David Calder
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Putting the countryside back to work

This chapter analyses the conversion of a rural factory (camera case manufacturer Photosacs in Corbigny) into an arts centre and base of operations for street theatre company Metalovoice, a project designed to transform Corbigny into a rural cultural hub. But it risks being intelligible as part of a scenario of development that has long subordinated rural workers (especially women) to urban markets and consumers. In response, Metalovoice position themselves as artisans with familial ties to industrial heritage. The discourses produced by and about a street theatre institution and the industrial aesthetics of Metalovoice's inaugural event are linked by the folded logic of reincorporation: material from the past is resurrected for use in the present, changing the meaning of past and present in the process. Attempts to refashion history by discursively and aesthetically linking industrial workers and artists might grant both groups symbolic clout, but they might also obscure the gendered specificities of a local labour history. Through an intentionally micro-level analysis – of one event at one factory in one small town – the chapter links street theatre’s present economic function to its ability to reorder people, spaces, and times.

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