- These new venues became alternative places of consumption, generating revenue for maintenance as well as providing venues for political activities; in movement terms, you could say the People’s Parks were seizing the means of recreation. In the early years at Malmö, for instance, vendors sold coffee from an improvised cart to the families who flocked to the park for picnics on Sunday mornings. Within a few years, a beer garden was opened, followed by the Parkrestaurangen and the Gamla Restaurangen, both with outdoor patios and dance floors. But these were all dwarfed in 1902 with the opening of the Moorish Pavilion, a vast, orientalist confection, designed by the architect Aron Wolff Krenzisky. The Moriskan, which could accommodate well over a thousand visitors in its three large halls, boosted the park’s already considerable profits.
With their mix of aspirational high culture and everyday pastimes, the People’s Parks played a vital role in shaping the cultural politics of early social democracy. Within the parks, the worker’s movement — and the workers themselves — could stake their own claim, on their own terms, to shaping “the people” as both a political proposition and practical presence. In the most literal way, the People’s Parks made space for socialist possibilities. They extended the reach of democratic socialism beyond the inner circles of party cadres and unionized workers and those willing to take night classes in economic history. They charged the democratic goal of economic emancipation with the more immediate desire for a life beyond toil. In the parks, working people could do more than organize and patiently await a better future. They could have a taste of the good life on the weekend, in the sort of green and spacious landscapes once reserved for the leisure class, all the while serving the cause.