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Liverpool Hope University

UOA 65 - Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

Liverpool Hope received university status in 2005 as part of a strategic repositioning; research now occupies a central place in the corporate framework and vision. Drama, Dance and Performance Studies (DDPS) is a new department within the Deanery of Arts and Humanities. DDPS is fully integrated into the university’s research strategy, and our first return to RAE includes submissions from one Principal Lecturer (Merriman), two Senior Lecturers (Bennett, Taylor) and two early-career researchers (Braeuninger, Simic). This is therefore a new UoA at Hope; nevertheless, there has been strong commitment to the establishment of a research culture and strategy within the context of a well-established Deanery and institutional research management context.


DDPS is located at the university's Cornerstore campus, a site dedicated to the creative and performing arts and benefiting from significant resource investment.


Research strategy and its operation 

The overall aim of the department’s research in Drama is: ‘To interrogate the nature, scope and significance of little known, or undervalued works in contemporary and regional English and Irish theatre.’ The Drama entries (Bennett, Merriman) respond to a departmental aspiration to contribute to new knowledge in light of this statement of overall intent.


The overall aim of the department’s research in Dance is: ‘To engage in research which facilitates the conceptualisation and pedagogy of Dance as a form of embodied cultural studies.’ The entries in Dance (Brauninger, Taylor) respond to this aim through a critical engagement with Dance History.


In the case of both Drama and Dance, rigour is guaranteed by grounding new insights in critical analysis of artefacts, practices and methods, using current and emergent cultural theoretical frameworks. As a ‘young department’, in research terms, we conceptualise our research culture, around a number of key questions, as follows:


Drama Research Question 1: What new questions need to be asked of theatre criticism and historiography, in order to enable a fuller understanding of the popular to emerge?

Purpose of question: To challenge influential perspectives on British and Irish theatre, for the exclusions they institutionalise.

Research Outcomes: Research papers, colloquia, monographs


Drama Research Question 2: What specific advantages does this department’s location and history confer on our pursuit of this project?

Purpose of question: To challenge our own assumptions on localism, regionalism, and the resonances we intuit between works produced along an arc from Hull, through Liverpool, to Dublin.

Research Outcomes: MA in Popular Theatre: Histories, Practices, Futures (Validation May 2008; first intake Autumn 2008); Postgraduate research projects.


Dance Research Question 1: What new questions need to be asked of Dance history, in order to enable a fuller understanding of the art form’s cultural significance to emerge?

Purpose of question: To challenge influential perspectives on Dance History, for the exclusions they institutionalise.

Research Outcomes: Research papers, colloquia, monographs


Dance Research Question 2: What specific advantages does this department’s location and history confer on our pursuit of this project?

Purpose of question: To challenge our own assumptions on the history and potential of hybrid Dance practices produced in Liverpool.

Research Outcomes: Research papers, colloquia, Postgraduate research projects


An outline of the research strategy envisaged from 2007 onwards 

The departmental structure which brings together Performance Studies with Drama and Dance enhances the potential for future research activity in this UoA. From 2007, DDPS will consolidate and extend current research priorities. Recent academic appointments reflect two emergent strands, which have developed from the strength of the single honours undergraduate programme in Creative and Performing Arts: community and applied drama, and performance art/postdramatic theatre.


Accordingly, in the period 2007-2010, we anticipate the following new developments in our research strategy:


Drama Research Question 3: In what ways do we conceptualise the practice of postdramatic theatre and performance art?

Purpose of question: To articulate a coherent philosophy on practice-based research, in acknowledgement of the expertise of recent appointments, Simic, Anderson and  Katsouraki (PhD pending, Warwick)

Research Outcomes: Research papers, performance projects, colloquia, monographs


Drama Research Question 4: In what ways do we conceptualise Applied and Community practices in Drama?

Purpose of question: To articulate a coherent rationale for the development of community-oriented projects, sensitive to contemporary social, economic and cultural conditions. This is aimed at developing research profiles of emergent early-career researchers, Malone (PhD candidate, Trinity College Dublin), Cleary, and Connell.

Research Outcomes: Research papers, colloquia, postgraduate research projects


Dance Research Question 3: In what ways do we conceptualise Dance practice as performance research?

Purpose of question: To articulate a coherent philosophy on practice-based research, to focus the expertise of other team members (Crawford (PhD candidate, De Montfort University) and Black).

