Mass Observation was a social research organisation founded in 1937 to record the minutiae of daily life in Britain. Its army of around 500 volunteers kept diaries, answered questionnaires and, somewhat controversially by today’s standards, recorded people’s behaviour and conversation in and out of work. A bit like the NSA, really. This went on until the 1950s when it was discontinued and then restarted in 1981. Although methodologically dubious: its surveyors were hardly representative of the populace as a whole, it does offer some fascinating insights. Its archive resides with the University of Sussex and it has recently moved to a custom-built, climate-controlled centre called The Keep.
To commemorate this move, several snippets were made available to the press. One immediately caught my attention. In 1938 one of the questions they wanted the answer to, for reasons lost in time, was what was the average supping time for a pint? One could only imagine that this was at the behest of a 1930’s Tyson the Beerhound. The result showed that in November in Brighton, the average per-half-pint was 7.3 minutes. Altogether pub surveys were conducted in Bolton, Blackpool and Brighton and it will probably come as no surprise to learn that Tuesday evening saw the slowest drinking; while Friday evening saw the quickest.
Sadly the modern Mass Observation is conducted by email and, as yet, I have not been invited to give my opinion on any of my specialist fields: beer, cheese, pizza and curry.