Amateur Dramatics in Urban and Suburban Utopias
We're interested in researching how amateur theatre contributes to constructing sustainable urban and suburban communities in the 21st century. In this case study Helen and Cara will analyse the role of amateur dramatics in two contrasting constructed communities near London: the Garden Cities and post-war New Towns, and in suburban Metroland. Amateur dramatics contributed to realising the utopian aspirations of their early architects (Letchworth 1903, Welwyn 1920, Stevenage 1948 and Metroland 1915) but changing working patterns and urban regeneration are now re-ordering residents’ relationship to leisure time. Today, there is a thriving amateur dramatics scene, and amateur theatre maintains a place in local cultural policy.
Metroland is a poetics of space, rich in literary and archival material; it was branded by railway officials, captured in verse by John Betjeman and fictionalised by Julian Barnes and others. The research journey will respond to these representations of community by following the path of the Metropolitan Line, investigating the activities of amateur dramatics en route. The geographical proximity of each setting means that the research will show amateur theatre’s contribution to outer London communities with different demographics in the past, present and future. This case study will make international connections with New Towns and Garden Cities worldwide.