Worlds Together Conference call for abstracts

Posted March 22nd, 2012 by Sylvia Morris and filed in Events

The Worlds Together Conference is being held from 6-8 September at Tate Modern. Please note that the deadline for submitting abstracts is 31 March.


Worlds Together: an international conference exploring the value of Shakespeare and the arts in young people’s lives.

September 6 – 8, 2012, at Tate Modern on London’s Southbank

Worlds Together is a collaborative conference between Tate Modern, the British Museum, the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). It draws together different disciplines in order to ask what is at stake for children’s cultural lives today. The conference will engage a range of professionals to explore what pioneers in arts education set out to achieve, what current practice has developed, and what change will most benefit the cultural lives of young people tomorrow. It brings the worlds of arts education together across time, place and practice.

Worlds Together is part of the Unilever Series: turbinegeneration, an international, online educational partnership produced by Tate, and the World Shakespeare Festival[1], a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company for the London 2012 festival. The conference is hosted in the Tate Modern’s new Oil Tanks (opening in 2012) and Clore Learning Centre.

The three-day event provides a space for educators, artists and cultural professionals from all over the world to debate important issues, explore new practices and exchange ideas. Delegate options will be organised into two related programmes. One strand specifically explores the world-wide influence of Shakespeare in education; the other a broader view of the contemporary arts education landscape.

Tate Gallery and the RSC invite the submission of abstracts for twenty minute presentations as part of either strand of programming.

In relation to the Shakespeare strand, we are interested in case studies of effective ways of working with Shakespeare and young people, particularly in international and diverse cultural contexts. These should respond to one the following questions:

◦         What place should Shakespeare have in a contemporary curriculum?

◦         What relevance does Shakespeare have in the lives of young people today?

◦         How can we use different art forms and new technologies to illuminate and explore young people’s responses to Shakespeare?

In relation to the broader contemporary arts education strand, we invite proposals that address the following four questions and which focus on emergent practice and provocations.  We are interested in the presentation of new ideas and theoretical perspectives that invite new conversations:

◦         What place should the arts have in a contemporary curriculum?

◦         How can we make the most of the opportunities offered by new and emerging technologies?

◦         What roles do artists play in learning settings?

◦         In what ways are social and participatory practices important for children and young people?


250 word abstracts should be submitted by 31st March 2012. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper may be requested for submission by 30th June 2012, if appropriate. Abstracts should be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order: a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 keywords. E-mails should be entitled: Worlds Together Abstract Submission and addressed to for Shakespeare in education and for broader contemporary arts education.

A limited number of bursaries to attend the conference are available for contributors from outside the UK. Concessions on the ticket price may be available for UK contributors. Further details of bursaries and concessions will follow the submission of a successful abstract. The standard conference fee is £395, which includes: lunch and refreshments; free entry to the British Museum exhibition, Shakespeare: Staging the World; plus tickets to exhibitions and events at Tate where available.

Confirmed contributors include: Shirley Brice Heath, James Shapiro, Cicely Berry, Jonothan Neelands, Carla Rinaldi, Estelle Morris, Steve Seidel, Michael Morpurgo.

Full details of the Shakespeare programme will be available from 29th February 2012 at:


[1] The World Shakespeare Festival is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright, produced by the RSC, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organisations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare’s Globe. It runs from 23 April to 9 September 2012.



Unlearning Shakespeare symposium

Posted March 22nd, 2012 by Sylvia Morris and filed in Events

A symposium on the theme of Unlearning Shakespeare, is to take place at Oxford Brookes University on 28 June. Please see below for full information.  

Harcourt Hill Campus, Oxford Brookes University

Thursday 28 June 2012


Symposium Description and Call for Papers & Attendees

An intensive one-day symposium to explore how creative teaching and learning fits with (or doesn’t fit with) formal learning structures at school and university. The focus of the symposium is on the relationship between institutional structures of thought and practice in learning and the positive turbulence or system stresses caused by injection of or experimentation with innovative approaches. Participants will include academics and teachers as well as anyone with an interest in how creativity functions in respect to institutional learning. The conveners are based at Oxford Brookes University and the University of Sydney and so the symposium will include UK and Australian dimensions.


‘Institutional structures of thought and practice’ include such things as: curriculum, syllabus and rationale; discipline or degree scope, skills and content; learning stages, areas, milestones and pathways; practices and physical spaces of teaching and learning; forms and genres of student demonstration of learning; examination and assessment regimes, bands, standards and guidelines of achievement; inherited, tacit, expected and conventional habits of thought and practice; and desired, projected and created graduate attributes.