Research Outcomes: Research papers, performance projects, colloquia, monographs


Dance Research Question 4: In what ways do we conceptualise Applied and Community practices in Dance?

Purpose of question: To articulate a coherent rationale for the development of community-oriented projects, sensitive to contemporary social, economic and cultural conditions. This is aimed at inducting Lancaster – keeper of the Elroy Josephs Archive - into the research culture of the department.

Research Outcomes: Research papers, performance projects, colloquia, postgraduate research projects


Sustainability of the research environment 

Institutionally, research is the responsibility of Research Committee, chaired by the Pro Vice Chancellor (Research), reporting directly to Senate. All research is managed in accordance with the Research and Scholarship Plan (2006-10); each Deanery articulates its own strategy within the parameters of this. The Dean oversees and monitors research within his or her area; the Arts and Humanites Deanery has a dedicated research management group. Strategies to promote and support research include:


(1) Human Resources.  Hope University’s commitment to research in the disciplines included in this department is reflected in its policies on appointments and on staff development. Recent appointments strengthen our expertise in postdramatic theatre and performance art, in community and applied theatre, and in contemporary dance. As outlined, those appointments will drive the development of research policies and activities in the areas mentioned. Staff development programmes support research (for example, workshops on writing book proposals; grant applications). All junior staff have formal mentors.


(2) Research seminars and events. Arts and Humanities operates a faculty-wide research seminar programme to which DDPS has contributed since inception. With its expansion, it now has its own fortnightly staff research seminar. The seminar has two tracks – staff research papers (convenor, Merriman) and research training and updating (convenor, Bennett). The purpose of the seminar is to promote awareness of and engagement with research activity within the department, and to provide a supportive environment for those beginning, or returning to research. The seminar has more than twenty participants, including three PhD candidates (Desmond, Forshaw, Kirby), registered in Autumn 2007. 


Autumn 2007 sees the department’s research concerns inflected through the topical theme of slavery. Visiting Professor John Godber’s Hull Truck Theatre Company brings SOLD, by Godber and Jane Thornton, to the Cornerstone Festival (a three-week long multi-arts fesitval staged at Hope). The play’s genesis and significance will be explored by means of a public interview conducted by Bennett. DDPS is taking an initiative in staging critically-informed readings of plays in which slavery is staged, following the success of readings of David Lloyd’s The Press, and Tom Hall’s Out of the Praise House, last year. These events feature semi-staged episodes from, for example, The Tempest (Director: Tim Prentki, Professor of Theatre for Development, University of Winchester), embedded in a critical argument. Colleagues and students rehearse and perform the scenes which underpin the critique, and at least one journal article will issue from the event. Other plays to be featured include Orinoco by Thomas Southern, after Aphra Behn (Director: Bowman), and The Octoroon, by Dion Boucicault (Director: Merriman). Dance is represented by Lancaster’s lecture/workshop on Elroy Joseph’s Caribbean Jazz Dance technique, which will be the subject of a research paper by Thea Barnes.  Crawford’s collaboration with sound designer Michael Beiert explores aspects of her PhD research into the origins of tap dance, in solo performance.


(3) Visiting Professors. Hope employs distinguished visiting professors to participate in and promotes its research culture. 

In November 2004, the University appointed Hull playwright John Godber, and Liverpool Hope alumnus Willy Russell, as Visiting Professors of Contemporary Theatre for a three-year period. This proved a great success and produced a series of writing workshops, performance seminars and public lectures that were well-received by staff, students and the wider community. It also resulted in two publications by Bennett: an article on Hull Truck Theatre in Studies in Theatre and Performance (Intellect Press) and an extensive interview with Willy Russell in Writing Liverpool (University of Liverpool Press). The Wilberforce Centenary has placed a focus on the slaving histories of Liverpool and Hull and the university has continued to work with the new writing of John Godber, becoming involved in the co-production of his latest play, SOLD, a critical examination of the contemporary trade in sexual slavery. This production opened in Hull in October 2007 and played at the Cornerstone Theatre (November 2007), where it was accompanied by public lectures and discussions with the playwright and company.


The university appointed Patrick Mason Visiting Professor in Directing and the Theatre, from October 2007. Professor Mason is a distinguished director of both drama and opera, and was Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin (1992-2000). He will contribute to the development of the MA in Popular Theatre: Histories, Practices and Futures, in preparation for validation in May 2008 (first intake: autumn 2008). The appointment to the Deanery of Professor David Lloyd strengthens the intellectual rigour of our engagement with issues of modernity, postcoloniality and counter-hegemonic consciousness, which inform our research in both Drama and Dance.


