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4th April, 2017

AHRC-funded project Performing Local Places reaches final stages

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama - University of London

Central Professor Sally Mackey’s research project, ‘Performing Places: working with local councils to reach new communities and facilitate wellbeing in living environments’, has reached its final stages with two symposia and a published report.

With partners Oldham and Camden Councils, two final symposia were held on 1st and 7thMarch, 2017: one for Greater London authorities at Central and one for Greater Manchester authorities at Oldham Gallery. With numbers at over 100, over 20 authorities were represented at the symposia with high level attendance from Executive Director, Health and Wellbeing, to Strategic Director, Neighbourhoods and Growth.

Performing Local Places has been a research project led by Professor Mackey and Central. The project looks at how theatre practices can be used to help people form or strengthen positive connections with places they live in or frequent. The project received a Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement grant from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) for 1st April 2016 – 31st March 2017. With its focus on expanding impact and engagement from a previous research grant, Performing Local Places used arts practices to improve the living environments of two sets of people in two geographical areas of need in UK: Camden (London) and Oldham (Greater Manchester). The team worked with a whole neighbourhood in Oldham and adults with mental illness in Camden.

Demonstrating findings from these projects, the final report will be disseminated and publicised to about 1000 local authority figures in the UK including Directors of Public Health and Directors of Neighbourhoods/Communities in all local authorities in the UK, promoting a new mode of service delivery for enhancing health and wellbeing in complex living environments.

Shortlisted for a Hearts for the Arts Awards, the Oldham project (entitled EARTHED), one of the Awards’ judges, former Royal Ballet Principal Dancer and Director of Cultural Partnerships at King’s College London Deborah Bull said of the project:

An inspiring approach to the potential of creativity in helping us to see the world through other people’s eyes, which is so important in the many-cultured societies we jointly inhabit. The embedded research project will help to ensure the findings from this project inform future thinking.

Professor Sally Mackey says of the project:

It has been exciting to work in contexts that have been so well supported by local authorities Oldham and Camden Councils and to realise how my research into Place has been so well received. The response to the report and at the symposia has been beyond expectation. I’ve been fortunate to work with an excellent team with some facilitators from Oldham Theatre Workshop and Camden who are probably amongst the best in the country.

Alan Higgins, Director of Public Health in Oldham said of the symposium:

I loved it. I thought it was fantastic this morning. … We have to do something to build upon this. … So the challenge for us is not to say “This is great”: we need to do it ten times this amount in Oldham.

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