Professor Jane Milling

Associate Professor


Extension: 4592

Telephone: 01392 72 4592

My research interests include popular and political performance in 17th, 18th and 20th century theatre history. I am interested in questions of participation, community, and creativity in contemporary performance and culture, see Deirdre Heddon and Jane Milling, Devising Performance: A Critical History (Palgrave 2005).

I am currently working on a series of AHRC-funded projects under the Connected Communities programme across the arts, humanities, and social sciences, and I am a member of the panel for the AHRC Connected Communities Research Reviews call.

Understanding Everyday Participation: Articulating Cultural Value, working with colleagues at University of Manchester, University of Leicester and University of Warwick, this project proposes a radical re-evaluation of the relationship between participation and cultural value. We are used to thinking about the benefits of the arts as a traditional way of understanding culture and its value but what about the meanings and stakes people attach to their hobbies and pastimes? Can we speak of supposedly mundane activities like shopping, taking the dog for a walk, or meeting up with friends as having cultural worth?

This research project brings together evidence from in-depth historical analyses, the re-use of existing quantitative data and new qualitative research to reveal the detail, dynamics and significance of ‘everyday participation’. Our aim is to generate new understandings of community formation and capacity through participation, which we will develop through collaborations with partners and participant groups to evolve better practice for policy makers and cultural organisations. Our approach promises new ways of capturing the contexts and processes of cultural valuation including the ways in which creative economies are underpinned by local practices and community identities.

The project will run from April 2012 to July 2017.


Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space

This AHRC funded research project is the first major study to take amateur dramatics seriously.

Amateur theatre has an active place in the social and cultural life of many communities, and a long history of community activity. Yet the term 'amateur' is often used disparagingly; academics have been conspicuously silent on the subject, and professional actors continue to deride amateur dramatics for their production values.  The project runs from July 2013-December 2016, and is led by Helen Nicholson (RHUL, Principle Investigator), Nadine Holdsworth (Warwick, Co-Investigator) and Jane Milling (Exeter, Co-Investigator). The project will run from July 2013.

Follow our blog here:

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Past Connected Communities grant projects include:


Taverns, Locals and Street Corners: Cross-chronological studies in community drinking, regulation and public space

This pilot study on tavern culture ranges from early modern Europe to the present day. It investigated whether today’s real and imagined patterns of drinking – people congregating in public spaces at night, sold alcohol and revelling – are recurring practices and representations of drinking and of competing communities. It looked at how public space is used, and how tavern culture produces places and social groupings; how these spaces are regulated in the name of order, morality and health; the rhetorics of drinking and taverns, of pleasure, harm and authority. The project asked if the performance of drinking, and ideas of spectacle and carnival, are still part of modern drinking culture, and if contemporary questions about public policy on drinking and ‘anti-social behaviour’ find resonances in the past. Working with Dr Fabrizio Nevola (University of Bath) and Prof Antonia Layard (University of Birmingham).

Participatory Arts for Well-Being: Past and Present Practices asked what is 'well-being' and examines a series of long-running community-led arts regeneration projects for social well-being.

Alcohol and Performing Community: Mapping representations of binge-drinking and community health examined how binge-drinking has been portrayed in drama and the media over the last 40 years, and asks how qualitative data on the social and performative aspects of binge-drinking can inform policy modelling.

The Role of Grassroots Arts Activity in Communities: a scoping study asked what amateur, voluntary, and participant-initiated arts activities do in communities.

Creative Participation in Housing and Planning looked at three mixed-income communities and investigates how innovative and creative participatory practices could be used to transform housing and planning law and policy throughout the UK.

Revitalising the Prom examined what made pierrot shows so popular with audiences at seaside resorts between the 1890s and the 1950s, and how they might be recreated for today’s holidaymakers.

My interest in actors, playwrights, and popular performance during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has led to articles on Restoration and 18th century performers, and women writers, particularly Susanna Centlivre, in Theatre Survey, Restoration and Eighteenth Century Theatre and Theatre Notebook. I have an ongoing interest in popular performance in the twentieth and twenty-first century, particularly pierrot troupes and popular seaside performance, and the cultural place of playwriting in the 1980s.

I am series editor with Graham Ley of Theatre and Performance Practices with Palgrave Macmillan. I am also a board member for the journals Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research, and Theatre, Dance and Performance Training.

I welcome enquiries from MPhil and PhD students interested in working on theatre history, particularly Restoration and eighteenth-century theatre, as well as students working on issues of gender, politics, participation, and popular performance related to twentieth-century and contemporary performance.

You can hear me wax lyrical about Susanna Centlivre at: