Using the creative arts in the research process

I fly to Brussels later today for the 3rd Symposium of our AHRC-funded “Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State” project.

On this occasion, rather than giving a formal paper, I will form part of an 8-strong team of performers (including our colleague Mariam Attia) presenting a piece, collaboratively explored and then wonderfully ‘scriptified’ by the poet Tawona Sithole.

This will be my first real experience of such a performance and I approach it with a mixture of nervousness and excitement.

I will post some reflections afterwards ….


  • Richard Fay

    Well, it’s done; apart from feeling like I did at primary school before the nativity play, it was a good experience for me, and, I think, for others. The process was an interesting one, taking emerging insights from our RM-ly hub work – emerging insights voiced as ‘hotspots’ – which we shared with our Creative Arts hub colleagues and then worked with them on developing a shared performance around some of these hotspots. For example, in our discussion of one hotspot from Mariam, the image of a well (the well of linguistic resources) was conjured up, a verbal formulation that, for me, worked on a simple level, a two-dimensional one. This was then, through the creative process, explored … and all manner of additional aspects of the core image came to light, each of them having the potential to insightfully extend the image, and many of them actually did so, thereby leaving us with both the material for a sketch based on this well image but also a deepened sense of the original hotspot. The overall performance comprised four such sketches, and lasted about 30 mins, and afterwards, we heard the audience’s response to it, then explained our process of creating it and gained their reactions to that also. I was left with a greatly increased curiosity about the roles and functions that the CAs played in this process and about the value – aesthetic and also representational – of the performance itself. Fascinating.

    • Susan Dawson

      I’ve found the contribution of the CAs fascinating and exciting from my first contact with the project. It seems to me that if good research is ultimately about thinking well, then the CAs have so much to add to that process of thinking and understanding. As I said back in November – I would love to work with a creative arts researcher (or two!) on my project mostly because of those unexpected and new perspectives that they seem to bring. As you say above, they take you far beyond mere ‘verbal formulations’. Can’t wait to hear more about it 🙂

  • Susan Dawson

    I hope it goes really well and that you enjoy it!! Is it being recorded?