(4) Colloquia  DDPS will host a colloquium on radical theatre in Ireland, convened by Merriman, and to which Mason and Lloyd will contribute, in autumn 2008. Current publication outlets are via established journals and in collections of scholarly essays. Merriman is in negotiation with publishers regarding a monograph on contemporary Irish theatre.


(5) Funding. The university operates a central research fund, administered by the office of the Pro Vice Chancellor (Research). Staff make application to this fund for a variety of purposes. DDPS staff have benefited in a number of ways, including:

Bennett (PhD fees; paid leave to write up PhD (Reading); conference attendance), Bowman (PhD fees; paid leave to write up PhD (Bristol); conference attendance), Braeuninger (conference attendance, Congress on Research in Dance (CORD, Barnard College, Columbia University, NY., November 2007), Connell (conference attendance: Cardboard Citizens: London, January 2007), Crawford (PhD fees), Malone (PhD fees; conference attendance: Cardboard Citizens: London, January 2007), Merriman (conference attendance: AAH Conference, University of Ulster, 2007; Centre for Irish Studies, University of Caen to present paper, and chair panel, at colloquium on Adaptations in Contemporary Irish Theatre (September 2007)), and Taylor (conference attendance), have all benefited from institutional support.


Simic was funded to host a meeting of Factory Floor, a network for female solo practitioners, of which she is co-founder and member, at Liverpool Hope (June 2007). Factory Floor developed from the AHRC funded research project ‘Women’s Writing for Performance’ (Lancaster University, 2003-2006), and Simic’s involvement in this, and related networks, underpins the department’s emergent strategy in performance art and postdramatic theatre.


DDPS’s Staging Slavery initiative is funded – fees for actors, scholarly contributors - from the university’s research support budget. Merriman will benefit from support toward publication of his monograph, and toward the holding of a colloquium on radical theatre in Ireland (September, 2008).


(6) Support and training for associates, fellows and research students

In accordance with university policy, Bennett has been released from some undergraduate teaching, and programme administration, to lead this area. The DDPS staff research seminar series, 2007-2008, runs from October to April, and includes seven research training sessions, and six presentations of current research by staff named in RAE 2, distinguished guests, and postgraduate students. The university offers a modular programme for research skills training based on the required research competencies set out by the Joint Research Councils of the UK, comprising institututional, Deanery and subject specific skills workshops. All students are required to present papers to peers and staff Common room and computing facilities are available in the Research and Graduate Centre. All supervisors receive formal training and staff development.

Merriman has supervised a PhD to completion (Butler, Higher Education and Training Awards Council, Ireland: viva 15 November 2007). He, Bennett and Bowman are members of supervisory teams.

Full-fee bursaries, and opportunities to undertake paid undergraduate teaching have been made available to students Desmond, Forshaw and Kirby.


(7) Infrastructure. Aside from investment in building and performance space for DDPS, the university also has a new dedicated Research and Graduate Centre. This includes offices for visiting and associate research staff and common room and computing facilities for research students, as well as seminar rooms with priority use for research seminars, conferences and postgraduate teaching. The Sheppard- Worlock libary hosts a wide range of print and electronic information sources, including for example JSTOR, Swetswise, NetLibrary and the Expanded Academic Index. Staff also have access to other regional libraries (eg The University of Liverpool; John Rylands Library, Manchester).


Research income 

Connell received three grants in the census period:

£3,500 (2003) Arts Council to stage Snoo Wilson’s Bedbug (after Mayakovsky) for Liverpool Hope Youth Theatre, at Keswick Theatre-by-the-Lake, as an invited contribution to the National Shell Connections Festival of New Writing for Young People.

£3,500 (2004) for a collaboration with Barnardo’s and Sefton Neighbourhood Renewal Fund – develop an arts project for young carers – report, evaluating the project’s impact and its credentials as an example of good practice forms the basis of a pending bid for a second project phase, to run in 2008.

£6,500 (2006), by competitive tender, for What’s the Point a pilot project with young people at risk in Blackburn collaboration between the Arts Council and the Home Office Criminal Justice Board, based in Manchester. Dissemination of project findings was by way of report Title (Arts Council, 2006).


