Looking at the relationship between evaluation and the arts


On the 5th of November, Project Oracle held an immersive day-long event entitled 'Choreographing Evaluation' at Impact Hub Westminster, as part of the ESRC's 2014 Festival of Social Science.

Choreographing Evaluation explored the potential of arts-based initiatives for improving the lives of children and young people by discussing the relationship between the arts and the evidence agenda. The day was full of creative, interactive activities. These facilitated a meaningful and rich discussion, in no small part thanks to the wide range of stakeholders in the room which included artists, performers, youth workers, academics, commissioners and policy-makers.

We were also proud to launch our latest Synthesis Study: Arts-Based Interventions for Children and Young People in London. You can read its key findings and the full report here.

Dr. Jonathan Barnes, Senior Lecturer in Education at Canterbury Christ Church University's Sidney de Haan Research Centre for Arts & Health, kicked off the event by leading a sing-along, followed by a discussion about the value of 'single stories, individual difference and change'. This drew on his observation of 'Speech Bubbles', a programme run by the London Bubble Theatre Company.

 Dr. Jonathan Barnes orchestrating our impromptu choir

Dr. Jonathan Barnes orchestrating our impromptu choir

Carly Annable-Coop, Director of Development & Training at Dance United Yorkshire, showcased her organisation's work through a multi-layer presentation entitled ‘Dance is the hidden language of the soul’. This incorporated a screening of an inspiring video about a dance-led intervention (developed in partnership with the Institute of Psychiatry, Early intervention in Psychosis, and SlaM), a discussion of the organisation's experience of self-evaluation and an immersive 'walkthrough' installation which visually narrated their unique evaluation methodology.

 Artist Jairo Zaldua exploring Dance United's methodological installation

Artist Jairo Zaldua exploring Dance United's methodological installation

Holly Donagh, Partnerships Director of A New Direction, led a talk and workshop exploring the disconnect between perceptions of ‘evidence’ amongst actors in the cultural, educational and third sector commissioning spaces.

 Holly Donagh speaking at the event

Holly Donagh speaking at the event

Tim Joss, Chief Executive of the new and innovative Arts Enterprises with Social Purpose (AESOP), led a discussion of key issues addressed by his organisation through their innovative framework, which seeks to answer key questions such as: What is artistic impact?, how do you measure it and how does it relate to social impact?

 AESOP's CEO, Tim Joss, at the event

AESOP's CEO, Tim Joss, at the event

Sue Mayo, Associate Artist at Magic Me and Convenor of MA in Applied Theatre at Goldsmiths, University of London, led a talk which laid bare the importance of reflexive conversations in evaluative methodologies and processes, between artist and participant, emerging documents and funders or commissioners.

 Sue Mayo in deep discussion with Adam Annand, Associate Director of Creative Learning at the London Bubble Theatre Company

Sue Mayo in deep discussion with Adam Annand, Associate Director of Creative Learning at the London Bubble Theatre Company

Dr. Simon McMahon, Research Fellow at Coventry University's Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations and Synthesis Studies Associate at Project Oracle, presented our all-new Synthesis Study: Arts-Based Interventions for Children and Young People in London, which he co-authored along with Dr. Michael Atkins and Mita Pujara.

 Dr. Simon McMahon presenting Project Oracle's latest Synthesis Study

Dr. Simon McMahon presenting Project Oracle's latest Synthesis Study

John Martin, Artistic Director of Pan Intercultural Arts engaged participants in an interactive session of fun and games designed to prepare participants for the following Long Table discussion.

 John Martin, centre-stage

John Martin, centre-stage

The Long Table Discussion itself was kicked of with a video recording of Prof. Lois Weaver of Queen Mary’s, University of London and engaged all participants in an open discussion addressing critical questions and issues arising from the day.

 Delegates at the Long Table

Delegates at the Long Table

Visual minutes were drawn by Ariadne Radi Cor, a lettering artist and postcard maker, and her associate Fede Ciotti.

 Ariadne and Fede at work

Ariadne and Fede at work

 Ariadne and Fede's interpretation of the Long Table Discussion (Copyright chantillycream.co.uk)

Ariadne and Fede's interpretation of the Long Table Discussion (Copyright chantillycream.co.uk)

Our industrious Event Coordinator, Mita Pujara (an arts educator and researcher at the University of Cambridge), convened the Arts-based plenary - an interdisciplinary, creative session designed to synthesise the ideas and questions of the day through small groups producing their own art!

 Mita opening the plenary with a reading from Living Word's book, 'The Things Between Us'

Mita opening the plenary with a reading from Living Word's book, 'The Things Between Us'

The day was brought to a close with a reflective performance by spoken word artist Shane Solanki (of Last Mango in Paris fame) and a photographic presentation by Gursen Houssein, many of whose pictures are included in this presentation.

 Shane, 'in media res'

Shane, 'in media res'

The event summoned up a real Twitter-storm around our hashtag, #ImpactOfArts!

We would like to extend many thanks to our contributors, speakers, performers and guests and the amazing team of researchers who put together our latest Synthesis Study; we hope that the day was as stimulating and exciting for you all as it was for us.

We reserve our biggest thanks for last: The Economic and Social Research Council, represented on the day by Natalie Jones, their Deputy Head of Knowledge Exchange, has supported Project Oracle from its inception. We look forward to many more collaborative ventures in the future.

Project Oracle is committed to supporting arts-based initiatives for children and young people in London and beyond. If you are involved in commissioning, delivering or studying arts-based interventions, visit our website's support page to explore the services we offer. These include training and research placements to support project evaluations that can be validated against our Standards of Evidence, a globally recognised framework for assessing the quality of evidence produced by children and youth projects.

 All pictures have been kindly provided by Gursen Houssein and Stephen Blunt.

 

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