A research project which uses theatre to explore how local communities interact with the planning process has helped a Newcastle University academic win a national award for Research Excellence.
‘The Town Meeting’, created by Dr Paul Cowie and Newcastle-based theatre company, Cap-a-Pie, has been awarded the Sir Peter Hall Award for Wider Engagement by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
The innovative play is set in the fictional town of Little Rikjord. A town in crisis, much of Little Rikjord’s prosperity has come from the nearby open cast iron ore mine. But the seam is close to exhaustion and the town’s residents – played by the audience – must come up with a plan for Little Rikjord’s future, assisted only by a shambolic junior planning officer, played by Brad McCormick.
The play builds on research carried out by Dr Cowie which highlighted how neighbourhoods try to represent themselves in the planning process. At the end of each performance researchers and the audience debate the dramatised representation of the planning process, real life issues of neighbourhood planning itself and where fiction ends and reality begins. The award recognises the play’s success in making academic research more accessible and relevant to local communities.