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PhD studentship Opportunity

Posted on 06/02/2013

Amateur Dramatics in Urban Utopia: The Garden City Movement

Applications are invited for a three-year full-time PhD studentship, funded by the AHRC, to be based in the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. The student will be an important part of the research team, with a parallel PhD studentship at the University of Warwick and a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant at the University of Exeter. 

The Research Project: Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space

This AHRC funded research project is the first major study of amateur theatre, supported by the AHRC Connecting Communities Scheme. It runs from July 2013-December 2016, and is led by Helen Nicholson (RHUL, Principle Investigator), Nadine Holdsworth (Warwick, Co-Investigator) and Jane Milling (Exeter, Co-Investigator). 

It is the first funded research project to take amateur dramatics seriously. Amateur theatre has an active place in the social and cultural life of many communities, and a long history of community activity. But academics have been conspicuously silent on the subject, favoring forms of theatre that are more palatable to radical politics or more in tune with metropolitan taste. Moreover, the term 'amateur' is often used disparagingly; professional actors continue to deride amateur dramatics for their production values. Yet for the participants in amateur dramatics themselves, the choice of repertoire, the craft of performance and the production values are deeply important. 

Both PhD students will develop an independent study within this project. They will benefit from sharing expertise across universities, collaborating with the voluntary and charitable sectors, sharing research at international conferences and communicating research findings with cultural policy-makers.  They will gain skills within and beyond the academy, and we welcome applications from students who share this vision. 

The PhD Case Study

Amateur Dramatics in Urban Utopia: The Garden City Movement

This PhD will address the overall research project's aims by exploring connections between theatre history, performance theory and geographies of time and space. The context for this aspect of the research project, the Garden Cities Movement, provides a unique opportunity to examine how political idealism was turned to practical action, and to consider how amateur dramatics contributed to creating, connecting and sustaining communities at moments in history. This PhD will examine the history and contemporary practice of amateur dramatic companies by focusing primarily on the first Garden City, Letchworth (founded in 1903). Letchworth incorporated the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement in its architecture, providing parks, high quality housing, good sized gardens and leisure facilities. Amateur dramatics thrived in this environment, and Gordon Craig designed the theatre, amateur performers staged G.B.Shaw’s banned plays and women working in the corset factory performed plays that supported the suffrage movement. 

The PhD will be invited to reflect on the creative geography of contemporary Letchworth, asking how and why the repertoire changed from political radicalism to more conventional productions. The study will impact on Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation’s mission to revitalise the city’s cultural ecology, and provide a framework for sustainable living that has global impact. Questions of space and spatiality are central to the Garden City Movement as it was founded on environmental principles , and the research will consider the architectural spaces in which amateur dramatics has taken place, and will question the relationship between vernacular architecture and the 'vernacular creativity' (Edensor 2010) of amateur drama. Amateur dramatics in Garden Cities also relates to questions of time and temporality, and this PhD student will be invited to consider how social change has affected the ways in which time is given to, or spent on, amateur dramatics. It will contribute to the case study 'Amateur Dramatics in Urban Utopias' by addressing how participating in performance mediates between 'real', fictional and imagined time.

The PhD student will be based at Royal Holloway, University of London and start on Monday 30th September 2013. The studentship runs for three years. 

The research will be supervised by Professor Helen Nicholson (Drama and Theatre) and advised by Professor David Gilbert (Cultural Geography). 


Candidates should have obtained a minimum of an Upper Second-class honours degree in Drama and Theatre or an appropriate  alternative subject area. In additon, candidates should have gained an upper merit or distinction at postgraduate Master's level, or an international equivalent, in a subject relevant to their research proposal. Candidates with a background in participatory performance, creative geographies and cultural policy are also encouraged to apply for this studentship.

Candidates must meet the AHRC's academic criteria and because of funding regulations, must be either a UK national, or a non-UK national who satisfies AHRC eligibility criteria. Applicants are advised to consult ‘Guide to Student Funding 2012-13’ on the AHRC website http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Student-Funding-Guide.pdf

or to contact the AHRC directly to establish whether or not they meet these requirements.

The awards will include EU/UK fees and a stipend of £15,590 with increases following RCUK guidelines. 

Application procedure 

You should send the following:

A covering letter stating relevant experience / knowledge

A 750 -1,000 word statement outlining your approach to the research project

A copy of your first degree and postgraduate qualifications

A current CV 

An example of your academic writing

Two letters of academic reference. These should be sent separately from your application and the envelope signed and sealed. 

A completed postgraduate application form – this can be downloaded from http://www.rhul.ac.uk/studyhere/postgraduate/applying/howtoapply.aspx

A completed AHRC Doctoral application form – this can be downloaded from under ‘How to Apply’ at www.rhul.ac.uk/studyhere/researchdegrees/feesandfunding/scholarships/ahrc.aspx

If you are making a formal application, please contact Helen Nicholson (h.nicholsonrhul.ac.uk) for any additional information on the project. Interviewees will be asked to make a 10-minute presentation based on their proposed topic or initial ideas for this PhD research project. 

Closing date for applications is 15th March 2013.  Interviews for the two PhD studentships and the Post-doctoral Research Assistant will take place in London on 28th March 2013.


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