Cambridge
Creative
Encounters

PARTNERSHIPS

Creative Partnerships is a project that focuses on collaborations between researchers and local further education and higher education institutes with focus on creative arts. Creative outputs for this category are visual and vary from films, video games, animations, performances, sculpture, graphic design, illustration or podcasts among others.

This year we are very happy to collaborate with the Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts students and lecturers as part of our partnerships category, which present research through a range of media by a selection of established and up-and-coming artists.

Our special thanks to the University of Cambridge researchers, Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts (CSVPA) and Creative professionals who took part in this project and the University of Cambridge Public Engagement team, Ed Dimsdale and Sam Race for the curation and their support.

At the Cambridge School of Visual & Performing Arts, we value the kind of creative practice that steps beyond the day-to-day to ask novel questions and devise innovative solutions. We acknowledge the power of appearances, making visible that which otherwise might remain invisible, or that which might benefit from being drawn into greater visibility. We engage complex problem-solving, which requires flexibility, the ability to cooperate and co-create, and encourage an understanding of how interdisciplinary approaches can contribute to seeking solutions to transversal issues. At the same time, we also encourage critical thinking, which allows for seeing beyond appearances, beyond what ordinarily meets the eye. 

We are delighted to be continuing our relationship with the University of Cambridge Public Engagement Team for next year’s Cambridge Creative Encounters. The unique opportunities afforded by the scheme for CSVPA students, staff and alumni alike, are extremely valuable, and underline the mutual benefits of artists and designers working alongside academic researchers from diverse fields of enquiry. 

Such approaches will undoubtedly serve to continue to bring about the vision of the late French Philosopher, Michel Serres: 

“Dreaming of universities whose spaces are mixed and multicoloured, striped like a tiger, blended in different shades, dyed with numerous pigments, twinkling like stars – real like a landscape.”  

THE PROJECTS

Making Peace to a Song:
A Spoken Word Movement

Photograph by Lois Fordham

Photograph by Lois Fordham

Researcher:
Dr Dita N. Love
Faculty of Education
(Humanities and Social Sciences)

CSVPA Creative Partners:
 Rachel Ellis – Head of Drama
Lois Fordham – MA Art & Design
Razaq Bolarinwa

"Making Peace to a Song" is a short film celebrating the relationship of the spoken word and the body’s response. Theatre practitioner Rachel Ellis and her students at CSVPA created a film weaving movement, poetry and soundscape in response to research by Dr Dita N. Love. The project highlights the healing power of creative community based on mutually transformative education research with imprisoned young men. The partnership also includes CSVPA MA graduates Lois Fordham and Razaq Bolarinwa (filmmaker/photographer).

The poetic choreography brings to life the ‘truth of the body’ to honour the truth of lived experience, resist stigma, and inspire loving care for young lives.

About the collaborative partners


Rachel Ellis, Theatre practitioner

Rachel Ellis and her drama students at CSVPA have used movement to explore the language of Dita’s research-based poem, "Making Peace to a Song" which deals with topics of transforming trauma and marginalisation.  Through workshops using key aspects of physical theatre and movement the students have created their own physical response to the poem, working word by word to find a new physical language to interact with their own voices. The music students at CSVPA have then composed a soundscape to their own section of the poem, responding to the movement and vocal contributions of the drama students. The soundscape and audio recordings of the students become the soundtrack to the film which will be the final sharing at the Creative Encounters exhibition. 

Dr Dita N. Love, Education researcher and interdisciplinary social scientist

A unique blend of poetry and movement, “Making Peace to a Song”, is a call for a joyful thought-provoking celebration of the power of youth creativity and collective healing for everyone. The researcher-made poem explored experiences of trauma and marginalisation, and is based on mutually transformative research with imprisoned young men as part of a poetry programme in prison. The Creative Partnership output includes a live interactive performance, spoken word video and photography, which present a liberating glimpse into the research of different ways of being beyond the confines of social stigma. Theatre practitioner Rachel Ellis and her students at the Cambridge School for Visual and Performing Arts, developed an original choreography in response to the research poem, relating to the research material with empathy and care. The poem is not a factual account of one person's trauma. Instead, it uses 'poetic licence' to mourn gender violence and loss, in order to challenge one-sided stories of ‘victims’ and ‘offenders’, and inspire collective care and solidarity with young lives affected by trauma. As the title suggests, “Making Peace to a Song” dares to radically normalise the power of human connection as part of a beloved creative community acting against social oppression. Join us to witness young people’s lyrical movement and you may just ‘fall back in love’ with the truth of the body to the spoken words of poetry.

