New Town legacies will be explored in new play 60 Miles by Road or Rail.
Opening in Northampton this September, 60 Miles by Road or Rail examines the legacy of New Towns. Using real life testimony and local stories, the show brings to life the impact of the government’s New Towns Act on Northampton communities.
The piece will run between Wednesday 22 and Saturday 25 September 2021.
Despite a thousand years of history, Northampton was designated a New Town in 1968 as part of the government’s masterplan for post-war revitalisation. The newly formed Development Corporation taskforce were instructed to expand the town across twenty momentous years. The Corporation went to hilarious lengths to ensure targets were met, even adapting their radio jingle ‘only sixty miles by road or rail’ into a legendary pop record.
Heralded as a utopian future and presenting affordable opportunities, the population was expected to double, with the town centre and new estates rapidly expanding. However, focus started to shift in Thatcher’s Britain from community to the individual, and from social housing to the private sector. Using conversations with members of the local community as its starting point, 60 Miles by Road or Rail explores the impact of the expansion on the newcomers and the Northampton locals, and the effects this would have on the town for generations to come. The production examines this crucial New Town period to explore Northampton’s ongoing identity crisis, after it was declared bankrupt in 2018 and its local councils were scrapped.
60 Miles by Road or Rail is the culmination of a year-long community project which includes oral histories that will be housed in the East Midlands Oral History Archive, a portrait photo series by award-winning photographer Christian Sinibaldi and a documentary film that will be premiered at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery in December. Through arts, heritage and community activities, 60 Miles by Road or Rail provides a unique opportunity to investigate the complex legacy and ramifications that becoming a New Town has had on the residents of today.
60 Miles by Road or Rail was written by Ryan Leder (A Short Story About Time Travel, Bus, Loop) and is produced by Courtenay Johnson for Carbon Theatre (Sea Girl, Seedling, My Sensory Adventures) and directed by Andy Routledge (When We Died, Swim Ventoux).
The company of performers consists of Subika Anwar-Khan (Sophia, Hear Me Now, Julie), Helen Crevel (Seedling, Pippi Longstocking, Loop), Jo Blake (Blodeuwudd Untold) Dan McGarry (Danny, the Champion of the World, As You Like It, Goldilocks and the Three Bears) and Davin Eadie (Great Expectations).
Writer Ryan Leder commented: “The play is a fun, funny and fast approach to an important chapter in Northampton’s local history. It seeks to ask big questions about the town’s history and current political landscape, as well as the divide that exists throughout the town.
“Ultimately, I hope the plays encapsulates Northampton’s identity, while also questioning if that’s the identity we want to have. Perhaps Northampton needs to find a new kind of pride in itself – and not by releasing a song that defines its very existence as “close to London”.
60 Miles by Road or Rail is generously supported by Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Lottery Community Fund, The Compton Fund – Northamptonshire Community Foundation and Travers Foundation. Their partners include Carbon Theatre, Royal & Derngate, Northampton Past, New Town Heritage Research Network, Eight Engines and Warts and All Theatre. The theatre production is made with support from Royal & Derngate, Northampton, after receiving development support through the theatre’s Generate programme.