Performing Abergavenny: creating a connected community beyond divisions of class, locality and history


Principal Investigator: Prof Valerie Walkerdine, Cardiff University
Co-investigators: Prof Sally Mackey, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama; Dr David Studdert, Cardiff University
Collaborators: Monmouthshire County Council, Abergavenny Town Council, Deri Dads, Community Matters ACE, Abergavenny Senior Citizens
Duration: From 2013 to 2014

This project built upon Walkerdine et al’s research in Abergavenny for the Connected Communities Programme, ‘Community as micro-sociality’ (2012-13) which discovered that Abergavenny as a community is geographically disconnected along north/south fault lines, historically related to class and dislocation, and Mackey et al’s project ‘Challenging concepts of ‘liquid’ place through performance practices in community contexts’ (2011-14). The divisions in Abergavenny are marked. Provision of community support and services is divided by geography and class. The co-design, co-creation project worked with a number of local organisations to approach these issues using arts, humanities and social science methods. The project understood community as micro-sociality, amplified by small performance acts. In particular the project addressed a) how the divisions are experienced and have come about b) how they may be overcome to create provision which is welcoming and supportive of both parts of the community c) draw up plans for a sustainable, communal future, identifying connected and integrated support for community in the light of funding cuts and in spite of historical divisions.
The two-stage project involved performers in the main street interacting with the local population to develop questions, followed by a second stage of interventions to address the questions. Interventions developed included local history, developing a very successful Facebook page, an event at the local theatre, hearing from marginalised voices and engaging with relationship to the council, a song produced and filmed with local residents, a treasure and a festival in a local park.