Research behind Creative Partnership Project

The poem –  Making Peace to a Song – draws on the mutually transformative power of conducting creative research with imprisoned young men as part of a doctoral research in education. In my doctoral research project, as a poet educator, I delivered a new Spoken Word poetry programme with imprisoned young men, poet educators and hip hop artists, to extend access to the arts in prison. The project found that young people mobilise the creative community shaped with Spoken Word and poetry as a credible way of being, to channel their agency and transform the oppressive spaces they inhabit. This matters because a creative way of being and belonging to  community stood in contrast to young people’s reported experiences of trauma, social marginalisation and exclusion. The programme also began to highlight social stigma such as negative views and responses of young people as a key obstacle to change. Witnessing the creative responses, poems and stories of young men in the prison prompted me as a researcher to reckon with my own unspoken trauma. The poem “Making Peace to a Song” is a result of this research which found that connecting over poetry can be a powerful means of voicing difficult experiences met with mutual affirmation and self-acceptance.

Why Take Part in the Creative Partnership?

With the project I wanted to highlight the lived experiences, scholarship and creative work of historically marginalised communities, as a researcher with personal experiences of trauma and ethnic exclusion. The project itself is not aimed at telling a specific person’s story to protect the identity of participants. Primarily, the project presents a researcher-made poem – Making Peace to a Song – which explores themes of resisting and overcoming gender-based violence with Spoken Word – poetry performed live or circulated digitally for an audience. I was keen to work with transdisciplinary artists, practitioners and young actors who have the zeal and skill to bring to life the words and the physicality of trauma with movement.

The main takeaway of the project is the need to celebrate multiplicity of youth creativities both as aesthetically valuable and as a credible way of being. This matters because unless education and creativity eschew elitist art, they can become a corrupt force for good and reproduce ethnic and gender stereotypes. If we view and respond negatively to young people who are victims and perpetrators of crime, within education, community, and society at large, then we exacerbate their trauma. Hence the project urges us to take collective responsibility for removing the social stigma of trauma and oppression in order to move towards collective healing. The aim of “Making Peace to Song” is to make space to sensitively engage in difficult conversations and make space for the truth of different lived realities to be witnessed in the everyday and public sphere.

Film

Documentary

PDF project booklet

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"The Creative Encounters Partnerships has been an eye-opening exhilarating and restorative experience, and truly refreshing way of linking research with public engagement. The partnership format is a generative, positively probing, and incredibly rewarding process especially because of the team's range of different ways of knowing and skills"

Dr Dita N. Love

Made it my way

Photograph by Jacqueline Garget

Photograph by Jacqueline Garget

Researchers:
Dr Niamh Fox
Dr Etienne Rognin

Institute for Manufacturing
Department of Engineering (Technology)

CSVPA Creative Partners:
 Mahija Mandalika
Graduate Diploma in Art & Design / MA Art & Science

The Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) in Targeted Delivery for Hard-to-Treat Cancers is a project looking at designing new technologies to improve drug delivery in cancers such as glioblastoma, mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer. As manufacturing engineers we examine how different device designs, methods of handling and methods of manufacture change the properties of the device used and how that helps or hinders drug delivery. Things that work perfectly, produced using techniques common in the lab, can fall down when they are made using real world processes which do not have the same precision and often have different requirements. We are aiming to include these questions early on in the design stage to make sure these new devices make it out of the lab to make a real difference to patient lives.

About the kinetic sculpture:

'‘Made it my way’ is a set of kinetic sculptures that explore the concept of how different creative methods change the final product. This piece is inspired by work of researchers at the Institute for Manufacturing who are investigating how different manufacturing processes change the properties of new devices which deliver drugs for hard-to-treat cancers. Things that work perfectly, in a research lab, can fall down when they are made using real world processes which often have very different requirements. Try this for yourself, can you make the same circle twice with both sculptures of ‘Made it my way’?'

Medium: Kinetic Sculptural Piece (copper coated steel, laminate wood)

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"Working with Mahija during Cambridge Creative Encounters has been fantastic. Mahija's grounding in both visual arts and engineering allowed her to produce a piece that really conveys the heart of our research in a striking way we could never have dreamt of ourselves."

Dr Niamh Fox / Dr Etienne Rognin

Animated Narratives of Global Catastrophic Risk

Photograph by Ali Aschman

Photograph by Ali Aschman

Researchers:
Dr SJ Beard
Dr Clarissa Rios Rojas
Dr Lorena Escudero
Dr Xioalei Zhang
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
(Humanities and Social Sciences)

CSVPA Creative Partners:
 Ali Aschman
Pathway Leader for Animation & Film

Artist Ali Aschman and her students at CSVPA have created a series of moving image responses to research by SJ Beard, Clarissa Rios Rojas, Lorena Escudero and Xiaolei Zhang on storytelling as a strategy for communicating drivers of Global Catastrophic Risk. 

