The Warwick Creative Exchange Partnership-Building Seminar and Workshop was held at Warwick Arts Centre on 5th February 2014.
The seminar and workshop were designed to kick-start new collaborations between researchers from the University of Warwick and arts practitioners and producers, and were offering the opportunity for participants to apply to WCE for two development grants of £1,000 each.
The event was chaired by Dr Chris Bilton, Director of the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies at the University of Warwick, and it began with three presentations from already successful collaborations:
- Happenstance: http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/digital-rd-fund-arts-and-culture-case-studies-pilot
Katherine Jewkes, Digital Associate at the National Theatre Wales, spoke about the Happenstance project, which was supported by The Digital Research and Development Fund for Arts and Culture (a pilot project between Arts Council England, Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Nesta to support cultural organisations in working with digital technologies). The Happenstance project placed six technologists -in-residence into three arts organisations with a brief to develop innovative digital projects in response to the particular challenges and opportunities of each organisation. Chris Bilton and Ruth Leary (Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of Warwick) acted as research partners on the project.
- Qualia: http://www.qualia.org.uk/
Julia Jenkins, Development Director of Cheltenham Literature Festival and Dr Eric Jensen, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, explained their work on using digital technology to understand the value of arts, especially the cultural and emotional impact. The Qualia project focused on audience perception to analyse how people evaluate what they see at the festival, including smile capturing, measuring ambient noise and tracking movement around the festival. The aim was also to look at how far traditional social science research methods can be replaced by technological ones, and to examine what is gained and lost by using new technology instead of sociological approaches : what are the strengths and weaknesses of particular methods?
- This_is_Tomorrow: http://www.warwickartscentre.co.uk/about-us/projects/this-is-tomorrow/
Ed Collier, China Plate and Matt Burman, Head of Programme and Audiences at Warwick Arts Centre talked about how their project enables artists and academics to come together with shared priorities or areas of concern, through a week-long intensive residency which introduces people to each other who wouldn’t normally work together. This_is_Tomorrow has so far involved twelve arts organisations, and 45 academics from nine university departments, in developing artistic productions. These collaborations are not about using academics as ‘a book’ and then producing artistic work which is separate from the academic partner; nor is it about academics using artists to liven up their lectures – instead it’s about finding a narrative they want to express together.
Key points arising from the presentations and the ensuing questions and discussion:
- Researchers as critical friends who ask useful questions and draw attention to learning by pinpointing findings that might otherwise go un-noticed.
- The necessity of aligning timescales so that the academic and artistic work are not seen as separate from each other.
- The importance of aligning research goals between the partners.
- The importance of open and regular conversations to understand the different roles the partners play in the work.
- The necessity of seeing all partners - artists, technologists and academics - as working equally on the project.
- Academics can help to keep the research questions open and not narrow them down – that way, from the very beginning of a project, it’s possible to keep examining ‘what we can find out’ about how a project works.
- Academics can help to tease out what learning is being produced through the arts organisation’s work.
- Tailor-making technology to be useful: technology can do many things but need to ask which is most useful for the kind of data an arts organisation wants to collect. In the Qualia project, for example, smile capture on its own was not enough – there was a need to know what percentage of all people present were smiling.
After the seminar presentations, Chris Bilton facilitated the workshop, in which attendees were encouraged to move around the room discussing ideas with each other and how partnerships could develop. There were also representatives from the University’s Research Support Services present to suggest possible funding sources for projects. In a final session, participants were given the opportunity to share any possible projects that might be able to go forward.
Following the event, participants were invited to submit one-page proposals for collaborative projects, as applications to the WCE development grant scheme. Ten proposals were eventually submitted, some of which were joint applications from a cultural practitioner and Warwick academic, and the remainder were sole applications from a cultural practitioner. In the case of the latter, WCE worked with RSS to identify possible academic partners, and the outcome was that all the proposals eventually involved both academic and cultural partners.
At a subsequent panel meeting of WCE and RSS colleagues, the proposals were all considered and two were awarded the development grants:
- Drama and Democracy: engaging young people in political and democratic narratives through educational theatre and drama - Partners: Dr Renske Doorenspleet, Associate Professor, Politics & International Studies AND Big Brum Theatre in Education Company.
- DSCH (Dmitri Shostakovitch) - Partners: Professor Christopher Read, History AND Talking Birds Theatre Company.
WCE acknowledges the financial support of the University of Warwick’s GRP Connecting Cultures programme for the two development grants.
The other projects were:
- Youth theatre plays for young Muslim performers – Partners: Dr Rachel King, Centre for Education Studies AND Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
- WAWI – Why Are West Indians (In This Country) – Partners: Dr David Lambert, Reader of Caribbean History, Department of History AND Inès Elsa Dalal, Documentary Photographer.
- Lexicography – investigating the language & methods for interpreting contemporary art in selected cultural venues in the W.Midlands – Partners: Dr Eric Jensen, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology AND Anna Falcini, Creative Practitioner.
- A New Way Of Living – Partners: Dr Angela Davis, Centre for History of Medicine and Oral History Network AND Anna Douglas, Curator and Researcher.
- Developing digital evaluation and feedback technology to measure and enhance learning and engagement in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s work with children and young people – Partners: Dr Eric Jensen, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology AND Birmingham Royal Ballet.
- Interactive dance theatre for young children and their families – Partners: Professor Joe Winston, Centre for Education Studies AND Wriggle Dance Theatre.
- Evaluation of engagement with heritage and culture in Warwickshire – Partners: Dr Clive Gray, Associate Professor, Centre for Cultural Policy Studies AND Heritage and Culture Services Warwickshire County Council
- Export Licence (‘Arms to Iraq’) – Partners: Professor Tom Sorell, Department of Politics and International Studies & Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group AND Talking Birds Theatre Company.
WCE has also offered support to these projects, particularly in terms of identifying possible funding sources for their work.
Watch this website for news as these collaborations develop in the future!