Performing Local Places | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Performing Local Places

Performing Places: Working with Local Councils to reach new communities and facilitate wellbeing in living environments

In Alexandra Park, Oldham – part of the Challenging Place project.

A new Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement grant has been awarded to Professor Sally Mackey by the AHRC for 1st April 2016 – 31st March 2017.

With its focus on expanding impact and engagement from a previous research grant, Performing Local Places will use 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). Findings from these projects will be disseminated and publicised to all local authorities in the UK, promoting a new mode of service delivery for enhancing health and wellbeing in complex living environments.

Project participants will be within the oversight and services of local authorities and councils will be helping to broker the activity within their provider frameworks. The arts practices comprise a cultural product called 'Performing Place' which has been developed and tested in previous practical research projects with vulnerable groups affiliated with, and engaged via, arts organisations. Building on that project, in this new development we have consulted on priority areas within local councils who have identified a future need for such work. Two practical projects will be planned, one in Camden and one in Oldham, working between Arts leaders and other departments, Mental Health in Camden and Stronger Communities in Oldham. Both the planning and delivery period will include working with local council representatives, key workers and leading artist/facilitator practitioners with the new end users.

Symposia with Oldham and Camden Councils

Concluding the grant, two symposia are being held, one in London and one in Oldham on the 1st and 7th March respectively.

An invitation-only guest list will comprise mainly council managers from Greater London and Greater Manchester boroughs. Advocating the work, a final report will be launched.


Invitation to Unfamiliar Eyes in Camden


Invitation to Unfamiliar Eyes in Oldham

Award nomination

In January 2017, Professor Sally Mackey's research project with Oldham Borough Council has been shortlisted for a Hearts for the Arts Award for Best Local Authority Arts Project.

Read more about the project

Performing Places: Working with Local Councils to reach new communities and facilitate wellbeing in living environments

RC Grant reference: AH/N007816/1
Grant holder: Professor Sally Mackey

In Camden we will work in at least one Council-owned area of the Supported Living Programme, in buildings that house those with need of 'stepping stone' support to live more independently and whose cultural engagement may also be at the lower end of the spectrum within the Borough (which is an indicator of health and wellbeing). We will run 15 weekly sessions based in the residences, engaging adults with their current and potential 'place'.

In Oldham, we will work in the ward of Clarksfield with long-term residents and comparatively newly arrived Roma residents, assuaging disharmonies arising from different cultural understandings within the same local community. This work will follow a different model of Performing Place practice - a week's intensive engagement rather than weekly, workshops (as in Camden) - and will take place over a week in the summer of 2016.

In the planning and delivery of the projects, we will work with specialist lead facilitators following and adapting models used in the previous project, 'Challenging concepts of "liquid" place through performing practices in community contexts', 2011-2014 (Challenging Place). Such activities will include a range of improvisation and performance-related activities that are shaped from everyday operations and behaviours. None of the participants are likely to be performers but the activities are non-threatening, accessible and shaped to raise levels of cultural engagement where there may be existing barriers. This is an important part of Performing Place, that it can be accessed by participants without particular skill or experience in performance. (See an example.)

The impact and engagement of these two follow-on projects will be formally documented in line with local authority reporting and disseminated via simple web pages on the existing site, three symposia and a 32-page document (with executive summary). This document will be sent to the 400+ local authorities in the UK with the intention that such practice be promoted and assimilated for use in other priority areas. Two symposia will take place in London and Manchester with representatives from all nearby local authority councils invited, as well as nationally. A third symposium will take place for the 33 members of London Arts Forum.

an interview with...

Prof. Sally Mackey