Performing Moretonhampstead: rurality, participation and cultural value
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Reason for embargo
This paper is based on a multi-sited ethnography of subjects engaged in performance-based participation – amateur theatre, community-based theatre and Carnival – in the market town of Moretonhampstead on Dartmoor in the South West of England. Given its setting, the case study examines the rural dimensions of participation and cultural value. In addition to understanding the meaning and value of performance-based participation taking place in shared communal spaces, including the parish hall and the high street, this article seeks to understand everyday participation as a fundamentally embodied and emplaced practice. Place is not simply a venue or site for performance (or any other type of) participation. Drawing on the place theory of Edward Casey, who follows the European school of phenomenology, it is argued that place is, rather, the fundamental ground of human experience: embodied subjects and places co-evolve in a dialogic process of inter-animation. The main question we ask is how rurality shapes participation and how participation re-produces material and imaginary rural spaces. A key characteristic of government funding of arts and culture in the UK is extreme inequality in the distribution of funds to the City of London compared to the rest of the UK. While the cultural ecosystems of all UK regions outside London are equally disadvantaged in this respect, economic and cultural development in the South West region exacerbates this unequal situation by focussing investment and service provision in urban hubs, leaving contrasting rural areas doubly disadvantaged. This case study argues that an idyll-ised rural imaginary re-produced in and through everyday participation is only compounded by government deficits. Furthermore, it asserts that cultural policy making concerned with the value of equality must adopt a co-ordinated approach that takes into account complex interdependencies of national, regional and local registers of place.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 26 (1), pp. 47 - 57