavepools (Salome, van Bottenburg, and van den Heuvel 2013, Roberts and Ponting 2018) and running and cycling as both forms of active transit and leisure.

Many of these practices are only conceivable (if not pleasurable) because of the omnipresence of the kinds of grey materialities positioned underneath or close to our feet – such as concrete, granite, steel, and asphalt (Glenney 2023). Pavements and sideroads offer a training ground and playground for skaters and runners, whereas curbs, bridges, and ledges provide affordances for play, exploration, and joy. Many urban sports and leisure activities thrive in the kinds of spaces that are most toxic, polluting, and destructive: the modernist, colonial and functionalist city. This poses an urgent need to unpack and explore the paradox of how these grey spaces are sites of health and wellbeing, yet also point to the question if all leisure in the current epoch is polluted and what changes and solutions are needed in response.

Many urban sports and leisure activities thrive in the kinds of spaces that are most toxic, polluting, and destructive: the modernist, colonial and functionalist city.

The use of concrete for the expansion of cities and urban leisure spaces (skateparks, parkour gyms, veolodromes) counteracts the aims for developing sustainable practice in leisure and lifestyle sports  (Kaufman, 2021). Adding to the chromatic turn is also the consideration that sustainability or ‘green practice’ always contains a symbolic dimension. Merely symbolic environmentalism can thus slip into greenwashing while more robust practices of sustainability are also always subject to an air of symbolism that either creates receptions of inspiration or critique (Bowen, 2014). Furthermore, the green dimension of chromatic leisure includes expectations of the progress and enhancement of materials and practice in both corporate and grassroots-based DIY contexts. These expectations, which we frame as ‘green pressure’, are multidimensional in the sense that they are held by consumers, practitioners and stakeholders towards corporate and non-profit bodies as well as in the form of self-expectation towards themselves (Duester, 2023).

This special issue of Leisure Studies extends grey spaces as a mode of analysis in lifestyle/action sports and urban recreation. In particular, this issue seeks to explore the uncomfortable enmeshment of lifestyle sports and grey spaces from an environmental perspective while considering the associated symbolic dimensions of a range of leisure hues. Functionalist design principles – materialised in everyday street furniture including edges, curbstones, benches, memorials, traffic signs, and waste receptacles – operate as the main parameters for the efficacy of urban leisure (Hölsgens, 2021). Architectural design tailored to the normative human measurements correlates to the advent and success of such praxes. But what happens to such practices when cities turn to more sustainable, more-than-human design practices?

We particularly invite contributors to consider the chromatic turn in lifestyle sports as a starting point for unpacking the socio-political, affective, multispecies, and symbolic entanglements of pollution and urban leisure. This chromatic turn can be theorised as relating to blue, green, and grey space. We see greyness as multifaceted, material, symbolic, and even temporal in the case of active ageing grey nomads, and silver surfers. But we also encourage reflection on other shades and colours evident in dark and pink tourism, racialised leisure and the intersections of varied hues (O’Connor et al. 2022). We therefore welcome contributions that might consider multi-generational experiences, and work informed by Indigenous and Native Peoples, People of Colour, queer, and other ‘non-traditional’ populations in lifestyle sports. Additionally, we seek interdisciplinary work on how urban and alternative cultures can re-imagine urban, DIY, and designed obstacles in ways that are sustainable and turn to novel ways forward that are boldly committed and attentive to environmental issues.


