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The Situationist Theatre- Reviving the Lost Guilds and Mysteries of Newcastle’s Quayside

Part 2 Project 2013
Jonathan Dennis
Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne UK
The scheme as proposed is a live project for the’ Live Theatre’ - a nationally significant theatre company located on Newcastle’s Quayside. In 2012, due to cuts in government funding, the Council took the decision to suspend all grants to arts-based organisations in the city. Within months of this decision, many well –regarded facilities and services had closed down. The ‘Live Theatre’ was keen to develop their building and the surrounding site that to provide space for arts based SMEs as a way of generating income to replace the grants they had lost, as well as increasing their presence onto the Quayside. There was an opportunity to provide an authentic, realisable, scheme for the organisation that could be used for, publicity, discussions with stakeholders and funding applications.

The theatre is housed within a precinct of medieval buildings that are grade 1 listed. The project aims to make a significant contribution to the place characteristics of this important site. Currently the public realm lacks cohesion as a result of the demolition of a several poor quality buildings. The site is under-utilised, with many people from Newcastle not even knowing that these precious buildings exist despite them being only 20m back from the river. The site has an ancient and rich history that has supported many different uses. The scale, structure and organisation of the new scheme are derived from the warehouse buildings, the courtyard and the chare (a thin alley) that characterise this part of Newcastle. Also of particular interest, when generating the concept, was the Mystery Guilds who occupied this stretch of the Quayside in the 16th Century. They financed, and helped to build, pageant carts that were rolled out onto the quayside to put on religious plays for the masses. This activity has parallels with the Situationist- type performances the theatre group puts on during arts festivals. Also the scheme proposed that the SMEs are guild-type craft workshops that provide training for unemployed people who as part of their training make props for the theatre including the new pageant carts as a way of enlivening the Quayside. These workshops are located in new the warehouses that also provide space for cafe and bar facilities. Their language recalls the train sheds that housed the Victorian locomotives that serviced the industry on the Tyne. The everyday act of making becomes in itself a piece of theatre that animates a new group of familiarly scaled external sp

Jonathan Dennis

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2013
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