Creating Cultural Exchange and Change: The Royal Court Theatre's International Department

Lead Research Organisation: University of Lincoln
Department Name: Lincoln School of Humanities


'Creating Cultural Exchange and Change' is conceived in response to the 'Translating Cultures' developmental call. It is constituted as a collaborative project focusing on aspects of the creative-cultural work of the International Department of The Royal Court Theatre (London), and involving the academic partnership of Dr Mark O'Thomas (PI,Lincoln University) and Professor Elaine Aston (Co-I, Lancaster University). Among British theatres The Royal Court Theatre is distinctive for its commitment to producing new playwriting across national borders, across different languages and cultures, often in strategically important parts of the world. Now in its fifteenth anniversary year, under the direction of Elyse Dodgson the theatre's International Department has developed a transformative model of international play development that aspires to cultural exchange and change. To-date, however, there has been no significant, sustained research into this body of 'translating cultures' work, the creative processes and methods that underpin it or its international cultural developments and legacies. Through a series of meetings and workshops, and by undertaking international enquiries into the global reach of the theatre into two strategically important parts of the world - South America and Arab nations - this project will engage in preliminary investigations into: understanding the theatre's method and process of translating cultures and languages in dramatic forms and contexts; exploring how this can relate to and produce social and political change, and assessing the impact all of this can have on growing creative (playwriting) economies and developing cultural dialogue and exchange. Furthering an understanding not only of the achievements but also the challenges this work poses, will enable the delivery of insights relevant and beneficial to the current call and future development of the theme.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research and how?
Looking beyond the academic beneficiaries cited in the previous section, this research is likely to benefit:
The Royal Court Theatre: by creating academic research links to the theatre's International Department and providing an opportunity for self-reflexive understanding of the cultural developments and legacies of the Department.
Cultural/arts funding agencies whose brief, like that of the British Council, for example, is to promote 'engagement and trust between people of different cultures through the exchange of knowledge and ideas' (British Council, 2010). More specifically, given the Cultural Olympiad in the UK 2012 and the likelihood of cultural exchange and events to be hosted around the Olympics in Brazil in 2016, the information sought in respect to developing and sustaining theatre arts links in Brazil and Chile will be of particular benefit to arts organisations looking to make cultural links in the South American context.
Theatre/arts organisations looking to engage in international cultural exchange and change, both in the UK and abroad.
Further, the research has the potential to enhance the UK's culture by:
Paying primary research attention to The Royal Court Theatre's cultural ambassadorial role in creating international partnerships and links with strategically significant parts of the world.
Creating an opportunity through the Court hosted workshop to profile the creative processes of cultural exchange and change to an audience that includes artists, researchers, funders and the general public.
Educating funding agencies/arts organisations (through the impact study) about the social, cultural, economic, political factors surrounding the process of creative-cultural exchange and change. This in ways beneficial to creating and sustaining cross-cultural projects and partnerships originating from the UK, and enhancing creative (playwriting) economies nationally and internationally.

As a developmental call, the programme of proposed research is working to a short time-scale and thereby limited to what it can achieve within the time-frame. That said, the impact case study of the Court's international partnerships and projects can be made electronically and fully available to beneficiaries cited here (particularly drawing on contacts pooled between the PI and CI to ensure a wide and relevant circulation of the information) with the expectation that this would see the benefits of the research realistically having impact in the immediate future as and when arts organisations and funders seek to further international cultural relations and creative exchanges. The workshop provides an opportunity to transfer knowledge out to participants from different communities (artists, researchers and the general public), in ways beneficial to this having an impact on those variously engaged with ideas of 'creating' cultural encounters.


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Aston, E And O'Thomas, M (2014) Royal Court: International

Description The value of the international work of cultural organisations like the Royal Court is enormous and can be seen as a means of an active process of cultural diplomacy.
Exploitation Route They could be scaled up to look at other cultural organisations that operate internationally and particularly with reference to large funders such as the British Council.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The Royal Court has found the monograph that followed the project enormously helpful in contributing to the public understanding of its work.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services