Remembering Hull

PhD Thesis

Government-initiated schemes of cultural regeneration aim to improve both internal and external perceptions of a city, and as such offer the potential to galvanise renegotiations of place. However, I problematise the single narrative of a city that this top-down approach projects and promotes; hegemonic cultural discourse can often override, or forget, collective memory. In this research project, situated within Kingston upon Hull’s  transformative year as the United Kingdom’s 2017 City of Culture, I apply existing knowledge within the field of theatre studies, memory studies, and placemaking to produce two interconnected outcomes. Firstly, through questioning how memory can be performed as a process, I establish performance strategies that avoid representing the past as a fixed version of events. In doing so, I expose approaches to performance practice that invite and support autobiographical remembering in order to effectively facilitate, and favour, individual reconstructions of the experienced past. Secondly, I establish the performance of memory as a tool with which to practice place. My research contributes to the field of performance and autobiography and its application within projects that aim to reach, encourage, and effect public engagement with cultural regeneration. Ultimately, I present the performance of autobiographical memory as a means of activating a city’s inhabitants to contribute to, and lead, a process of placemaking in order to regain ownership of collective memory from the control of those in positions of cultural and political power.