Performing infrastructure : urban planning, community property and gendered spaces in the London Plan (2019-)

Dr Lynne McCarthy

Performing Public Infrastructure is an investigation into the performativity of infrastructure (Larkin 2013; Amin 2014; Easterling 2014) in London's public spaces and civic infrastructure and its effects on the personhood and the political subjectivities of London's dwellers in terra nova (newly developed neighbourhoods identified through the London Plan). The project's partners are Just Space, an informal alliance of 80 community groups, campaigns and concerned independent organisations which was formed to act as a voice for Londoners at grass-roots level during the formulation of London's major planning strategy. In the context of austerity, the project will survey how public spaces for communities are conceived, allocated, and enlivened at metropolitan levels including through the London Plan's EiP (Examinations in Public) process.

Practically, the project deploys cultural and legal methodologies to interrogates civic infrastructure at borough level with a view to making material change to local environments. The project is interdisciplinary in approach utilising legal pedagogy and representational cultural practices to initially identify municipal planning policies that operate at a disadvantage to local community making. Utilising legal and performance studies scholarship, the project aims to interact materially with local planning law; firstly, through artistic discursive interventions focused on community collaboration in the identification of local planning concerns and; secondly, addressing community techniques for legal reform. The long term and significant aim of the investigation is to create local, borough and city-wide level discussion on emerging community spaces in the London Plan and to create interventions (legal, creative and discursive) in the next swath of housing reform to ensure the inclusion of intersectional public infrastructure.  


Creating Spaces and Belonging

Dr Aura Lounasmaa

Aura Lounasmaa and the Centre for Narrative Research received £1,000 seed funding from CAPA for the project Creative Narrative Methods in researching forced migration and belonging. The aim of the project was to bring together researchers and activists who use creative, participatory narrative methods in this research area for a discussion, run a pilot project with a small number of participants and begin creating connections and ideas for a Research Network. 

The Centre for Narrative Research organised a seminar in March 2019. Invited speakers included Professor Sari Poyhonen from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, Dr Elena Vacchelli from the University of Greenwich, Dr Helen Taylor and Dr Olivia Sheringham from Stories and Supper and Sonia Quintero, poet and the founder of Newham Poetry group and the Poetry Cafe in Stratford. The day was attended by 40 participants, many external researchers working in similar areas. 

In the summer we organised four workshops with 7 migrant participants during which, with the guidance of an experienced theatre maker Devika Ranjan participants discussed the meaning of belonging, then wrote and directed a short performance on how asylum seekers are made to not belong in the UK through bordering mechanisms, bureaucratic technologies and the act of waiting. The performance was filmed using 360 camera by the creative technologist Leon Barker. Participants noted that 360 filming captures well the non-linear nature of waiting and not belonging which frame the lives of asylum seekers. 

The video is currently being edited and participants are discussing the next steps for the project. Some of the participants of the seminar are preparing a grant application to continue to bring together an international network of researchers working in the area of migration and belonging through creative narrative methods. 


The UK Hip Hop Leadership Movement. A leadership development programme to inspire, support and promote change makers from the Hip Hop community

Carla Trim-Vamben

The UK Hip-Hop Leadership Movement brings together a consortium of leading Hip Hop dance companies, programmers, producers, training institutions & development organisations: Artists4Artists, Avant Garde Dance, Boy Blue, Breakin' Convention, East London Dance, Impact Dance, Uchenna Dance, University of East London, & ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company.

The consortium will create and deliver a two-year programme to reveal, inspire, support and champion current and next generation leaders coming from the Hip Hop community who are passionate about making change. We want to celebrate & reflect the roots of Hip Hop coming from Black culture, so will use this programme to actively grow Black Asian and Minority Ethnic leaders, whilst also embracing how inclusive Hip Hop is currently in the UK.

BA (Hons) Dance: Urban Practice at the University of East London (UEL) will lead the action learning research programme consulting and facilitating an evaluation of the short, medium & long-term impacts of the leadership development programme. Additionally, we will offer research assistant roles to students and/or alumni from UEL. The outcomes of the research will be disseminated through a range of channels, such as industry reports, journal articles, and academic book chapters. There will also be a final event that shares our findings with the wider sector, raises debate about diversity amongst the cultural workforce, and gives a platform to the next generation of Hip Hop leaders. 

My Creative School logo

My Creative School

Martin Heaney has recently completed a role as an evaluator on the My Creative School (MCS) programme which has transformed teaching and learning experience in 13 schools in London and the Medway area of Kent in a two-year period from 2016 - 2018. Funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the programme was delivered in partnership by A New Direction (AND) and The Education Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Southwark. It aimed to embed the arts as drivers of powerful learning experiences, unlocking the potential of developing teachers' practice through a new model of relationship between artists and school. In its second year, the programme developed a model where the arts became a catalyst for developing whole school cultures and community relationships through the arts with impacts on pupil, teacher and artist skills development.  The MCS programme has engaged with over 2,600 primary school pupils, 280 teachers and senior staff leaders and 15 artists.

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Speech Bubbles

Newham Speech Bubbles is a university-wide civic engagement project providing student-led interventions in local primary schools to raise achievement levels for children aged 5 to 7.
Adapted from the national project, Speech Bubbles, conceived by London Bubble Theatre Company, the University of East London version trains student facilitators to use story-drama to build children's communication, confidence and wellbeing. 

Speech Bubbles offers a flexible approach to learning, making it less confusing and disorientating for children with communication difficulties. The children thrive because the project places their own stories at the centre of the experience, while the UEL students develop their skills through community-based learning.

