Cultivating Young People's Relationships to a Theatre Building: New Perspectives in Regional Theatre

  • Carly Henderson

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis contributes to the study of regional theatre, an under-researched area of contemporary British theatre studies. It presents new perspectives on the theatre building as a focus and location for learning, and the development of civic identity amongst young people. The thesis begins with a historiography exploring the development of education activities delivered in regional theatres from 1958 - 2008. I identify and detail a sub-narrative within these histories, relating to engagement practices connected to the theatre building. The thesis presents an argument for education practices that draw on the diverse technical skills and artistry inherent in a producing theatre context, an area that I argue has been overlooked in theatre education research. Using Richard Sennett's theoretical articulations of the skills and value systems inherent in craft, I offer a mapping of craft in theatre education, presenting insights into young people's experiences of learning alongside technicians, stage managers and costume makers. I explore these themes in a detailed case study approach, focusing on the work of Oldham Coliseum Theatre, a publicly subsidised, producing theatre. A former mill town in the North of England, Oldham has a population broadly made up of people from white British and South Asian backgrounds. Using my role as a working practitioner at the Coliseum as a base for the research process, I present an autoethnographic account and analysis of the development of a model of local secondary schools' provision. Few sources exploring engagement with theatre buildings draw on long-term empirical work with young people. To provide new understandings of the educational and social significance of this engagement in Oldham, in young people's terms, I developed a novel methodology that incorporates and analyses the experiences of eight young people. Utilising photography and photo elicitation, these young people have documented and reflected on their engagement with the theatre over a 4-year period. Their photographs, threaded through the thesis, uncover and illuminate the material qualities of the theatre, as a place, and as a space for learning.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJennifer Hughes (Supervisor) & Simon Parry (Supervisor)


  • Participation
  • Theatre education
  • Craft
  • Regional Theatre
  • Situated learning

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