Town Planning Review 88.4 Featured Article

Posted on July 10, 2017 by Megan Ainsworth

The editors of TPR have selected "Performing Planning: Understanding community participation in planning through theatre” by Paul Cowie as the Featured Article for the latest issue. It will be free to access for a limited time. You can access the article here


When asked to describe the paper, and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

‘Performing Planning’: Using Theatre as a planning engagement tool

The process of planning is often a mystery to those who are affected by it. Partly this is due to low levels of public engagement in the planning process. It is hard to get people to participate in the planning process, to have input into a draft local plan or to band together to prepare a neighbourhood plan, and harder still to engage people in the theory of planning as an academic.


Since April 2014 Cap-a-Pie theatre company and myself have been collaborating on a project which has investigated the possibility of using theatre as a means of engaging communities in planning in a way which is beneficial to both planners and the community. The aim is to create an engagement method that sparks enthusiasm for planning whilst at the same time produces something that is relevant and robust for both the planner and the academic.


The project involved the creation of a theatrical play which asked audiences to play the role of a community facing a major planning decision and provoked them into thinking about the consequences of that decision. This article sets out to explain how we developed the play as a tool to engage communities and the response it had. The article makes the case for a more creative approach to engagement in planning and demonstrates one possible way of doing so. The approach outlined in the paper was capable of engaging communities of all ages from the biggest cities to the one of the most remote communities in England with a surprising level of enthusiasm.

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