A sustainable model of delivery, where the schools make a contribution to funding the programme, has allowed the programme to grow, providing a value for money service reaching 80 children across Newham last year with plans to grow the number of children participating each year.

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Students from Health, Special Education, Psychosocial Studies and Drama applied to participate via an open application and workshop process. They trained and collaborated with staff from across academic disciplines to develop practice to suit the Newham context.

Student facilitators then worked weekly with school staff, improving targeting and delivery through reflective practice, ensuring that each pupil's progress was planned for and monitored.
A key challenge was communicating with teachers and teaching assistants to ensure a consistent experience for the children participating; school trips, library sessions and staffing shortages all contributed challenges to the regularity of sessions. A student co-ordinator was employed to support with logistics and to communicate key messages regarding the delivery of the programme.

A further challenge lay in closing the feedback loop; where experiences in the classroom could be shared directly with lecturers and supervisors thus enabling professional oversight and quality assurance for the schools. A digital app, developed with mobile ethnography company, Indeemo, enabled students to record thoughts and feelings and engage in critical reflection through a digital dialogue with their tutor.
Newham Speech Bubbles, with student facilitators, is as effective as the national Speech Bubbles programme delivered in other boroughs by arts professionals: teacher assessments (2015/16) showed 90% of pupils made progress in Learning, Speaking and Listening (LSL) and 85% in Emotional, Behaviour and Conduct (EBC). Figures for the national programme report 86% of children showed progress in LSL and 84% in EBC. (Source: London Bubble Theatre Company)

Teachers report progress for individual students: examples are included in the appendices. 

CPD accredited collaborative learning sessions were held with school partners and students over the course of the year: take up by teachers and teaching assistants from schools is an additional outcome as is the use of Speech Bubbles techniques across the wider school.

Long-term relationships have developed between the schools and UEL, fostering other areas of joint activity.

In 2017 Newham Speech Bubbles featured as a case study of good practice in public engagement in a Report to HEFCE by York Consulting 'Students: Experience, Engagement and Communities'.

In 2018 UEL joined forces with Kazzum Theatre Company as the Newham providers of Speech Bubbles. Kazzum now trains and supports students who co-facilitate sessions on a weekly basis.

in 2018 Kazzum and UEL students are participating in EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) research, a longitudinal study onto the impact of Speech Bubbles on KS1 children. This research is coordinated by London Bubble Theatre Company.

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Verbatim Formula: A residential Theatre Project with Newham care-leavers, July 2018

UEL is partnering with Queen Mary University on an AHRC funded project. This residential project will involve Newham looked-after young people in a verbatim theatre project at the University. The project hopes to generate new knowledge and affect policy surrounding the support for care-leavers at universities. We hope to be delivering this project annually.

The Kazzum logo

Coaching Creatives with Kazzum Theatre Company

Sheila Preston is working with the theatre company's artists running creative 1-1 coaching and group sessions with them. Kazzum's artists are undertaking work with a range of settings sometimes with vulnerable communities in hospitals, in schools, and with refugee communities. CAPA are hosting the 'How to Kazzum' training programme for its associate artists, 3-7 September 2018. Kazzum are pioneering the prioritisation of the development and support of its artists. Sheila Preston will be contributing a session on Emotional Labour and the Facilitator.

M-Set logo


This is an exciting collaboration with M-Set (Multi-Sensory Educational Theatre), organised by Liselle Terret. M-Set's starting point for planning this project was to identify creative and innovative ways to introduce and explore the concepts of biomedical science to young people who would not normally have access to these topic areas. This has been achieved through close consultation and collaboration with the Neuroscience department at the University of East London, science teachers, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists.

The title "Open Minds" reflects the projects' emphasis on exploration and scientific enquiry as well as the aim to raise awareness of disabilities and mental health issues.

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Background and Objectives:
This is a multi-sensory, cross-media, immersive theatre project about the brain. It has been specifically designed to be adaptable for children between 8 and 16 years of age across all ability ranges. 

It is intended that the multi-sensory practical approach of the project will help children to consolidate their understanding of brain activity and function as humans develop, grow and age. We will explore differences and diversity in society and how the human brain is affected by conditions such as autism and diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.

With a particular emphasis on active learning and inclusion and access, the project is designed to help young people of all abilities to make creative connections with science and to gain a general understanding of biomedical research and a curiosity for the social and ethical issues relating to contemporary and future advances in neuroscience. 

Our starting point for planning this project was to identify creative and innovative ways to introduce and explore the concepts of biomedical science to young people who would not normally have access to these topic areas. This has been achieved through close consultation and collaboration with the Neuroscience department at the University of East London, science teachers, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists. The title "Open Minds" reflects the projects' emphasis on exploration and scientific enquiry as well as the aim to raise awareness of disabilities and mental health issues.

The project will be led by a team of highly experienced drama, music and design practitioners with backgrounds in teaching, child development, psychology and higher education as well as theatre. It is informed by our extensive experience of providing multi-sensory, participatory drama education in both mainstream and SEND, Primary and Secondary school settings.

Part 1 of the project will involve 5 schools.

The project would be suitable for pupils of all abilities.
Many of the researchers at the Department of Neuroscience at UEL are women. It might be interesting to have a small group of high ability girls who are very interested in science providing a focus for the documentary and interviewing scientists. This could have the additional benefit of exploring careers for women in science and could be used to motivate and encourage younger girls to consider further studies and careers in science.

Similarly, working with undergraduates in the Applied Theatre & Performance BA could inform young people about careers in theatre and the creative industries.

The project can be spread across different groups of students if appropriate.