Thornton received £180,000 from a coalition of funders, including the Arts Council (£60,000 approx.), Liverpool Culture Company (£22,000) and Arena Social housing (£50,000) for Collective Encounters Theatre Company’s production, The Harmony Suite (Sept 2005). Thornton organised an international conference on Theatre for Social Change based on the Living Place urban regeneration project and The Harmony Suite(Sept 2005). She resigned from the university to take up a full-time post as Artistic Director of Collective Encounters (2006). Collective Encounters operates from the Cornerstone campus, and is closely associated with the department. The company disseminated the results of this practical research project via its website, and the findings of the project’s pedagogical research focus were published in Thornton, ‘Once More with Meaning: Strengthening the Links between Research & Teaching in Drama & Theatre Studies using Living Place Project as a Case Study’(Prime: Pedagogical Research in Maximising Education (Vol 2, Part 1, January 2007), pp. 25 – 44.  


Simic received three grants from the Arts Council England:

Development as an artist and arts project Medea/Mothers’ Clothes (2004) c. £4500

Development as an artist and arts project Joan Trial (2005) £4999

Tour of Medea/Mothers’ Clothes and Joan Trial (2006) c.£4500. She also received

A.H.R.C. funded PhD research (2004-06 (including 2 grants for UK-based study visits, 1 overseas study visit and 1 overseas conference presentation), in excess of £30,000.


Research projects not completed within the publication period

 Merriman has submitted a final draft chapter to Cambridge University Press for a collection of essays on Samuel Beckett (Sean Kennedy (ed.)), which is currently under review. He presented a paper at a colloquium at the Centre for Irish Studies, University of Caen, which will be published – in English and in French - by presses universitaires de Caen in 2009. He has been commissioned by the online journal, Kritika Kultura, to edit a special issue on radical theatre in Ireland, for publication in Spring 2009. Bennett has had access to rehearsals of Hull Truck Theatre Company’s production of Sold, by John Godber and Jane Thornton, and will write a research paper on the production process, for presentation to the departmental seminar, and subsequent publication. Simic’s paper ‘Medea/Mothers’ Clothes: A Foreigner Re-figuring Motherhood’ is currently under peer review for a forthcoming special edition of Feminist Theory on Birth and Motherhood. Her performative paper, ‘Name Post Card Encounters Journey Home’, written around her art project Magdalena Makerup will be published as a chapter in Diasporic Futures: Women, the Arts and Globalization (Routledge, forthcoming). Thornton has a further article on community participation in the Living Place Project in press (Tim Prentki and Sheila Preston (eds.), Reader in Applied Theatre (Routledge, forthcoming 2008)).


Mason’s appointment will catalyse existing relationships with the Everyman and Playhouse theatres, and the European Opera Centre, toward a more active, and research-focused intervention in new writing, and the staging of new works, in Liverpool.


The wider context of the research infrastructure

Merriman’s work contributes to wider debates around postcoloniality, culture and society, in the field of Irish Studies. Bennett’s work is situated within the broad context of alternative histories of British theatre. Taylor’s writings engage with current debates around Dance as cultural practice. Brauninger’s work contributes to interdisciplinary knowledge concerning the relationship of music and movement in Dance and Film. Simic’s writing and practices are contextualised by, and inform developments in cultural activism, performance art and postdramatic theatre.


Relationships with research users or Knowledge Transfer partnerships

The clearest existing relationships, in terms of research outcomes, are those of Bennett, Godber and Hull Truck Theatre Company.


The creation of research centres, partnerships, affiliations, performances, exhibitions, conferences or symposia

The collaboration between this department, Hull Truck Theatre Company, and Liverpool Hope University’s Foundation Chancellor, Baroness Cox, in the genesis, production and critical analysis of Godber and Thornton’s Sold offers a model for development of engaged theatre practice in dialogue with critical practice, which the department is committed to developing.


Arrangements for supporting interdisciplinary or collaborative research

The Deanery of Arts and Humanities includes colleagues working in diverse fields, and it is deanery policy to encourage and support collaboration, and especially in research. Examples of recent and emergent collaborations include,

Theology: Merriman and Torevell (The Turn To Aesthetics, 2007)

History (Merriman and Schwarz: Staging Slavery, 2007)

English (Merriman and Phillips: Liverpool Irish Festival,  2007)).