Atencio, Matthew, Becky Beal, Missy E. Wright, and McClain ZáNean. 2018. Moving  Boarders: Skateboarding and the Changing Landscape of Urban Youth Sports, Sport,  Culture and Society. Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press.
Atkinson, Michael. 2009. “Parkour, Anarcho-Environmentalism, and Poiesis.” Journal of  Sport and Social Issues 33 (2):169-194. doi: 10.1177/0193723509332582. Britton, Easkey, Gesche Kindermann, Christine Domegan, and Caitriona Carlin. 2018. “Blue  care: a systematic review of blue space interventions for health and wellbeing.”  Health Promotion International 35 (1):50-69. doi: 10.1093/heapro/day103.
Bowen, Frances. 2014. After Greenwashing: Symbolic Corporate Environmentalism and  Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Carothers, Pam, Jerry J. Vaske, and Maureen P. Donnelly. 2001. “Social values versus  interpersonal conflict among hikers and mountain bikers.” Leisure Sciences 23:47-61. Cherrington, Jim, and Black jack. 2022. Sport and Physical Activity in Catastrophic  Environments. London: Routledge.
Duester, Benjamin. 2023. Symbolic DIY environmentalism between sustainability statements  and green pressure. DIY 1(2): 163-175. doi: 10.1177/27538702231164487. Evers, Clifton. 2019a. “Polluted Leisure.” Leisure Sciences 41 (5):423-440. doi:  10.1080/01490400.2019.1627963.
Evers, Clifton. 2019b. “Polluted Leisure and Blue Spaces: More-Than-Human Concerns in  Fukushima.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues. doi: 10.1177/0193723519884854. Gilchrist, Paul , and Belinda Wheaton. 2011. “Lifestyle sport, public policy and youth  engagement: Examining the emergence of parkour.” International Journal of Sport  Policy and Politics 3 (1):109-131.
Glenney, B. (2023). “Polluted Leisure Enskilment: Skateboarding as Ecosophy. Leisure  Sciences”, 1-25.
Heintzman, Paul. 2009. “Nature-Based Recreation and Spirituality: A Complex  Relationship.” Leisure Sciences 32 (1):72-89. doi: 10.1080/01490400903430897. Hölsgens, Sander. 2021. Skateboarding in Seoul: A Sensory Ethnography. Groningen:  University of Groningen Press.
Kaufman, Talia. 2021. “Greening the Cube…” Skateism. Retrieved from: 
Nettleton, S. 2015. “Fell runners and walking walls: towards a sociology of living landscapes  and aesthetic atmospheres as an alternative to a Lakeland picturesque.” Br J Sociol 66  (4):759-78. doi: 10.1111/1468-4446.12146.
O’Connor, Paul, Clifton Evers, Brian Glenney, and Indigo Willing. 2022. “Skateboarding in  the Anthropocene: Grey spaces of polluted leisure.” Leisure Studies:1-11. doi:  10.1080/02614367.2022.2153906.
Olive, Rebecca. 2022. “Swimming and surfing in ocean ecologies: encounter and  vulnerability in nature-based sport and physical activity.” Leisure Studies:1-14. doi:  10.1080/02614367.2022.2149842.
Puddle, Damien, Belinda Wheaton, and Holly Thorpe. 2019. “The glocalization of parkour: a  New Zealand/Aotearoa case study.” Sport in Society 22 (10):1724-1741. doi:  10.1080/17430437.2018.1441010.
Roberts, Michael, and Jess Ponting. 2018. “Waves of simulation: Arguing authenticity in an  era of surfing the hyperreal.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 55  (2):229-245. doi: 10.1177/1012690218791997.
Salome, Lotte Rosalien, Maarten van Bottenburg, and Mark van den Heuvel. 2013. “‘We are  as green as possible’: environmental responsibility in commercial artificial settings for  lifestyle sports.” Leisure Studies 32 (2):173-190. doi: 10.1080/02614367.2011.645247.
Toomey, A. H., L. K. Campbell, M. Johnson, L. Strehlau-Howay, B. Manzolillo, C. Thomas,  T. Graham, and M. Palta. 2021. “Place-making, place-disruption, and place protection  of urban blue spaces: perceptions of waterfront planning of a polluted urban  waterbody.” Local Environment 26 (8):1008-1025. doi: 10.1080/13549839.2021.1952966.
Wheaton, Belinda. 2013. The cultural politics of lifestyle sports. New York: Routledge. Willing, Indigo, and Anthony Pappalardo. 2023. Skateboarding, Power and Change.  Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan

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