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John Somers with the award from the American Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Honorary Fellow John Somers presented with American Higher Education Award

Honorary fellow John Somers has been presented with an international award for Leadership in Community-Based Theatre and Civic Engagement from the American Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE).

A former member of staff in the University of Exeter’s Drama Department, John Somers received this international accolade following a distinguished career producing original, community-based theatre in the UK and overseas.

The ATHE award ceremony took place in Phoenix Arizona on the 24th July 2014, in which the Drama Honorary Fellow submitted a video thanking the Association for Theatre in Higher Education for his honour.

John Somers was nominated for the award by Professor Mick Mangan, who used to work in the Drama Department at the University of Exeter, and is now at Loughborough University.

In order to be considered, prospective nominees needed to demonstrate ten years of working in community-based theatre and civic engagement. The process included submitting nominator statements and letters of support from critics, academics and participants. Applicants were judged against criteria such as innovation of approach, artistic quality, contributions to the field, regional impact, demonstration of community need and depth of civic dialogue.

Speaking of his win, John Somers said: “I am honoured to receive this prestigious award which acknowledges my commitment to work I have created in Community Theatre contexts, both in the UK and in a range of other countries - most recently in Poland.”

He added: “I am proud to place it beside the other awards I have received, including for ‘On the Edge’, an original Interactive Theatre production dealing with mental health issues which toured nationally and which, for its contribution to mental health awareness, I received the National Institute of Mental Health in England (NIMHE) Positive Practice Award and the Southern Region Health and Social Care Award.”

This award follows other impressive accolades and achievements, including having the Applied Drama Association at the University of Warsaw named after him - Studenckie Koło Naukowe Dramy Stosowanej im Johna Somersa (the John Somers Applied Drama Research Association) - in recognition of his extensive work at the University’s Institute of Prevention and Resocialisation (IPSiR). He has also received several tranches of funding to create Interactive Theatre programmes which deal with topics such as depression, racism, suicide in the veterinary profession and adult bullying in the workplace.

In 2003 he was awarded the American Alliance of Theatre and Education Lin Wright Special Recognition Award. Other award-winning projects have followed, notably a film Somers wrote and directed in partnership with Pangea TV, collecting the ‘Collaboration between Business and Young People’ Media Innovation Award. More recently in 2011 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Türk Eğitim Derneği (Turkish Drama Association) for services to drama in the UK and in Turkey.

Date: 22 August 2014

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