Merriman and Shakespeare (Theology) will convene a seminar on creative practices and human spirituality, during 2007-8.

Merriman is on the committee organising ‘Cultures in Transit’, with colleagues from English, Politics and Transcultural Studies.


Peer Esteem

 Book reviewing

Merriman, Review of Space and the Irish Cultural Imagination, by Gerry Smyth, in The Irish UniversityReview (Winter 2002), pp. 370-373. 


Professional Associations

Bennett, member, Information Technology sub-committee, SCUDD. 


Invited papers

Braeuninger, Film and Visual Arts Department, Middlesex University, 2003: ‘Problems of Analysing Musical Multimedia’, Ideas in Progress Research Seminar

Birmingham Conservatoire, 2006: ‘Problems of Analysing the Relationship between Music and Moving Image in Film and Dance’ Research Seminar

University of Bayreuth and the Hochschule fuer Musik Hannover and the State Opera of Hannover, 2006: 'Montage, Flashback and the Figural the Musical/Choreographic Analysis' presented at 'Dance in Musical Theatre and Dance as Musical Theatre' International Symposium on Dance and Musical Theatre.

 Merriman, papers to Research Seminar Series, Drama Centre, University College Dublin (2002, 2003);

Member of Irish Delegation to Atelier Traduction, Orléans, France (March 2003), and   Dublin (January 2004);

Panel member, Critical Conditions, a conference organised by irish theatre magazine, Dublin Theatre Festival, October 2003, and October 2004;

Chair, Geopolitical Bodies Panel, Conference of the Portuguese Association for Anglo-American Studies, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal, April 2005;

Invited panelist, Royal Holloway Symposium on Intercultural, Cross-cultural and Postcolonial Theatre, London, May 2005;

Panelist, Forum on issues arising from Third Text: Special Issue on Ireland, National College of Art and Design, Dublin, December 2005;

Co-chair, panel on staging theatrical adaptations, Centre for Irish Studies, University of Caen to present paper, colloquium on Adaptations in Contemporary Irish Theatre (September 2007).

Taylor, Peer-reviewed papers, presented with institutional support, include The Comic Corrective:  Some Meanings and Uses of Ballet in Popular Culture   (Comedy and Society conference, University of Portsmouth School of Creative Arts, Film and Media, April 2005):  Morphology of the Ballet Story (The European Association of Dance Historians’ Study Day, March 2005 Sadler’s Wells Theatre): and Ballerinas, Angels, and Dreams:  Popular Meditations on the Meaning of Life (annual joint conference, Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (Boston, April 2007), Invited respondent to ‘The absolute nature of ballet technique’,  colloquium on forthcoming essay collection, Arabesques and Absolutes: Issues of Race & Gender in Ballet (York University, Toronto). 


Invited Performances/Seminars

Simic, Medea/Mothers’ Clothes with after-show discussion (University of Hull, October 2006; Winchester University, February 2007)


Peer review of publications

Merriman, peer reviewer for on-line journal, Postcolonial Text.


 External Assessing for research grant applications and prizes

Merriman, Chair, Arts Council of Ireland panel for interdisciplinary commissions;

Taylor, member of selection panel for the Selma Jeanne Cohen Award of the Society of Dance History Scholars.


Contribution to Reference Works and Handbooks

Bennett, ‘Introduction’ to Godber: Plays 3 (Methuen, 2003), pp. xv-xxv.


Inclusion in Select Bibliographies:

Bennett, three citations – one article and two interviews - in Michael Mangan, Staging Masculinities: History, Gender, Performance, (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003) pp. 217-219.

Merriman, one article cited in Leeny and McMullan (eds.), The Theatre of Marina Carr: Before Rules Was Made (Carysfort Press, 2002), p. 235.


Public impact and recognition

 Merriman, ‘Decolonisation Postponed: The Theatre of Tiger Trash’ (Irish university Review (Vol. 29, No. 2, 1999) reprinted in Lilian Chambers and Eamonn Jordan (ed.), The Theatre of Martin McDonagh: A World of Savage Stories (Carysfort Press, 2006), pp. 264-280. 

Board member, Irish Modern Dance Theatre; Myriad Dance Company, Wexford (2001 – date), Patrick Kavanagh Centenary Commemoration Committee (2003 – 2004), Corn Exchange Theatre Company, Anna Livia International Opera Festival (2001 – 2004), Liverpool Irish Festival (2007- ongoing).