University of Exeter: Researchers want to hear from artists about their experiences – and the challenges – of organising outdoor performances

Researchers want to hear about people’s experiences of staging artistic work outside of theatres and similar venues, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. They hope to document and share best practice to benefit those planning events in the future.

It is hoped the work could help to show how city centres can ’build back better’ through opening up more spaces for outdoor performances.

The survey is run by a team of researchers from the University of Exeter working on an AHRC-funded project, Outside the Box: Open Air Performance as Pandemic Response.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Exeter Drama department and Business School. It is led by Evelyn O’Malley with Cathy Turner, Tim Coles and Giselle Garcia. Project partners are Exeter City Council and Exeter Culture. It is funded by a UKRI AHRC covid-19 rapid response grant.

Dr O’Malley said: “We hope to take a wide and inclusive picture of outdoor practice across the UK. We know that artists have long worked with walking, street theatre, community events, interventions, promenade and public art practices in many outdoor spaces. We would like to know what these practices can tell us about the possibilities for leisure in the newly opened city.

“We are particularly interested in how artists might have adapted their practices, or drawn on previous experiments. We would also like to know how they have engaged with urban ecology, and how they are thinking about the future of open air work. Some of our questions also concern the professional impact on artists themselves in practical terms.

“We are primarily interested in small and middle scale performing arts events, rather than the big festivals that have been a subject of concern in the national media.”

Professor Turner said: “During the pandemic, many of us have come to know our local areas in new ways. Perhaps we have discovered new and quiet routes to undertake daily walks. Perhaps we have equally experienced the inconvenience and limits of urban spaces. Perhaps we may have been confined to our domestic spaces, and interacted with the world outside largely through screens or from doorways and windows. Many have become more aware of birdsong and the changing of the seasons, the impact of weather and the importance, or lack of green spaces for leisure.

“Through what we learn from artists, we hope to be able to make some suggestions that could contribute to a positive experience of a more open, healthy and environmentally-engaged city centre.”

Comments are closed.