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28th January, 2020

Performing Places Bexley Is Nominated for a Hearts for the Arts Award

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama - University of London

Congratulations to Professor Sally Mackey whose work on Performing Places Bexley, a collaborative arts project between Central, the London Borough of Bexley, Emergency Exit Arts and local residents has been nominated for a Hearts for the Arts Award in the category of Best Arts Project – Community Cohesion!

The Hearts for the Arts Awards celebrate the unsung heroes of Local Authorities who are championing the arts, often within a climate of severe financial challenges. Nominations for 2020 were received from across the UK for each of the four award categories: Best Arts Initiative; Best Arts Project – Community Cohesion; Best Arts Project – Arts, Health and Wellbeing; Best Arts Champion; and Local Authority or Cultural Trust Worker Best Arts Champion – Councillor. The shortlist was judged by representatives from some of this year’s partners in the awards: Culture Counts, Local Government Association, Wales Council for Voluntary Action, National Campaign for the Arts, UK Theatre and Voluntary Arts Wales.

The Performing Places Bexley project (which ran from 2017 – 2019) focused on improving community cohesion throughout Bexley; a series of activities and events were delivered to foster good relations between new and existing residents. Thousands of participants in Bexley took part in these community building events, library storytelling sessions, street performance and activities and over 60 collaborative and professional workshops and assemblies with primary schools, secondary schools and community groups, as well as through attending public performances. A local Bexleyheath Business Participation was also designed to engage local shopkeepers and encourage them to participate in the project in a variety of ways.

The project used storytelling to encourage the residents of Bexley and, specifically, Bexleyheath to think about how they might share space more easily and how they welcome strangers. A major narrative about a parallel universe, Par Bexia, helped participants consider the importance of ‘place’, their relationship to it and the people within it.  All activities were intergenerational, positive and, above all, fun; and by utilising shared public spaces, Performing Places Bexley focused on improving community cohesion and addressing issues surrounding identity and migration to help ensure that Bexley is a place where different people can work and live well together. 

Performing Places Bexley was conceived and overseen by Professor Sally Mackey, Central’s Professor of Applied Theatre and Performance and Associate Director (Research and Projects). It expands on her previous research into ‘place’. The arts practices utilised comprise a cultural product called ‘Performing Place’ which has been developed and tested in previous practical research projects over 20 years including with vulnerable groups affiliated with, and engaged via, arts organisations  Numerous students and alumni of Central were involved in Performing Places Bexley, as well as with previous projects under the ‘Performing Place’ umbrella.

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