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Environment

The Department of Performing Arts is home to a thriving research culture, which covers all the areas of expertise within the department - in Drama, Dance, Popular Music Studies, Applied Performance, Performance Ethnography, Performance Theory, Theatre Adaptation, Music Production, Music Composition and Musicology.  

Staff research is supported by a departmental research seminar series, research reading groups, annual research symposia and international conferences. Staff members regularly present their research at national and international conferences and public events. The department has several Postgraduate Research Students whose research covers; theatre adaptation, wrestling and performance, feminist performance theory, musicology and collaborative song writing.

Outputs 

The department for Performing arts has several interconnected well-established research groups-   

The first group is researching Applied Performance in a number of social and cultural contexts. The work of this group covers the use of applied drama and performance techniques in educational and non-educational settings. Of the latter, the group is particularly interested in drama in organisations and the professions; drama as a Pre-Text; applied drama in schools, youth groups and health care settings; drama as social justice and in counter terrorism strategies. The group has a long track record in collaborative practices and has fostered strong links with other HEIs, educational establishments and client groups, both across Britain and internationally. The department’s impact narrative is strongly connected with the idea of drama and performance as a process and method by which to explore social justice, action and interaction. Applied drama project have been undertaken in Japan, Western and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. In the UK, applied drama projects involved working with schools and youth groups and non-arts-based organisations and businesses. Projects and cooperation has been established with theatre in education companies delivering counter-terrorism strategies in schools, political organisations, the European Parliament in Brussels and community groups in the UK and abroad. 

The second group is researching creative practices and processes and outputs include a range of high quality creative and performance work in addition to published books, articles and chapters. Creative projects include original stage adaptations of 19th and 20th Century classic literature; graphic comics;  intercultural dance projects with young children; dance curation; classical and popular musicology, video game analysis; collaborative song writing; Clowning and story-telling. This group is well placed to take advantage of the integrated interdisciplinary nature of the department, including as it does representatives from Drama, Dance and (Popular) Music and also the wider School of Arts and Media. For example, research has been conducted linking Drama and graphic art with a project on the work of the 19th Century female cartoonist Marie Duval. Work from the department has been shown and discussed at National and International events, including the Tate Britain and the British Library, London. The department has strong links with Storyhouse, a multi-million pound arts centre, library and theatre in the city of Chester. 

The third group (which draws on personnel from the other groups) is engaged in ethnographic research. This research strand gathers together ideas, models and reflections on performance ethnography within the broader discipline of performance studies. Performance studies ‘practice’ brings together theatre and anthropology, privileging ethnography over spectatorship and process over product. The terms ‘practice-based research’ and ‘embodied ethnography’ have strong currency in all the research projects giving evidence of new orientations in areas of performance research. The areas of research include mumming, ritual, secular spiritualities and dance collaboration. The department for performing arts convened a two-day conference Narratives and Alternative Stories Conference 2017, drawing together a number of scholars and academics from the UK and abroad, in order to discuss the role and function of narrative embedded in the performing arts, as well as stories found in the arts, humanities and social sciences. 

Impact

General context: The department’s commitment to applied theatre work is long-standing, and is firmly embedded both at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Following on from the previous REF audit (2008-2013), we have established applied performance work in all areas of the department’s work. Applied Drama projects have been conducted in Japan, Western and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In addition, over the current REF period (2013-2020), we have sought to widen the impact of our work in a number of ways both within and outside the academic community. This work is very much a part of the culture of the department; students at undergraduate level have been involved in theatre work with applied performance practitioners and have taken applied work to prisons and schools, and with other community client groups (in the UK and Romania). The Dance programme has a similar commitment to applied work (third year students have been involved in a number of community-based and intercultural dance). As the department’s research culture has developed, staff across the performing arts disciplines have initiated work that aims to reach and to work with client groups outside of the academic community. There are several project example of impact areas: drama pre-text and the role of the arts in the professions; the teaching of dance in Higher Education; research project on mumming which involves mumming practitioners and a research project exploring the role of theatre in education in delivering counter terrorism strategies in schools. This commitment is clearly reflected in the work of our PhD students - an indication of the department’s commitment to building and sustaining work that has an impact outside of Higher Education. The department has three professional theatre companies working in the areas of applied practice: 2engage, Performing Pathways and Haylo. 

The impact work of the department is supported at departmental level; support is given to researchers in developing knowledge transfer bids, and staff development funds are available to researchers who wish to develop the impact of their work. In the run up to the next REF audit (2021), the department will aim to build on the successful impact of its applied performance work. Projects in train have been outlined above, but there is still considerable potential to develop impact strategies based on work done within the department. 

Case studies: The Case studies include the longstanding work and projects on pretext based process drama in the professions and drama in education as cultural intervention. Case studies are conducted in Finland, Japan, Estonia, Spain, Palestine, Sweden and Romania. They include collaboration between University of Chester and number of international organizations and governing bodies. Applied performance - that is, performance which seeks to be socially and culturally useful, and to intervene in the lives of its participants, has been a crucial part of the department’s activities for quite some time and will form a key role in the case studies presented for REF 2021.