This page lists some of our members’ projects that sit at the intersection between academic research and creative practice.
BG REACH was a research, engagement and knowledge exchange project supporting people from a disadvantaged post-industrial community in the South Wales valley to reflect on local history and heritage through the creative arts. Despite being stymied by the Coronavirus pandemic just two months into delivery, the project worked with 63 participants who between them produced 67 pieces of visual art, creative writing, music, oral history and film. To deliver the project, Richard Marsden worked with the Partnerships Team in the OU in Wales, Linc Cymru Housing Association, and a community group based in the Ebbw Fach valley.
Project outputs are an online exhibition on Openlearn, a physical exhibition at St Fagans Museum of National History which attracted over 18,000 visitors in a 30month period, and a research article (currently half-written) treating the creative work produced by participants as cultural products which can reveal much about the intersections between heritage and identity in a part of Welsh society whose experiences and voices are often peripheral to mainstream narratives of Welsh identity. Other outcomes included the development of skills and confidence for participants as well as support to access further learning, a boost to community cohesion through the mobilisation of heritage as a community asset, and knowledge exchange between three very different organisations working on BG REACH together.
BG REACH was funded initially by a £38,000 grant from UKRI to enhance placed-based partnerships and research, and then subsequently by a further £25,000 of internal OU RES money. It started at the beginning of 2020 and would have concluded within the same calendar were it not for the global pandemic. Instead, it ran until summer 2022 and won the TPAS Cymru Judges Special Award. A further bid of c. £430,000 has been submitted to the Heritage Lottery fund for Wales REACH. This will be a follow-on heritage and creative arts project which will do similar work in more diverse, rich and sustained ways with five communities across Wales, each marginalised by ethnicity, age, disability and / or socio-economic circumstances.
By Jove Theatre Company is a London-based theatre collective telling old stories in new ways, co-directed by Christine Plastow. The company’s work takes myths, pulls them apart, and weaves them back together for a contemporary audience; it elevates the stories of women and LGBTQ+ people, and works to make society more equal for all.
In 2021 By Jove presented The Gentlest Work, a digital installation exploring queerness, trauma, and joy in the myths surrounding the Oresteia through performance, poetry, and art. The work was hosted on a Padlet site which enabled audience members to find their own path, at their own pace, through an archive of dozens of fragmentary creative responses to the myths, as well as records of the company’s creative process during the 2021 lockdowns. The project was the starting point for a new research project into ‘Performing Archives’, currently in its early stages.
You can see and hear By Jove’s work on their YouTube and SoundCloud pages, including the recently released Mythcrashers podcast, an irreverent romp through the stories we tell over and over, as well as archived performances and discussions. You can also find out more on By Jove’s website.
This set of two scholarship projects examined the ways in which face-to-face engagement with visual art, using the OU’s Art Collection, enhanced the study experience of Level 2 students in Art History and Creative Writing. Phase 2 addressed the challenges of adapting the project to the online workshop environment to explore examples of paintings, sculpture and prints.
The project uncovered the degree to which artworks and Art History’s approaches to their study were valued as new sources for story-telling by creative writers, unlocking learning potential in the University’s own art collection. The art history students, in turn, also gained from applying the approaches of Creative Writing to address the interpretation of artworks in new ways, notably concerning artistic intentions. Thus, the online workshop enabled students to discover how the two disciplines complemented each other and to see the value of collaborations between disciplines. Students considered the duration of the day workshop enabled deeper connections and interactions with ‘real time’ tutor and peer feedback. Students were able to engage with artwork outside of the gallery model and western canon, enabling students to value alternative genres of cultural expression, through the selection of works by indigenous Australian and African artists. The project concluded that better use should be made of the OU Art Collection for teaching, learning, dissemination, and public engagement.