Applied and Social Theatre

Full Name: Michael Carklin

Annual Conference Theme (if applicable): Generation and Regenration

What were the main points that emerged from your WG this year?
The Applied and Social Theatre working group at the 2017 TaPRA conference offered a rich cross-section of research responding to the theme of ‘Generation and Regeneration’. Convened by Zoe Zontou, Matt Jennings and Michael Carklin, our call for papers suggested that this theme included ideas such as

  • Generation(s)
  • Regeneration
  • Inter-generation
  • Degeneration
Building on our Interim event held in March 2017, which had a theme of ‘Age(s) and Ageing in Applied and Social Theatre’, the idea of generation was broadened out to provoke questions about how we might regenerate our field, how applied theatre is shaped across and within different generations, how creative processes are generated, and social and political regeneration. Our working group presented 22 papers, and we were delighted that presenters ranged from early PhD researchers to the most experienced professors in our field, allowing for inclusive, supportive and dynamic discussions and debates. Our first day opened with a panel of papers and provocations exploring the generation of an integrated Britain (Anne Smith); generating young applied theatre practitioners (Kay Hepplewhite); applied theatre in dementia care (Niamh Malone); arts activism as intergenerational care intervention (Gary Anderson); and male adolescence and the representation of intergenerational crisis in British theatre (Martin Heaney). The first session of our second day consisted of six provocations by researchers at different stages of their PhD research, giving the working group an exciting taste of the variety of research currently taking place at this level in applied and social theatre. Key themes addressed here included: regenerating applied drama and theatre praxis through a closer analysis of language in use and language ideology (Claire French); regenerating approaches to learning through the material theatre (Carly Henderson); social wellbeing through applied theatre practices in residential care homes in Wales (Bethan Ryland); recovery or regeneration in considering the arts and mental health (Kate Massey-Chase); performative cartographies and experiential memory (Karl Tizzard-Kleister); and the community play text as artistic and social battleground (Andy Barrett). Our Open Panel on Day 2 offered a stimulating session from three leaders in our field: James Thompson on intergenerational theatre and nuclear war; Nicola Shaughnessy on the role of play in applied theatre in relation to work with autistic communities; and Sue Mayo on resilience and the teaching of socially engaged theatre practice. Our third session of Day 2 presented delegates with a panel discussion on Objects with Objectives: an international research network about applied puppetry (David Grant, Matt Smith, and Laura Purcell-Gates); a paper on interdisciplinary collaboration between arts practitioners, clinical researchers and a community-based organisation, all working in partnership, to explore the intersecting experiences of womanhood and HIV (Katharine Low, Matilda Mudyavanhu & Shema Tariq); and a paper on an approach to developing applied theatre practice as an ‘affective performance ecology’ (Catherine Sloan). Our final working group session, which took place on Day 3 of the conference, included papers and provocations on change, intent, success and value in applied drama and theatre (Kelly Freebody, Michael Finneran, Michael Anderson and Michael Balfour); an arts and health regeneration project with undergraduate nursing students (Alison Reeves); participant agency and artistry through the alchemy of astonishment (Will Weigler); and (re)generating connections between communities, food and the land (Barnaby King). Across the three days discussions in response to papers and provocations enabled us to explore current practices and scholarship in applied and social theatre, to question notions of generation and intergenerational working, to probe the values and assumptions that underpin applied and social theatre practices, and to share and celebrate the range of research taking place in this field.

What was discussed at your business meeting?

There were three key areas of discussion at the Applied and Social Theatre working group business meeting:

  • A reflection on the sessions at the conference itself – feedback was very positive and delegates were enthusiastic about the range and quality of presentations;
  • A discussion was held on the convenors’ decision to accept as many papers as possible, meaning that some presenters were asked to offer shorter presentations to be able to fit more people in. It was agreed that for this particular conference that had worked well, and that the inclusivity and variety had greatly enriched the working group’s sessions. It was also agreed, however, that this approach might not be appropriate (or even possible) for all conferences, and that for the next one it might be worth being more selective.
  • Suggestions were taken for the theme of our next Interim event, and it was agreed that this would be hosted in Belfast together with the Objects with Objectives Puppetry network.

Types of contributions:
Papers, provocations and a panel discussion

Number of formal contributors (those listed in book of abstracts) 22

Approx. overall number of delegates who attended your WG Sessions 30-35 delegates at each WG session and approx 75 at the Open session
Composition of WG (PG, ECR, etc.)
Of the presenters, approx 7 PG, 5 Profs and 10 MCRs

Did you have any non-UK participants? Yes

If your WG hosted an Open Panel, do you have any feedback?

The Open Panel included presentations by James Thompson, Nicola Shaughnessy and Sue Mayo. The panel was very well attended (around 75 delegates) from a range of other working groups.

Any additional points or feedback not covered above?

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