‘Innovative approaches’ indicates novel ways of teaching and learning within or against institutional structures that may cause a reappraisal, critique or transformation of those structures.


Unlearning Shakespeare explores, via a focus on Shakespeare pedagogy at school and university, what teaching and learning actually are, where practicality meets imagined ideals, and what might be changed or best left alone. It considers the nexus between system and asystem, between formula and creativity, between educator and student, and between Shakespeare and the study of Shakespeare. The symposium welcomes theoretical and policy papers as well as reflections on practical experience. 


The format will be a dual stream of short papers clustered by topic area and with discussion times following. We also invite proposals for workshop sessions.


Registration and Submission of Abstracts

Registration is by emailing the following information to the conveners by 30 March 2012:

  • Your name, affiliation and contact details including email address,
  • Your intention to attend without presenting a paper, OR,
  • Your intention to attend and present a 15-minute paper (please supply a paper title and abstract of between 50-100 words).

The symposium is free (no charge). Delegates will be able to make use of the on-campus refectory during breaks and lunch.  Details of accommodation options available on request.


Contact the Conveners

Jane Coles, School of Education, Oxford Brookes University.

Liam Semler, Department English, University of Sydney.




Kathryn Westwood’s presentation: Shakespeare Inside Out Part 3

Posted March 22nd, 2012 by Sylvia Morris and filed in Teaching approaches and techniques

Kathryn Westwood, like Peter Kirwan and Sarah Olive, took part in the Shakespeare Inside Out session at the BSA Conference in February 2012. Here’s her explanation and her slides:

The research is grounded in testimonies from year 8 students at Chorlton High School to innovative workshops on Romeo & Juliet. The lessons allowed for an active, collaborative and creative use of the text to inform students’ understanding of the theme of violence. The students adapted, performed and filmed their own versions of Act 1 Sc. 1 in the context of 2012 Manchester. The paper reflects on students’ positive responses to the use of drama and new media technology to access the literature, and why they found these methods more effective for learning than their usual English lessons. It uses Thomas Pettitt and Peter Donaldson’s ‘Gutenberg parenthesis’ theory to investigate the changes in mind-work of a generation growing up in a period of technological revolution, and how this can be used to the advantage of arts educators. From this, the current necessities of and for arts education are elucidated, in particular reference to the skill-set currently needed by young people in an unstable economic climate and digital culture.





Shakespeare Inside Out Part 2: Sarah Olive’s presentation

Posted March 22nd, 2012 by Sylvia Morris and filed in Teaching approaches and techniques

In his blog Teaching Shakespeare Inside Out, Peter Kirwan refers to Sarah Olive’s presentation for the panel with the same name at the BSA Lancaster Conference in February. We thought readers might like to take a closer look at Sarah’s presentation. Her introduction to the way she uses Lady Gaga in her Shakespeare teaching, and her Slideshare, follow:

Revelling in Bad Romances; music video murders by poisonous catering and flame-throwing bras; elaborate (dis)guises involving raw meat, an egg and cross-dressing; parodies of foreign languages; collaborations with established artists such as Beyoncé and Madonna – could Lady Gaga represent a Shakespeare for today?

If you feel inspired to use Lady Gaga to teach Shakespeare, follow this link to an exercise that I use with students on the B.A. English in Education at the Universityof York. I have used it on the first year module, ‘Introduction to Language and Literature’, as an introduction to work on creativity in literature and everyday culture with students who students have not previously studied Shakespeare at university, but will be familiar with at least two plays from school. Additionally, I have deployed it with second year students, who have either studied Macbeth and Othello or the Tempest as part of their optional modules the previous term, to introduce study of All’s Well That Ends Well. In an article for the pilot issue of the electronic journal Alluvium (forthcoming April-May 2012), I consider more fully the affordances and constraints of icons from popular culture, such as Gaga, to teach Shakespeare, exploring both practical and ideological elements. If you decide to ‘put your paws up’ for Shakespeare and Lady Gaga by trying out the exercise with your students, I would welcome your feedback via email at


How do you use theatre performances in your teaching?

Posted March 22nd, 2012 by James Stredder and filed in Pedagogy

Do you value theatre visits as part of your teaching of Shakespeare and if so, is it possible for you to actually arrange such visits for your students?  How are any such visits financed ? Do you like to take your students to see a performance before they begin to study the text? How do you prepare them for the experience of watching a play ? What sort of work do you ask them to do afterwards?

