The Exeter Northcott Theatre: Regional Theatre Identity and Community Engagement in the UK (Department of English), PhD (Self-Funded)
This is an exciting opportunity for individuals with expertise and interests in heritage studies, cultural management and/or the creative industries to research the history of the Exeter Northcott Theatre using ENT’s under-explored archives held in the University of Exeter’s Special Collections (to be fully catalogued by July 2020). Materials in the archive include operational, business and production documents, press coverage, and publicity and performance-related materials from ENT’s opening in 1967 to its refurbishment in 2007. Documenting ENT’s evolving relationship with the University of Exeter, the archive details the theatre’s role in fostering community engagement (via its Young Company, its Community Company, and its engagement with minority groups such as BAME actors and people with disabilities).
Situating the proposed research within current debates about cultural institutions and participatory culture, the PhD project will contribute to the growing body of literature on regional theatre’s cultural, social, and educational value for its community. By combining the disciplinary perspectives of heritage studies, archival studies, and audience research, it will analyse how the study of the past can assist in shaping inclusive, community-facing cultural policies in the creative industries sector of the future.
Key Research Questions:
How did changes in Arts Council funding affect performance practices, publicity campaigns, and community engagement at ENT? What were the challenges faced by regional building-based theatres in a national cultural landscape maintaining a metropolitan bias? How has ENT been using its location and access to adjacent Higher Education Institution structures to foster exchanges between the university and local residents? Aiming to add fresh insights to existing economic impact studies (e. g. Shellard Report, 2004), this PhD project will ask what role the theatre has played and continues to play within the local community.
This project is extremely relevant to the ENT’s priorities and objectives through its alignment with the Northcott’s “Audience Makers: A Community History of the Northcott Archive” initiative which received National Lottery funding in December 2019 (£143.000) and which seeks to connect local communities to the theatre’s archive by enabling them to explore and expand upon existing heritage resources. The student appointed will work alongside ENT staff (creative learning team, heritage manager, marketing team) and volunteers assigned to this project. Further employability skills with outreach, digital output creation, oral history curation, and heritage installation will be provided by ENT’s existing partnerships with the University of Exeter’s Special Collections, Digital Humanities Lab and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum. ENT has a record of working with student volunteers, many of whom have developed successful heritage and cultural management careers.
This is a self-funded PhD project.
Using the extensive archival records of the Exeter Northcott Theatre (ENT), the PhD candidate will investigate the development of regional theatre identity and cultural value in the UK in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.