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  • Mat Rees

The Value of a Third Place



I recently fell down a metaphorical rabbit hole online, and learnt about the value of Third Places to society. A third place, for those like me who are unsure, is somewhere that is neither the home (first place) nor a place of work (second place). A café, for example, or a library. Basically, anywhere that people can gather and meet others without the pressure of work – pubs, clubs, cinemas, community centres, churches, parks, and indeed theatres are other examples.

These are neutral territories that we go to in order to escape our work and to meet others; to engage in cultural activities; and to help establish feelings of a sense of place. We go there to meet friends and strangers. Chat about ideas and share our passions. Where loves are won – and lost.

Many third places have been under threat in recent decades – the closure of pubs, churches, community centres and libraries have reduced the number of free spaces for people to visit, and the rise of the inter-net has seen many try to recreate third places online. The pandemic, too, has had an impact with many of us unsure about returning to public spaces for fear of getting Covid.

Hearing about the value of the spaces to local communities brought home to me again the importance of the Kelvin Players Studio, particularly after seeing more than 50 of members gather together for the AGM on Sunday evening.

Most of us become members of Kelvin Players because we want to act. But we also join because the club shares our values and our interests, and because we want to find people with whom we can become friends. We crave social interactions – even people like me who have social anxiety – and we particularly want to meet people who are like ourselves. We also join because we want to feel like we have a place in society – to not feel dislocated and fractured, but to have something we can actively contribute and build towards. A common goal.

Third places also provide opportunities to meet and fall in love – I won’t even begin to list the number of couples who have been brought together at Kelvin Players through their shared love of theatre.

Our Studio doesn’t just give our members a sense of place – there are dozens of dancers, performers, tai chi practitioners and audience members who also use our premises throughout the year. It is equally as important for them to feel a part of something through their classes and groups, as we do through ours.

I often find myself referring to the Studio as a second home – and my fellow members as being like a big giant, extended family. But doing that actually does a disservice to both club and members. You are my cultural peers, and together we are building an important, community facility that gives a sense of real belonging and inclusivity to so many people.

Mat Rees.

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