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Impact and engagement

Impact and engagement

Impact and engagement

Image: Audience at performance of Collective Encounters' 'Wealth is Health' performed at National Festival of Community Theatre @ acta 2016.

Our approach

The department believes in socially engaged research, with impact resulting from collaborative investigation of the urgent needs of our time.

Performance is a vital aspect of cultural expression, communicating contemporary concerns through literature, movement, music and visual arts. It is also a lens through which to view everyday activities as restored behaviour, ritual and performative action, and the representation of identities. Drama research therefore concerns the transmission of cultural values, performative resistance to marginalisation, and the creation of resonant narratives and metaphors, as well as the accretions and exclusions of ‘cultural capital’.

Our work often entails a strong connection to professional arts practice. All members of the unit are engaged in research that leads to support for, participation in, and changes to the cultural industries in various ways. We have been particularly concerned with cultures of under-represented communities, whether in the UK or elsewhere, and with understanding and supporting structures and initiatives that promote minority arts and social justice agendas.

Featured case studies

Our case studies demonstrate ways in which Professor Jerri Daboo has collaborated with musician Kuljit Bhamra to develop the use of the tabla in UK schools and professional practice and the work of Dr Michael Pearce in disseminating knowledge of Black British playwrights in collaboration with the National Theatre and through a Radio 4 series, working with actor and activist Lenny Henry.

Our work reaches beyond, and through this professional practice to engage more broadly with cultural contexts.

Drawing on techniques and understanding of embodied practices and holistic environments for healing and sustaining health. Sarah Goldingay’s 2016 Radio 4 programme on The Problem of Pain is a snapshot of her approach.

Researching the significance and reach of amateur performers and other forms of participatory practices, sometimes in areas poor in professional arts provision. Some of the significance of this work is set out in this AHRC report co-authored by Professor Jane Milling with Angus McCabe.

Working with and researching the political significance of theatre as a propaganda tool and/or theatre as articulation of experiences of marginalisation. For example, Dr Rebecca Hillman’s research led to her co-organisation, with GFTU, of two events linking political theatre companies to trade union activists (2017).

Cultural articulation of the more-than-human world; theatre as mediator for environmental education. For example, Dr. Evelyn O’Malley is co-investigator on the research project Atmospheric Theatre, which is concerned with theatre as a way of thinking about air and air pollution.

The quality and significance of Schaefer’s research has been recognised through invitation to contribute to International Community Arts Festival (Rotterdams Wijktheater) as academic-in residence in March 2014 and to a strand on documentation at the 2020 festival (cancelled due to Covid). Schaefer’s AHRC Follow on for Impact and Engagement hosted three seminars and a national festival of community theatre. Rajni Patel (Arts Council England) commented that “Uniquely [the festival is] particularly important as it’s the first national festival for community theatre …”  Theatre from the Heart: acta Festival of Community Theatre Final Report (June 2016).