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Title: Witnessing change : problematising the impact of participatory theatre for vulnerable groups at Kids Company
Author: Abraham, Nicola
ISNI:       0000 0004 5360 2152
Awarding Body: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
Date of Award: 2014
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This research proposes a new conceptual framework combining ideas of witnessing (observing) and change to understand possibilities for participatory theatre practice (PT) to impact vulnerable youth. This thesis was arrived at after longitudinal studies investigating the possibilities for change offered by responsive participatory theatre projects designed in collaboration with and for vulnerable groups at Kids Company. The findings emerging from the enquiry are the importance of humanising the facilitator, the necessarily temporary nature of participant performances of change in volatile settings, ‘witnessing change’ as a new type of impact relevant to vulnerable youth and the risks involved for vulnerable youth performing change in unresponsive or counter-responsive institutional settings. This research suggests that further enquiries are needed to investigate the concept of witnessing change as a new type of ‘impact’ which is necessarily temporary and multi-layered. Current perspectives of impact and impact assessment place value on achieving measurable outcomes. This research argues that current models of impact assessment should value temporary change even if it is confined to the workshop space where participants witness change in one another and the facilitator witnesses change in participants. This research is positioned within a framework incorporating ideas of witnessing, change and impact. The research is contextualised within the current socio-economic climate. The projects took place with vulnerable youth who accessed Kids Company’s support in South-East London. The urgency of this research is discussed in relation to the aftermath of the August 2011 UK riots. The research investigates the possibilities of using PT as a tool to expose and challenge constructs and found that PT can provide opportunities for impact and value to be witnessed as a way of sustaining change. The methodology of this research combined ethnographic and practice-based approaches to capture a plurality of voices to understand multiple readings of impact. It was important to include multiple voices to triangulate findings and address key challenges that arose due to the collaborative nature of this research conducted with Kids Company. Balancing a fair representation of Kids Company with critical readings of the provisions provided by the charity was one of the challenges within this research. A reflexive approach to the enquiry was employed to note researcher subjectivity and multiple perspectives were included to capture the complexity of Kids Company settings. The research will contribute a new holistic approach for practice in the field of PT, where PT is used as a process of humanisation. The research will also contribute new strategies of facilitation for practitioners working with vulnerable youth in similar contexts. In addition, the research may also contribute to the fields of child development and social change strategies through the concept of witnessing change as a new approach to understanding the impact of participatory theatre.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Applied theatre