Working with partners across the city, researchers from the School of the Arts played a pivotal role in shaping and delivering the programme for Hull’s 2017 year as UK City of Culture. The School created mutually beneficial relationships between regional arts organisations and the University, developed new networks of producers, and created a research agenda that impacted on the working processes of performers and companies involved. Ultimate benefits from this research included increased cultural engagement by people in the Humber region and nationally; innovative methods of engaging people in the Arts; and a blueprint for how a HEI can engage in planning and delivery of a major cultural event.
Led by Dr Christian Billing, the Czech and Slovak Scenography for Shakespeare project is an international, multi-institution research project that considers the central importance of Czech and Slovak stage design in Shakespeare studies – from the end of the nineteenth century to the present day. Partners have included: the Ohio State University; Masaryk University; the Columbus Museum of Art; the Archives of the Czech National Theatre; the Theatre Research Institute (Bratislava) and the Arts and Theatre Institute (Prague). The project has so far included: three international conferences (in Columbus, Hull and Brno); a touring exhibition of original artworks; a completed PhD dissertation (on Slovak design for Shakespeare); new digital modelling of historic stage designs; and one collection of essays (published by Masaryk University Press). Further anticipated outputs include a book length study of the Shakespeare scenography of Josef Svoboda.
Nightports is a collaborative studio project led by Dr Mark Slater (University of Hull) and Dr Adam Martin (Leeds Conservatoire). As a practice-as-research project, Nightports explores the generative powers of self-imposed restriction (which has a deep history in composition and production). Each release focusses on either a featured musician or a specific place. Only sounds produced by the featured musician or those captured in the chosen place on one day can be used – nothing else. These sounds can then be transformed, distorted, translated, processed and reprocessed, stretched, cut, ordered and reordered without limitation. Working since 2010, Nightports has released a series of albums and EPs independently and on The Leaf Label, working with collaborators such as pianist Matthew Bourne and drummer Max Hallett (aka Betamax). Through international broadcasts and live performances, the project has reached a wide global audience.
The Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ) is the world's largest exhibition of scenography and performance design. Since its founding in 1967, it has taken place every four years over an 11-day festival in Prague as the world-leading forum for theatre and performance professionals and the wider interested public. Starting with the 2017 conference on the 50th anniversary, several staff and students in SotA have been actively involved. Prof. Pavel Drábek has been member of the International Team as co-curator of PQ Talks (see also article in Theatre and Performance Design journal), one of the eight main programmes of PQ2019, and member of the jury of PQ Best Publication Award. Dr Cat Fergusson Baugh and Dr Amy Skinner have organised and moderated specialist panels as part of PQ Talks 2019, on New Media and on Scenography of Sound (Fergusson Baugh), and on Theatre and Photography (Skinner). With the support of the School and the Faculty, PG students on the MA Theatre Making were able to participate as part of their Research Project work. This in turn reflected in the curricular work at postgraduate as well as undergraduate levels.
With numerous other Hull alumni in attendance, as visitors as well as contributing artists and presenters, among them world-leading scholars Dr Rachel Hann or Prof. Christopher Baugh, and book illustrator and visual artist Olivia Lomenech Gill, who was one of the keynote speakers and a workshop leader in the PQ Youth and Family programme, PQ2019 was an opportunity for sharing our expertise at a major event, attended by over 70,000 visitors, over 8,000 contributing artists, and with a significant online following (see PQ2019 Catalogue). Prof. Pavel Drábek collaborates with PQ, supporting the conceptual developments of PQ towards a continuous online platform that will culminate in PQ2023.
The Art of Dancing is a commercial recording released on Signum Classics (Gramophone Label of the Year 2017) featuring solo trumpeter Dr Simon Desbruslais, pianist Clare Hammond and harpist Rita Schindler. Inspired by the instrumentation of Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto (1933), it includes four new concertos written by Nimrod Borenstein, Deborah Pritchard, Toby Young and Geoffrey Gordon, which feature the trumpet alongside another solo instrument, accompanied by conductor Kenneth Woods and the English String Orchestra.
The recordings have since been broadcast several times worldwide, including BBC Radio 3, and received with critical acclaim (‘beautifully performed, highly original disc’ – BBC Music Magazine).
Commissioned as part of the Hull 2017 City of Culture programme, Weathered Estates was a co-production between the University of Hull, theatre company The Roaring Girls, playwright Zodwa Nyoni, and the Hull City of Culture Company. Taking Euripides’ Women of Troy as a starting point, the production explored women’s experiences of ‘home’ through key points in the history of Hull. The collaboration between Dr Amy Skinner (as artistic director), the Roaring Girls and Nyoni allowed for the development of a unique theatrical aesthetic which incorporated elements of poetry, choral music, puppetry, storytelling, audience interaction, and craftivism. Weathered Estates performed to sell-out audiences at the University of Hull’s Gulbenkian Centre and at the 2017 Women of the World festival. The production was also profiled in the local and national press, including The Guardian’s Top Tickets column.