Background

2017 / 2018

60 Miles by Road or Rail started in August 2017. Theatre director Andy Routledge returned to his hometown of Northampton and wanted to cultivate a platform for Northamptonians of different generations to come together to question and strengthen their collective and individual relationships to the town.

He learnt that 2018 marked 50 years since the designation of Northampton becoming a New Town – an event that led to its rapid expansion as thousands of families were welcomed from overspill areas of London. It was a fundamental moment in the makeup of Northampton, and yet it was a story that seemed to be largely untold.

Andy brought together a team of local professional artists, and between them they interviewed 114 people about their experiences of Northampton becoming a New Town. Interviewees included members of the Northampton Development Corporation who oversaw the town’s expansion, some of the first residents to live in the newly built estates and who helped nurture the new communities, and Northamptonian natives who witnessed the town’s identity change very significantly and very quickly.

Whilst the creatives were drawing the various stories together, Northamptonshire County Council went bankrupt and severe cuts to its social services announced. The county was on the front page of The Guardian and The New York Times as an example of a local authority going bust due to the government’s austerity measures. The project took on a greater urgency with the anger of a town in crisis and had a great amount to say and contribute to our contemporary political landscape.

In September 2018 the artists previewed a new piece of theatre, titled 60 Miles by Road or Rail. It played to a sold-out home crowd at Royal & Derngate as part of their Generate programme for emerging artists. Following the success of both the production and the community  processes leading up to it, the team started planning for next steps.

The 2018 activity was made possible due to public funding from Arts Council England, in addition to the Travers Foundation and the Unity Theatre Trust. It was supported by Generate: Royal & Derngate’s Artist Development Programme, in partnership with Warts and All Theatre’s With/By/For programme, Umbrella Fair Organisation and Northampton Past. 

2019

Following the positive response to our activities throughout 2018, the team started thinking about how the project could evolve, and reach more people.

Following her role as the producer of the production in 2018, Courtenay Johnson joined the team as a co-project manager. Alongside Andy, they set up 60 Miles by Road or Rail as a limited company. Throughout 2019 Courtenay and Andy put together the programme for the 2020 activity. This included mounting a series of ambitious funding applications to Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Lottery Community Fund and Northamptonshire Community Foundation, and developing further links with local organisations and residents.

In addition to building on the arts and community activities that were started in 2018, they decided to begin exploring Corby, which was designated a New Town 18 years prior to Northampton.

Andy Routledge 60 Miles by Road or Rail

Photo credit: Ben Gregory-Ring

2020

On 14th February 2020, 52 years to the day since Northampton’s New Town designation, the year-long project was launched. Sadly due to COVID-19 many of its activities were postponed…

Andy and Courtenay continued to keep the project alive however! They spoke with numerous people about their New Town experiences as part of Your Stories, both online and in person as part of Warts and All Theatre’s Heritage Fun Day at Delapré Abbey.

Andy also spoke with Lyn Gardner for The Stage’s ‘The Empty Space: What Should Have Opened This Week’ feature.

Warts and All Theatre Delapre Abbey Heritage

Photo credit: Courtenay Johnson

2021

The project relaunches…

Following an open call-out, Katie Welford joined the team as Digital Community Engagement Producer and Christian Sinibaldi joined as Photographer for our Photo Stories project. We recruited Grete Dalum-Tilds, Bekki Frost, Laura Graham, Beverley Jones and Mo Shapiro as Oral History Interviewers. They received training from Julia Letts at the Oral History Society and are currently interviewing people. 

Want to find out more about who we are and how you or your organisation could work with us?

Drop us an email at katie@60milesbyroadorrail.co.uk

Interested in getting involved?

Fill in the short form below and we’ll help to match you to the most appropriate part of the project. You can find out everything about the project by downloading our project brochure.

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