Participatory arts have become increasingly mainstream in the twenty-first century, and artists and cultural organisations are reassessing their work in the light of concerns about social and cultural privilege. Research undertaken by Professor Helen Nicholson in Drama and Professor Rachel Beckles Willson in Music has supported new and inclusive forms of creative practice that is artistically inventive, context-sensitive, and sustainable.
Strengthening Participatory Arts with disadvantaged communities
Research undertaken at Royal Holloway has shaped new participatory arts practices, and informed understanding of the arts by, with, and for communities. By positing alternatives to the long-held view that the arts have inherently transformative powers, research by Professors Rachel Beckles Willson and Helen Nicholson has informed the work of cultural organisations, artists and teachers; supported charities and NGOs; inspired humanitarian workers and carers; and enhanced the lives of community participants, including refugees, migrant children, and people living with dementia.
Increasing quality of life among displaced peoples through Music
Rachel Beckles Willson’s innovative approach to music-making has inspired young migrants in Sicily to become active members of their host communities. Their music has enabled them to integrate into their new homes, providing a sense of purpose and idenity. Adopted widely by musicians across the world, Professor Beckles Willson changed musical practices with refugee communities.
Informing new participatory programmes in theatre
Helen Nicholson’s research on applied theatre and socially inclusive practices has been widely adopted across the world, informing the principles and values that shape participatory arts. Her research has informed practitioners and major cultural organisations, inclduing The National Theatre in London where she led research on their major new community programme, Public Acts.
Enhancing the quality of life for people living with dementia though the arts
There are currently around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and arts organisations are responding by working creatively in care homes. Research undertaken at Royal Holloway, with the sector-leading charity Age Exchange, informed Reminiscence Arts, a new multi-sensory methodology inspired by the creativity of people living with dementia and the positive contribution they continue to make to others.