Three researchers from the University of Warwick have won a grant to run an Eco-Citizenship Project entitled
I don’t want your hope, I want your action:
Exploring youth eco-citizenship in Coventry through verbatim theatre and digital ethnography
This project will bring together the expertise of Dr Bobby Smith from Theatre Studies, Dr Rachel Turner-King from Education Studies and Prof David Mond from the departments of Mathematics and Global Sustainable Development.
Once the project is running they will be engaging University of Warwick students to assist with the project and experience interdisciplinary practice.
This project will be a collaboration between the University of Warwick and Coventry Climate Action Network (CovCAN) that will invite youth participants to explore local and global questions of environmental and ecological degradation using verbatim theatre, ethnography and digital media, to encourage an interdisciplinary conversation about the nature of intersecting global crises. It will involve participatory workshops that will use playful, ensemble-led and performative pedagogies to activate and capture diverse stories of youth eco-citizenship. The project will aim to position Coventry youth as active co-researchers. The project participants will present their collaborative creations in different sites across Coventry.
During 2014-19, Dr Rachel Turner-King from the Education Studies Department of Warwick University was lead UK researcher for a multi-sited, ethnographic research project investigating ‘hope’, ‘care’ and ‘civic engagement’ where she worked with The Belgrade Theatre’s Canley Youth Theatre. That project was led by Professor Kathleen Gallagher from the University of Toronto, Canada, and funded by the Canadian Social Sciences Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
The study revealed profound connections between the practice of drama in the classroom and the capacity of youth to develop ‘care’ by learning in relation to one another, in intellectual and embodied ways.
The current project is a component of a larger international, multi-sited ethnographic study led by Professor Kathleen Gallagher entitled ‘Global Youth (Digital) Citizen-Artists and their Publics: Performing for Socio-Ecological Justice’. The shorthand for this project is ‘Audacious Citizenship’. This project will take place during 2019-2024 and will launch that research programme.
Our key partner organisation is Coventry’s Climate Action Network (CovCAN). David Mond has worked with Phillip Brown, leader CovCAN. CovCAN brings together a range of individuals and organisations with the following common aims:
- inform the public about climate change;
- influence local authorities and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint;
- develop and publicising low carbon alternatives;
- develop a creative cultural response to the challenges of climate change.
CovCAN has links with schools, businesses, Coventry and Warwick Universities, local authorities in the West Midlands, and political parties, and its members have a very wide range of expertise. We aim to work with CovCAN’s ‘Young Reporters’ who write articles and create short videos about what is being done in Coventry and help the city council with a public consultation on it future climate strategy.
Furthermore, we will use CovCAN’s school network alongside our own established Coventry school and theatre contacts to recruit youth participants. We have invited The Belgrade and Warwick Arts Centre in the hope of working with one of their youth theatre groups. We have also reached out to President Kennedy High School and/or Finham Park (we have previous experience of working with these schools).
For this project, we will work in a Coventry secondary school and/or Coventry-based youth theatre to ask two research questions:
– How do the young people participating understand the relationship between the environment and their lives?
– What do the young people currently know about the climate crisis?
Ethnographic research is a qualitative method where researchers observe and/or interact with a study’s participants in their real-life environment. Ethnography was popularised by anthropology, but is used across a wide range of social sciences.
The young people participating in this project will become both theatre makers and ethnographic researchers, undertaking a range of interviews and engaging in discussions between themselves and with other members of their local community to investigate understandings and perspectives on the climate crisis.
Verbatim Approach to Theatre-Making
The project will utilise a “verbatim approach” to theatre-making with the young people in order to respond to these questions. Verbatim describes the use of interview transcripts and the actual words of individuals to create theatre around a specific theme – in this case communities, resilience and environmental sustainability. Applied Theatre
Utilising an applied theatre approach to explore issues around the climate crisis and its relationship to the young people’s local community offers a playful, creative and innovative approach to discussing these issues with young people. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_Drama for more information.
Using statistics and research from global sustainable development will provide clear evidence for how the climate crisis is affecting society, the efficacy of possible solutions and the ways in which societies will need to adapt in the future.
Building upon Turner-King’s previous study, this new project positions young people as creative researchers of their local/global environments. Embedded in this wider international study into ‘Audacious Citizenship’, Coventry youth will be given opportunities to connect and share their work within and across global ‘locals’ in Canada, Columbia, Greece, India and Taiwan where young people will receive each other’s digital-live theatre productions.
Working through theatre-based pedagogies will enable open discussion around these issues and the opportunity for young people to explore the climate crisis creatively, and to stage their views for an audience in an engaging performance. Putting voices and stories to the evidence that global sustainable development can offer can amplify efforts to understand and respond to the climate crisis.
The project will contribute to an environment of interdisciplinary enquiry around the vital research area of young people’s understandings of the climate crisis.
Through the project design, the participants and local communities in which we work will be at the centre of the project. We will aim to deliver the following impacts:
- The project will deliver social and cultural impact drawing on the research and teaching expertise of the team involved. Approaches from theatre and education will facilitate a participant-led, artistic process resulting in a performance that will be shared with local communities. The social and personal impacts of theatre-based approaches are well-documented: participants in such projects learn about new subjects and perspectives in an engaging way; they become more confident to express themselves; and develop important skills in collaboration. The performance the young people devise will offer a local response to the global challenge of the climate crisis. Due to the Principal Investigator’s involvement in a larger, related global project, the scope exists for global interconnectedness and sharing between young people and researchers to emerge from the project.
- The project will deliver impacts relating to enterprise and skills. At the staff level, Rachel Turner King, David Mond and Bobby Smith will work through an interdisciplinary approach to deliver the project, supporting and deepening each other’s understandings of the varied approaches to, and understandings of, the climate crisis and working with young people. This can lead to further research in this area. The project will also create opportunities for six undergraduate and postgraduate students (two from each department involved) to volunteer on the project. Two further opportunities will exist for students to apply to become research assistants supporting the project. These students will develop knowledge relating to arts-based strategies to working in educational contexts and will also deepen their knowledge of the climate crisis. The project will be a rewarding opportunity and the skills learnt through interdisciplinary collaboration and working in young contexts will be attractive to future employers.
- Finally, the project will have an impact through the local partnership we will build. We envisage partnerships with schools and a youth theatre, and potentially with other arts organisations. As detailed above, the partnership with CovCAN will provide access to a wider network, climate policy-makers and activists. These partnerships can be drawn upon in future projects to create a sustained impact, securing impacts relating to the social and cultural wellbeing of local communities and representing a positive contribution by the University of Warwick in this area.