I have always liked to contextualise theatre visits, making sure I am familiar with the aims and working conditions of the companies concerned and trying to give my students a sense of theatre as cultural production. It is easy for students to see performances as somehow delivering, or trying to deliver, definitive interpretations, rather than as unique  recreations of texts taking place in particular circumstances. Apart from the specifics of different performance spaces, performers, audiences, company aims and so on, there is also the whole matter of the making of the performance. Few theatre companies have the resources of the Royal Shakespeare Company, but every company must make production decisions about the same processes. The RSC’s information sheets about ‘Bringing a production to life’ are not only valuable for those visiting the RST – they can also be used for initiating discussion of production processes in theatre generally:

Going to a play can be frustrating. One may be irritated by anything from the speech of an actor to the way the text has been cut or modernised, or the action has been staged, and then spend the whole evening in a disgruntled state, marshalling a host of devastating put-downs for use after the show. Students may be disappointed: the performance is not like the film version they have watched or it does not square with the way they have been thinking about the text.

I try to get students to look at what the performance is offering and to go along with it for the duration of the performance. This is like trying to really listen to someone, instead of jumping in with counter-arguments and objections before they have finished speaking. Hard to do, I know! But if one is to explore and understand  the workings of a production, one must come at it rather as a cultural anthropologist, suspending (not abandoning) one’s judgement. This is all rather like the old arguments about popular culture, t.v. soap operas for example. At one time, many academics and teachers would not grant legitimacy to such popular cultural forms (some still do not). The ‘offering’ was not worth their attention. Yes, the training of discrimination and judgement is essential in literary and artistic education, but judgements come at the end of trials and what one reveals in critical  judgement is more important than the simple judgement itself.

One of my maxims, which I don’t always follow, is to be tentative and reserved in conversations in the interval. ‘Avoid making Interval Judgements’, I tell myself.  Apart from the fact that many productions grow from a central idea which is not fully apparent and cannot be properly appreciated until the latter stages of the performance (to me, this was very much the case, for example, with Michael Boyd’s 2011 Macbeth for the RSC), one can talk oneself into an entrenched position that may close down one’s receptivity.  No doubt young people are far less prone to judgemental moroseness (sometimes brought on by ‘habitual comparison’, in which knowledge of previous  experiences prevents one from responding to what one is actually being offered in the present moment), but I feel it is still essential to try to train young critics in the arts of openness, exploration and understanding.  I can recommend a Shakespeare reviewing website which admirably demonstrates these qualities at work. It is written by BSA trustee Peter Kirwan, author of our opening post on this Education Network:

James Stredder is Chair of the BSA Education Committee. He works with Sylvia Morris on the BSA Education Network and with Sarah Olive, and the other members of the Editorial Board, on the BSA’s magazine ‘Teaching Shakespeare’. He is particularly interested in pedagogy. His book, ‘ The North Face of Shakespeare:activities for teaching the plays’ (2009)  is published by CUP



Teaching Shakespeare Inside-Out: Embracing Student Knowledge

Posted March 15th, 2012 by Peter Kirwan and filed in Pedagogy

Teaching, it would seem, is firmly back on the agenda. At the tenth anniversary conference of the British Shakespeare Association, amid the usual strong showing of performance, research and practitioner events, a strong but vocal Education strand showcased the strong work being done around the world on Shakespearean pedagogy. In an academic climate dominated in recent years by the Research Assessment Exercise and its successor the Research Excellence Framework, pressuring young academics to protect their research time against extra teaching (positioning teaching as an encroachment on ‘academic’ time), it was refreshing to see researchers at all levels speaking to their pedagogic investment and sharing best practice.

The panel “Teaching Shakespeare Inside-Out” featured three papers by Sarah Olive (York), Peter Kirwan (Nottingham) and Kathryn Westood (Manchester) which demonstrated new practices and raised important questions about future directions for Shakespearean pedagogy. The heavy presence of BSA board members in the panel (trustees Olive and Kirwan, as well as Education Committee Chair James Stredder chairing the event) was perhaps indicative of the increased commitment to pedagogy at the heart of the organisation, and also allowed the panel to reflect on the new innovations being pioneered by the BSA, including this Education Network and the new magazine ‘Teaching Shakespeare’, edited by Olive with the assistance of Stredder.

