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 and Birmingham. 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.

The story develops

Whilst the artists were drawing the various stories together, Northamptonshire County Council effectively 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 as a result of 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. 

Why are we called 60 Miles by Road or Rail?

The Northampton Development Corporation were in charge of overseeing the New Town expansion from the late 60s into the 80s.

Shortly after central government told them to wrap up their activities prematurely, they released a radio jingle advertising Northampton’s transport links and proximity to the capital. The jingle was so catchy it was developed into a full-length record ’60 Miles by Road or Rail’ which is fondly recognised by many of its locals today. It’s even got a b-side called ‘Energy in Northampton’ about aliens arriving in Northampton! 

Our organisation shares its name with this record, recognising the importance of championing our town and all it has to offer, and doing so through playful and popular ways. 

2019


Following the positive response to our activities throughout 2018, the team starting 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 we started in 2018, we will be hosting heritage events and activities in Corby which was designated a New Town 18 years previously.

We’re incredibly excited for what we have to offer throughout 2020, be that through arts, heritage or community activities, and we hope you are able to get involved.

If you have any questions about the project, please feel free to email us at hello@60milesbyroadorrail.co.uk

Andy Routledge 60 Miles by Road or Rail

Photo credit: Ben Gregory-Ring

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