University of Leeds and Opera North.

DARE Creative Labs 2015.

Sparking research collaboration between academics and arts practitioners.

The aim of Leeds Creative Labs is to enable artists and researchers to explore and find new ways of working together that demonstrate the relevance of the arts to developing impactful research.

In 2015 Labs brought together academics and performing arts organisations with a simple aim: to see what happens – no expectation of an output and no predetermined goals.

Each Lab to spent Alan O'Leary collage - compressedthree days together, over a period of several weeks, and on 6 July 2015 came together to share their experience.  The event provided an illuminating insight into the relationships that such a framework facilitates; and how it helps identify opportunities for activity with significant potential impact, that could not have been developed without such cross-sector engagement.

The first encounters

Each Lab connected in a variety of ways including attending performances together and spending time just talking about each other’s work and ambitions, which helped develop a shared language at the early stage of the relationship.

It was interesting how the Labs approached the concept of not having pre-set objectives.  For the Cap-a-Pie and SAA-uk team, the identification of individual ambitions revealed a shared interest in working collectively on the topic of using performance to explore research questions.  In this case the difficulty experienced by immigrants who speak English as a second language integrating into society.

SAA-uk wants to understand the impact of its work on audiences in order to inform future activity, and the PCI Research Group seeks to develop new research methods that might identify the ways in which the relationship happens.  The Lab offered a laboratory in which research experimentation could be explored in a live context.

Dan Norman and Alan O’Leary discovered a shared interest in how the conventions of performance, song and film respectively, can be shaken up to un-nerve, engage and motivate audiences to think in new ways.

Inspiring future collaboration

The Labs provided freedom to breathe and to learn from experts in their field.  There was  unanimous agreement that they were only just off the starting blocks.  All committed to  continue collaborating to develop projects that would benefit the sector and their own work.Minotaur-Brad-150x150

There will be a ‘sandpit’ in spring 2016, alongside Opera North’s new co-commission Passion.  Provocations led by Dan and Alan will prompt discussion on the topic of the Ca
and the Grotesque, between a diverse cohort of performers, artists, academics and professionals.

Saa-uk and the University’s Audience Research Group will focus on events in the forthcoming SAA-uk programme to test research methodologies, with the aim of creating research models that will inform programming and production for SAA-uk and beyond.

Cap-a-Pie and Lou Harvey are planning to submit an ESRC funding bid to write, in collaboration, a performance project – making the mechanics of performance visible in the process of telling a human story.

Three more Labs will take place in 2016.  Performing arts partners will be RashDash, Tutti Frutti and  Phoenix Dance Theatre.

Contact Alice Parsons, Opera North HE Coordinator

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