Key to the “Inside-Out” panel was a genuine interest in engaging with the already-established learning practices of young people, as opposed to making assumptions about what works. The importance of linking in to the interests of young people of all ages was highlighted as essential for meeting students halfway and encouraging genuine dialogue. We might, as David L. Norton notes, relate this to Socrates’ notion of maieutic – “giving birth” to knowledge that students already have, or using their own learning practices to enable new knowledge. “It tells us that the learner, as he [sic] originally presents himself, is not to be regarded as a blank page to be written upon, or a container to be filled, but as a potentiality to be fulfilled.”[1]

In acknowledging the already-present knowledges and learning techniques of students, the papers in this panel sought to empower young people and create spaces of free exchange. Olive’s paper “Shakespeare vs. Lady Gaga: Using Contemporary Culture to Explore Early Modern Literature” foregrounded this meeting point, introducing an entertained audience to the oeuvre of the popular singer and relating her songs and videos to questions of nonsensical language, self-plagiarism and revenge in Shakespeare.

The purpose of introducing a popular culture comparison was, in Olive’s words, to “decrease perceptions of [Shakespeare’s] remoteness”.  Contextualising Shakespeare in a language with which students are already familiar, the teaching plans proposed in this paper aimed to couch Shakespeare within a shared discourse. The idea of “writing back”, of using marginalised groups and artistic forms to address dominant cultures, enables students to develop a critical language from an early age, fostering an understanding of how canons and texts are socially constructed. The value of this was perhaps most pronounced in a sense that students are already engaged with political and social debates through their immersion in popular culture. In appropriating pop icons for teaching purposes, we are also appropriating a set of pre-existent critical discourses that bridge the divide between the immediate and the remote.

In utilising popular culture, of course, teachers have to be wary of attempting to appear “cool” or, even worse, of misreading what students are genuinely interested in. Kirwan’s paper, which addressed the teaching of Shakespeare in Higher Education, pointed out that the communication barriers between teachers and young people risk becoming even more entrenched as a result of the digital revolution. With young people becoming sophisticated users of communication technologies at ever earlier ages, teachers have a responsibility to keep up and find ways to integrate the techniques students have learned into the classroom.

Kirwan’s paper focused on the use of blogs and wiki technology in the classroom as a means to enable independent learning and the communication of research between peers. On a “Shakespeare and Jonson” module for final year undergraduates, students are allocated research projects to pursue across a semester, and given access to an online wiki to edit. The notion is that by adopting a more familiar and accessible writing medium, students are empowered to build research into their seminar preparation and take time to distil their reading for the benefit of other students, ultimately building up a community-created resource of materials and secondary reading on which students can draw for final essay projects.

Every time we as teachers engage in students’ own learning practices, however, we risk encroaching on their personal space. If students associate their music preferences and their communication tools with their social life, do they necessarily want teachers to join them? How can we best judge what is appropriate for the classroom?

Kathryn Westwood’s paper drew on on-the-ground work with students from Chorlton, introduced to Romeo and Juliet through creative drama workshops that employed multimedia technologies and a sense of the text as physical, experienced. Through creating their own adaptations of the plays, students were able to bring their own discourses into fruitful, two-way conversation with Shakespeare. Powerful testimony came from the student who commented “I liked the lessons because it was more enjoyable than sitting in a classroom. My brain was more active in the drama room.” Perhaps there is no more compelling argument for turning Shakespeare “inside out” than the opportunity it gives students to expand their sense of their creativity and brainwork.

Utilising Thomas Pettitt and Peter Donaldson’s notion of the “Gutenberg Parenthesis” – the notion that, since the 1980s, we have begun returning to a pre-1440 discursive field of orality, mixed media and unstable texts – Westwood made the powerful argument that, as teachers and students, we need to embrace the instability offered by new media and performative practices, which more usefully prepare students for the modern world. This was perhaps the most important theme that ran through the three papers; a sense that the discursive nature of Shakespeare is best communicated through discursive media, through the adoption of new technologies that students have command over, and through learning strategies that offer genuine openness and flexibility for exploration.

It was clear, both from this panel and from the themes of the conference at large, that we as academics need to keep talking about pedagogy. The sharing of Shakespearean pedagogic practice across Education, English, Drama, Film and other disciplines demonstrated a pleasing amount of shared intellectual interest, leading to productive interdisciplinary conversations. This needs to happen, however, in ongoing conversation with our students, and with our teachers at all levels. Managing the transition between primary, secondary and tertiary education needs to be a priority, as does addressing a culture of resistance to new technologies among teaching staff. The work presented at BSA, however, suggested that innovative pedagogy is only on the rise, and continuing to generate exciting new material.

Peter Kirwan is Teaching Associate in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Nottingham. His research includes work on plays of disputed authorship, contemporary performance and pedagogic practice. His blog, The Bardathon, offers immediate reactions to productions of Shakespeare, linking academic content to a dynamic public platform:

[1] David L. Norton, “On Teaching What Students Already Know.” The School Review 82.1 (1973), 45-56. p.45.