‘The End of the World’, a short experimental animated film by Ali Aschman, draws a parallel between various threats of climate change and her own visceral and emotional experience of grieving after an immense and sudden loss. An array of abstract and figurative imagery is accompanied by a soundtrack by Michael Cranny and a voiceover monologue performed by Nicki Hobday, in which the artist questions her capacity to care about humanity yet nonetheless shows a glimmer of hope for the future. 

Alongside Aschman’s work, several of her students have created video works that tell stories about world-ending scenarios, from a family of opossums facing a barrage of propaganda telling them to ignore the climate crisis, to a woman harvesting vegetables from a tunnel of snow in Mexico during a volcanic winter, to a family of polar bears watching their habitat melt away. The project seeks to create new narratives around possible scenarios that would increase Existential Risk, with a view to inspire personal emotional investment and collective action towards a more sustainable world.

Tell us a bit about the research behind this work?

This project came out of the work of four of the university's Borisiewicz Interdisciplinary fellows; 2 from the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and 2 from elsewhere in the university. The researchers combined their research knowledge and storytelling abilities to create new narratives around global catastrophic risk - the risk of human extinction or civilization collapse. The study of existential and global catastrophic risk is being pioneered at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk but also relates to the work of many other departments and institutes at the university. However, just important as understanding the risk is getting wider engagement in the nature of risk and activities people can undertake to mitigate it. This is a topic that is frequently explored in Hollywood movies and elsewhere, but these popular narratives are very limited and biased towards certain kinds of risk. As researchers we felt it was important that scientists working on the study of existential and global catastrophic risk were able to tell our own stories informed by our research and we have been working at a team since early 2022 to make this a reality by undertaking creative writing training, sharing and discussing our work, and engaging with partners from creative industries to turn our ideas into engaging outputs including poetry, plays, animations, and written work.

Tell us a bit about this project/ the output?

The goal of this project was to work with students of animation to turn some of the stories we have created together, and other aspects of our research, into short animations that would engage a wider audience. Rather than working on one single story to represent all of existential and global catastrophic risk the aim is to provide many short snapshots of different parts of this risk. Ali is also working on a somewhat more substantial and professionally produced output to present a more polished animation to get people to think further about this risk, how we all relate to it in our own lives, and what we can do to make the world safer.

Medium: Moving image installation

Qingyi Ji

Thet Htar Phyu Phyu

Veronika Nosova

Chia-Min Sun

Hong Wa Tang

Yishu Yuan

Walking - Side by side

Researcher:
Nura Jahanpour
Faculty of Education
(Humanities and Social Sciences)

CSVPA creative partner:
Lanxuan Nie (Ava)
MA Visual Communication: Graphic Design

“Walking - side by side" - This art piece invites viewers to embark on a journey, walking alongside parents to learn about their experiences and realities. Based on PhD research by Nura Jahanpour in Copenhagen and Bratislava, this illustration highlights the benefits of using the walking interview as a methodology for engaging with parent communities. The piece visually portrays the streets of the two cities, with the stories of parents hidden within. It serves as a visual representation of the power of walking side by side to truly understand the experiences and needs of parents. This art piece, in addition to being an access point for parent communities to engage in research, is a call to action for researchers and policymakers to consider the ethical and conceptually beneficial walking interview method when engaging with parent communities.

About the work

The work being created is a visual call to action prompting viewers to consider walking alongside parents to learn more about their realities. Inside the art, stories of parents are hidden - about the realities of parenthood. The walking interview is then proposed through narration and visualisation as a methodology for researcher and policy makers to consider when wanting to learn about the experiences and needs of parents.

Artistically, the illustration zooms down a long road and meets parents along the way. The illustration is made up of streets of Copenhagen and Bratislava, the two cities of Nura Jahanpour's PhD research that inspires this piece.

It is our hope that this illustration goes beyond 'telling' about the methodology to showing how beneficial it is both conceptually and ethically when working with parent communities.

Tell us a bit about the research behind the work

The research behind this work is based on a qualitative PhD research project by Nura Jahanpour with parents (n=20) of children in their early years based in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Bratislava, Slovakia. The research utilises qualitative interviews, a creative walking interview method and photo elicitation to gather insights into the parent perspective on their experiences and learning. Led by parent voice, the findings suggest critical influences of parenting values, insights into their construction and map typologies alongside a methodological contribution towards working with parent communities. This research contributes to a better understanding of the needs and experiences of parents in their pursuit of parenting knowledge. Furthermore, by exploring these insights in the context of real-world examples and through creative outreach methodologies, the barriers to access for diverse parent communities can be removed and life-long learning of the parent community can be reimagined.

