Friday, February 23, 2007

The growth of higher education programmes in community and participatory arts

A quick web trawl reveals that there has been a proliferation of higher education programmes dealing with community and participatory arts practice in the UK. When we set up the Performing Arts: community development programme at UEL and NewVIc in 1999, there were hardly any available, apart from longstanding work at Strathclyde, to some extent at LIPA, and through artform-specific work such as the work in community music at York University and Goldsmiths, community dance at Middlesex and community and applied theatre at Winchester, Bristol, Manchester or Central School of Speech and Drama. There's also been a major growth in postgraduate courses. And a lot of mainstream undergraduate arts programmes now include modules and units in community or participatory arts.

However, to my knowledge most of these courses are not very well networked together. Perhaps there's a need for some sort of research/academic practice/professional practice network/association? I'm not volunteering to set this up, but it would be good to find a way of building momentum around this important field of knowledge. Step forward PALATINE or Mailout to sort this out? Some mapping/directory-building/networking needed, I think. One of the complications is that the fences built by departments, RAE and general academic jockeying doesn't lead to sufficient interdisciplinary dialogue amongst arts practitioners and researchers around participatory, open, democratic and generally progressive arts practice (acknowledging of course that all such labels are not without their problems). As I've argued elsewhere, the theory and practice of participatory arts is emergent, contingent and contested - so coherence isn't likely to be a strong feature of the field right now.

A few interesting ones listed below, and I'm open to suggestions for expanding the list:

All the work we are doing at UEL's Institute for Performing Arts Development, of course

MA Applied Theatre, University of Manchester
MA Applied Drama, University of Exeter
MA in Applied Drama: Theatre in Educational Community and Social Contexts, Goldsmiths College, University of London
MA Community and Participatory Arts, faculty of art and design, University of Staffordshire
MA Community Arts, Cumbria Insitute of the Arts
MA Community Music, York University
MA Cross-Sectorial and Community Arts, Goldsmiths College, University of London
BA Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, Central School of Speech and Drama
MA Social Sculpture, Oxford Bookes University
MA Theatre and Media for Development, University of Winchester
MMus Leadership, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
MA Cultural Performance, University of Bristol
MSc in Music in the Community, University of Edinburgh
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts for Development and Social Justice, Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, that excellent portal for knowledge and understanding in the US, keeps a directory of training programmes in community arts, but it relies on contributors to keep it up to date, and right now its coverage of UK opportunities is pretty patchy. The British Council has a useful portal on arts for youth and community development here.

What's so fascinating to me is that the growth of these programmes, not to mention all the infomal training and professional development happening outside universities, means that there must be thousands and thousands of people in the British Isles now training, researching, reflecting on and even earning a reasonable living from socially engaged, participatory and critical arts practice.

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