Northampton project marks designation as new town

Published: 14 February 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

State-of-the-nation play: 60 miles by road or rail

Arts, heritage and community activities will be staged to celebrate Northampton’s being designated a new town 52 years ago as part of the government’s masterplan for post-war revitalisation.

The project 60 Miles by Road or Rail will include a theatre production of the same name supported by and performed at the town’s Royal and Derngate in October 2020. It had its première at the theatre in September 2018 and explores the tensions between central and local government and the roles of local communities.

Performers will be Subika Anwar-Khan, Helen Crevel, Jo Blake, Dan McGarry and Davin Eadie.

Andy Routledge who directs said, “after a year away I returned to my home town and was eager to create a theatrical event that looked inwards to Northampton.

“I assembled a company of local artists from a wide range of theatrical practices and we started listening to the experiences of more than 100 local people through heritage events, workshops and meetings in pubs, cafes and libraries to create a new production for Northampton.

“During our process, Northamptonshire’s local authority went bust. Austerity measures mixed with mismanagement by local and central government led to slashed core services, closed libraries and protests on the streets. Northamptonshire was suddenly front-page news in the New York Times: a middle England county in chaos.

60 Miles by Road or Rail evolved into a resounding state-of-the-nation play. Influenced by Peter Cheeseman’s documentary theatre method and the work of James Graham, it offers a retelling of the past 50 years of Northamptonian experiences and asks what it means for our sense of belonging when our home undergoes crisis, and what we can do about it.”

In the lead-up to this production, there will be a series of events exploring Northampton’s heritage and its complicated history with the government over the past five decades.

There will also be activity in Corby which was designated a new town in 1950. Local artists will work closely with groups in Northampton and Corby to capture residents’ unique relationships to their home town and present a community-led response.

Further information is available at the 60 Miles by Road or Rail web site.