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The National Body

The emphasis in the film is not on the mass leisure activity of watching football, but on playing it.    Not only is the film concerned with performing rather than spectating, the focus is on the physical preparation for the game rather than the game itself, on achieving the bodily ideal rather than the performance of that ideal on the pitch.  This achievement is further legitimated by the use of Jack Gardner himself, 'a centre half of Queens Park'.  While a Rangers or Celtic player might have been the obvious choice in terms of mass appeal, Queens Park were something of an anachronism in Scottish football, in that they were the only amateur team in the professional first division, hence Mr Gardner's statement that playing in the first division is 'a very great feat indeed'.  He is first and foremost a civil engineer who attends night classes, like the rest of his team he is an amateur Gentleman rather than a professional Player, another nineteenth century distinction that is as much social as it is economic.

Scotland for Fitness
The fitness of the Glaswegian body is the subject of Health of a City (1965)

What is striking about the activities featured in the film is the way in which fitness becomes associated with a rigid regimen, but a regimen quite different from that of the nineteenth century reformists.  Cunningham argues that in the nineteenth century, 'it required something of a revolution for the middle class to be able to absorb physical recreation into their cultural world; and that revolution had not occurred before mid-century' (p. 100).  In the film however, there is a specific emphasis on physical recreation, on bodily fitness, with much talk of muscles, suppleness and breathing.  Further, whereas the nineteenth century reformists explicitly distinguished between legitimate and shameful leisure pursuits, Scotland for Fitness does not prescribe those types of activity which are legitimate and those which are not; the film's final sequence is a montage of a variety of recreational activities from golf and hurdling to camping and cycling.

Although the film is clear that 'the wrong kind of activity' does exist, Sir Ian is explicit that keep fit, football and hill walking are just 'some of the possibilities of keeping fit in Scotland today'.  We might suggest that what the film advocates are not particular activities but what Foucault (1986) calls 'circumstantial regimens' (pp. 124-5), any physical activity which is structured according to a quite specific regimen for keeping fit.  The activities of Mrs Brown, Mr Gardner, and Mr Barr involve careful planning, preparation, and execution in order to ensure the correct balance in their combination of different elements: the careful selection of music, of exercises for all the muscle groups, of routes across mountains between hostels.

Scotland for Fitness
Sir Ian interviews Mr Barr in Scotland for Fitness (1938)

This highly reflexive approach to leisure again owes something to the nineteenth century reformists, who valorised the reflexive self-consciousness of middle-class practices.  While this emerges in Mrs Brown's keep fit classes, its clearest articulation is in Sir Ian's interview with Mr Barr in the following extract:.  

(Mr Barr in hiking gear sits in Sir Ian's office)

Sir Ian: Going anywhere this weekend?

Mr Barr: Yes, I was going to go up through the Argyll National Forest park.

Sir Ian: I know that well.  Sit down.

Mr Barr: I'm thinking of doing this circular tour.  From Argarten Youth Hostel, down Loch Long to Marc, up onto the saddle, along the hill ridge, down Coelessan, and back to Argarten.

Sir Ian: Well you seem to know Scotland pretty well I must say.

Mr Barr: Well I think I can claim to know it as well as anyone, I've been exploring it since I was twelve, on cycle and foot.

As Long as You're Young
Produced by the second committee, As Long as You're Young (1966) chronicles the activities of the Scottish Youth Hostel Association. Sir Ian Colquhoun chaired the Association and Mr Barr recommeds their accomodation to hillwalkers in Scotland for Fitness (1938).

Mr Barr is no Romantic.  His solitary hill walking belongs to a middle class aesthetic that is both rational and reflexive (cf. Bourdieu, 1986).  His engagement with the landscape lacks the idealisation of the experience of involvement that Stratton (1989, pp. 39-42) argues lay at the heart of both the working class aesthetic and the theory of the Sublime.  For Mr Barr and Sir Ian, hill walking produces rational knowledge about Scotland, not a loss of the self.  Sir Ian states this explicitly: 'In this room is a map of Scotland, mountain, loch and glen, we want to get you to know that country, and what is equally important, get to know the people who dwell there, and understand their point of view'.  This returns us to the point that the project the documentary is engaged in is a specifically national project.  Not only is Sir Ian chair of a specifically national council, Mr Gardner is a national representative too, 'the leader of the Scottish eleven in many thrilling games against England, Ireland and Wales.'  He is a national icon who in the documentary becomes a national physical ideal.  Scotland for Fitness closes with the text "KEEP FIT AND RAISE THE SCOTTISH STANDARD" superimposed over a shot of rising lion rampant flag.  This is state intervention into public culture, but into a specifically national public culture.

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Author: Richard Butt Images are drawn from the SCRAN database.