Suggesting both ‘in conclusion’ and ‘inconclusive’, this section offers an ending to the
website articulation of the Challenging Place Half Moon project. As such, ‘In conclusion…’ is
an appropriate linguistic opening yet this final section is inconclusive and ambivalent also.
Three points support this ambiguity.
- 1. Whilst leading to interesting findings the PaR process has been complex and has
opened up questions about methodology. Methodologically, the project has used what might be
termed ‘applied theatre practice as research’, a little-known variety of PaR, perhaps. Applied
theatre favours work where facilitators work with non-professional, context-specific groups who
are active participants in workshops and projects. Applied theatre PaR, then, implies practical
research that is led and facilitated by the researcher. In more usual performance PaR, the
researcher is the auteur and/or practitioner of his or her own work (see examples in Nelson, 2013).
In applied theatre PaR, the researcher is likely to be a facilitator of the work of others
with these participants and their practice as the ‘researched’. In such cases, the facilitator-researcher
would conceive and guide work, as appropriate for the research enquiry. This is increasingly seen
in applied theatre PaR PhDs, for example. The PhD student is the researcher-facilitator rather than
In Challenging Place: Half Moon, Mackey’s role was even further removed; she was not even the facilitator. The overall enquiry was conceived to work with already existing community arts organisations, building on strong industry connections at Central, encouraging the fusion of academia and industry and recognising industry practitioners as more effective than stranger-academics in facilitating community groups. One of the challenges of the research project, therefore, was how to guide the practice such that the research questions were extant and pervasive whilst working with and through the organisation’s facilitators. Velada Billson and Adams were exceptionally gifted facilitator practitioners; it was important that they had the opportunity to develop their own material, translating and effecting ideas for the research enquiry, rather than simply following session plans from Mackey, for example. In this instance, then, the PaR was led and held by Mackey but at a distant as the facilitation of sessions – which made manifest the practical research enquiry – were run by Velada Billson and Adams.
Much of the strength of the project came from an excellent working relationship, however, which was critical for such a complex PaR project. A way to jointly plan and reflect was found. The complexity of a twice-removed practical researcher - not the practitioner of your own research or even facilitating participants - is an interesting and challenging one, however, and worth considering further.
Mackey talks about this research layering process in the video clip below, Inconclusions.
Identifying the researcher (pdf) offers a detailed outline of Mackey’s research actions, as 'twice-removed' practical researcher, offering an insight into how this research process operated.
- 2. 'Findings’ concerning the performance of everyday and fearful place have been summarised
and evidenced in the previous two sections, Everyday Place and
Fearful Place. These were not entirely
conclusive, however, as stated within the summaries on these pages. Nevertheless, they offered some
insights into: how young people consider place as expressed through performance; how place can be re-
envisioned, reconceived and reflected upon differently by participants as a result of subverting and
challenging understandings of place through performance; the lived places of London youth.
Audience responses (pdf) to the final performances support these findings. They recognised how the young people understood and performed place differently and the responses also evidence a reconsideration of place by the audience members themselves. (The responses were collected from post-show questionnaires and interviews.)
The artists, too, reflected upon the young people’s responses to fearful and everyday places during the process of the project recognising how the young people entered into the work. Artists’ perspectives on fearful and everyday place (pdf)
- 3. Additional findings
Identifying responses to the research questions themselves did not preclude a range of other thinking arising out of the project. Some of this thinking is identified in these two clips.
In Sally in Conversation, Mackey comments on:
- - the desires of members of the group to do ‘real drama’
- - the five weeks of experimentation and the pros and cons of finishing with a performance (e.g. that the performance demanded commitment and that family and public praise raised the young people’s sense of achievement).
Sally in conversation
- In Inconclusions, Mackey talks about:
- - the particular age of the participants as a less researched group, the ‘surprising’ safety of this group and how public space can become private place for older youths
- - the research methodology and the layering (as raised above)
- - the transferability of the performance practice models
- - the artists as participants, their interesting comments on the project and how their responses to the ideas of the project had become important as participants as well as artists. For more on this, see: Artists’ Response
- 4. This project is one of three PaR projects. Challenging Place: Half Moon has its own outcomes but a final inconclusion is that all three projects, complete and analysed, will contribute to the overarching questions in the research project, Challenging concepts of ‘liquid’ place through performing practices in community contexts.
Acknowledgements and Bibliography