TaPRA Showtown Fellowship 2022

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TaPRA and Showtown, Blackpool are delighted to announce the 2022 TaPRA Fellowship scheme designed to provide a funded research opportunity for a post-doctoral early career researcher (ECR) who has not yet secured a long-term contract or permanent employment.

The scheme offers £5,000 to fellow fund a period of research (equating to a period of eight to ten weeks. A minimum of two weeks are to be undertaken in the performance collections held by Blackpool Council Heritage Service in the temporary store at Whitegate Manor, Whitegate Drive, Blackpool (Showtown). Additional financial support may be available to those who require assistance with accommodation and/or travel whilst working at Whitegate Manor.

Showtown is Blackpool’s new museum of fun and entertainment, due to open for the 2023 tourist season. It aims to celebrate the “greatest show town on Earth” engaging residents and visitors through fun, laughter and stories to share what makes Blackpool special. Showtown reveals Blackpool’s lasting influence on leisure, fun, theatre, performance, and entertainment in the UK and internationally. The museum will enable visitors to get up-close with the entertainers who put the town on the map – from comedians to dancers, acrobats, performers, and larger-than life characters who turned the seaside resort into a world capital of show business.

Underpinning Showtown are Blackpool’s historic collections including The Tower Company Collections, The Illuminations Collection, the Tourism Collection and more. These collections reveal a side of Blackpool’s entertainment history that is significant but often overlooked and which is a largely untapped resource for serious research. The range of performance forms in Blackpool, all of which contributed to the development of Blackpool as a tourist and entertainment destination, are extensive and include circus, theatre, variety, music, comedy, magic, sideshow, end of the pier, spectacle, installation, exhibition, sport, and dance. Blackpool’s entertainment industry developed around millions of working-class visitors, starting in the Victorian period and the onset of wakes weeks and booming in the 20th century with the Holidays with Pay Act of 1938. Showtown’s collections span 1850-present with some limited material going back to 1750.

In particular, the TaPRA Showtown Fellowship is particularly interested in exploring and revealing the histories and presence of minoritized peoples and underrepresented performers in Blackpool’s entertainments past and present and the wider way this might have influenced and intersected with other developments in theatre and performance in Britain. This includes but is not limited to people of the Global Majority, disabled people, and LGBT+ performers and their intersections. The collections contain signs and traces of performers who have been marginalized, forgotten, erased or never been afforded the spotlight. Showtown would like to map the presence of these performers to support further research, community access and wider understanding of the impact and meaning of these performance experiences.

During the funded research period the fellow will be expected to:

  • conduct an exploratory phase of independent research on the collections, with the findings to be presented in a paper or other mode of presentation at the 2023 TaPRA conference at the University of Leeds;
  • enhance the biographical and “showography” information in the collections catalogue for Blackpool Council Heritage Service; and
  • create biography entries for a gallery of performers on the Blackpool Council Heritage website.

The TaPRA Fellow will receive mentorship by an senior scholar in the field with expertise aligned to the Fellowship, who will also support the Fellow in producing an eventual journal article (or appropriate research output) on a theme central to the material, after the initial eight-twelve weeks of the Fellowship. They will be supported in archival and historical research by Showtown and the mentor.

If appropriate, the TaPRA Fellow will be engaged by Showtown at a later date to deliver a piece of public engagement work arising from the research (a talk, workshop, or performance).

Person specification

PhD in relevant field (awarded within the last 8 years).

Knowledge and/or experience of historical research (broadly interpreted).

Should be conscientious, thorough, and self-motivated, able to work proactively, receive instruction, work to deadlines, and work professional with colleagues.
Good presentation skills.

An understanding of museums and performing arts collections, and a willingness to work within the codes of conduct it requires from its visiting researchers.

We particularly welcome applications from potential fellows with relevant lived experience to the Fellowship’s aim of revealing the histories and presence of minoritized peoples and underrepresented performers.

Application procedures

Interested applicants should send a full CV with a covering letter highlighting the following:

  • your area of research and how it might relate to Showtown’s interests;
  • the date that you would ideally take up the fellowship (anticipated as eight to ten weeks). Note that the minimum of two weeks spent in the Showtown collections must be completed prior to the winter break;
  • your current employment status; and
  • details for a reference.

Applications to be made via email to exec@tapra.org by 5 October 2022.

Interviews will take place on 12 October 2022.

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