Thursday 4 & Friday 5 August, 20.30

 

 

 

Closing Schools for the Future is an operatic performance which is unique because it draws its subject material from research into the day to day lives of ordinary people who are facing a critical event in their local community; that of the closure of their local school.

 

School closure is a huge issue these days. Whilst there are many initiatives which focus on building new schools, what gets forgotten in those processes are the consequences to peoples’ communities, jobs and the very fabric of their society.

 

Educational research about school closure is often communicated through arid texts for specialist educational audiences. This leads to a real disconnect between those whose stories were being communicated and the audiences who are listening to those stories.

 

We wanted to use Arts Based Educational Research techniques to both generate and communicate research with a deeper connections for a wider range of audiences and this became the challenge we set ourselves: is school closure is a suitable subject for an opera? And is opera a suitable means of communicating research?

 

It’s just a loss of identity, that’s all… (Head teacher, Centenary Primary School)

 

Whilst the logic of school closures is presented as an act of logic and modernist rationality, school closure invariably generates press stories of incensed parents, irate communities and exhausted teachers. What is frequently lost amongst the sturm und drang of closure however, are the tiny stories of loss of teachers, pupils and families: the loss of professional expertise, collective memory, and shared hopes and fears.

 

Developed from a collaborative process involving the whole team, this performance has grown out of an ethnographic study of the closing months of Centenary Primary School in the Wirral which celebrated its 100th birthday with its imminent closure just months away. Its findings have been presented in various research fora including the Oxford Ethnography Conference (2008); the 1st International conference on Educational Research at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2009) and the British Educational Research Association Conference at the University of Warwick (2009) which led to conference delegates enthusiastically asking, Is this the end of PowerPoint? We certainly hope it is and believe passionately that the power of music and theatre can tell us more about the world we live in than many traditional research formats are capable of.

 

Closing Schools for the Future

The making of this video has been kindly

supported by The Boltini Trust

Educational research about school closure is often communicated through arid texts for specialist educational audiences. This leads to a real disconnect between those whose stories were being communicated and the audiences who are listening to those stories.

 

We wanted to use Arts Based Educational Research techniques to both generate and communicate research with a deeper connections for a wider range of audiences and this became the challenge we set ourselves: is school closure is a suitable subject for an opera? And is opera a suitable means of communicating research?

 

It’s just a loss of identity, that’s all…” (Head teacher, Centenary Primary School)

 

Whilst the logic of school closures is presented as an act of logic and modernist rationality, school closure invariably generates press stories of incensed parents, irate communities and exhausted teachers. What is frequently lost amongst the sturm und drang of closure however, are the tiny stories of loss of teachers, pupils and families: the loss of professional expertise, collective memory, and shared hopes and fears.

 

Developed from a collaborative process involving the whole team, this performance has grown out of an ethnographic study of the closing months of Centenary Primary School in the Wirral which celebrated its 100th birthday with its imminent closure just months away. Its findings have been presented in various research fora including the Oxford Ethnography Conference (2008); the 1st International conference on Educational Research at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2009) and the British Educational Research Association Conference at the University of Warwick (2009) which led to conference delegates enthusiastically asking, Is this the end of PowerPoint? We certainly hope it is and believe passionately that the power of music and theatre can tell us more about the world we live in than many traditional research formats are capable of.

 

This production is the result of a research programme which asks what is lost from a school community once the programme of closure has been agreed. Its text is derived from verbatim interviews, official documents and ethnographic approaches to data collection.

 

 

Words & Director: Nick Owen

Voice 1: Jen Heyes

Music: Gary Carpenter

Voice 2: Nick Owen

Designer: Brian Hanlon

Piano & MD: Gary Carpenter


 


Nick Owen: Words, Director & Voice 2


 


Nick is Director of the Aspire Trust, is a producer, director and artist educator who has worked across the UK and internationally. Recent publications include Placing Students at the Heart of Creative Learning (Routledge) and Outsider | Insiders: becoming a creative partner with schools (International Handbook of Creative Learning) and the film, My Life as an American (Latent Productions).


 


Gary Carpenter: Music & Piano


 


Gary has written operas, musicals and a radio music-drama (with Iris Murdoch) as well as film, dance and concert music. He was Musical Director on ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973) and won a British Composer Award in 2006. His portrait CD Die Flimmerkiste is released on NMC. Gary teaches at the Royal Academy of Music and the RNCM (Manchester).


Jen Heyes: Voice1


 


Jen is a director, producer, performer, educator and artistic director of the Liverpool based company Cut to the Chase Productions. As a theatre maker Jen has worked regionally and nationally (touring and individual works) and internationally (Berlin, Porto, Lisbon, Luxembourg, and Hong Kong) working on small, medium and large scale productions. She specialises in multi-media site specific theatre and always strives to use live music within her work.


Brian Hanlon: Designer


 


Brian is an Arts practitioner with specialist skills in design. He works in a range of settings from Youth Theatre to the West End. He recently worked on the Manchester Day Parade, for the second year with Walk the Plank. And with the Aspire Trust Scouse Wedding: The Opera.