Tell us a bit about this project

The family is the nation in miniature, yet low engagement and high attrition rates of parent education programs suggest that it is important to better understand the parent demographic and their needs. Building on the notion that parents spearhead the family and thus play a crucial role in their children's education, this presentation investigates parent experiences and insights in dialogue with functional and ethical outreach methodologies in order to advise and create "parent-friendly" learning. This illustration is an attempt at examining the possibilities of presenting research in more accessible ways to parent communities. Build on PhD research by Nura Jahanpour based in Copenhagen and Bratslava, this creative partnership aims to present the creative data-collection methodology utilised to parents, communities and policymakers who might be interested in utilising it or benefiting therefrom.

"Throughout this project, I have been able to examine my own research from a different lens. It has also equipped me with creative tools with which to engage parents and bridge the gap of research and practice."

Nura Jahanpour

Breed Better, Breathe Better

Researchers:
Fran Tomlinson
Jane Ladlow
Department of Veterinary Medicine
(Biological Sciences)

CSVPA creative partner:
Alina Radzphut
MA Art & Design

Flat-faced dogs have become very popular in recent years. Whilst these dogs can make great companions, this flat-faced (brachycephalic) appearance in these breeds has been associated with several serious health concerns, in particular breathing difficulties. Engaging with health schemes is vital to breed away from the exaggerated characteristics associated with these health issues, so that future generations of dogs can be healthier and happier. Working with researchers Jane Ladlow and Fran Tomlinson, artist Alina Radzhput created a short film about a friendly French bulldog called Bruno, to tell the story about his breathing. 

About the work

Flat-faced dogs have become increasingly popular in recent years, with Frenchies, Pugs and Bulldogs consistently ranking in the top 10 most popular pedigree dogs. Whilst these dogs can make great companions, this flat-faced (brachycephalic) appearance in these breeds has been associated with several serious health concerns, in particular breathing difficulties. Engaging with health schemes is vital to breed away from the exaggerated characteristics associated with these health issues, so that future generations of dogs can be healthier and happier.

Tell us a bit about this project

Breeds such as French bulldogs can be incredibly popular as companions, however often it can be hard to appreciate how the noises that they make can often be a sign of disease. Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) can affect dogs for the rest of their lives, and although treatment options exist, they often do not provide a definitive cure.

We wanted to work with Cambridge Creative Encounters to create a piece to reach out to a wider audience and show the keys signs to look out for in a dog at risk of BOAS. Most importantly, we would like the demonstrate the importance of thinking more carefully when choosing a dog and how it is better to choose a puppy whose parents have been health tested.

Tell us a bit about the research behind the work

In recent times, flat-faced dogs have dramatically risen in popularity, with French bulldogs now competing with Labradors for the top spot of most popular pedigree dog breed in the UK. Pugs and English Bulldogs have also consistently ranked in the top 10 over the past decade.

Whilst these dogs can make great companions and family pets, this flat-faced appearance has been associated with an increased risk of a number of serious health problems. This includes breathing difficulties, eye problems, skin issues, dental disease and certain neurological problems.

The University of Cambridge and the Kennel Club run a breathing grading scheme for Pugs, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs that allows breeders and dog owners alike to have their dog assessed for BOAS. This helps them to know when to seek veterinary care and informs them on which dogs to breed from.

The BOAS Research Group is currently carrying out is to investigate to what extent 13 additional brachycephalic breeds (such as Boxers, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) are affected by these issues, and in particular BOAS. We carry out breathing assessments, physical examinations, take measurements and use CT scans to research the risk factors associated with BOAS and other conditions. Our current research will give help us to implement breed health schemes for other brachycephalic breeds (if they are affected) to enable us to work with the Kennel Club, relevant breed clubs and pet owners to promote awareness of these issues and improve the health and welfare for future generations of these dogs.

"Cambridge Creative Encounters has made me think about what the key messages I want the public to engage with about our research"

Fran Tomlinson

Parental Involvement in Children’s Education in Rural India

Researcher:
Laura Cashman
Research for Equitable Access and Learning Centre (Humanities and Social Sciences)

CSVPA creative partner
Sarah Clark Hopkins
MA Visual Communication: Graphic Design

Parental support to children’s schooling and learning has attracted significant interest in recent decades. This study employs data from a low-resource community in rural India to consider the factors that enable and influence parental involvement in children’s schooling and learning in the school, home and community. Using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) for samples of between 9,000 and 19,000 parents, these analyses demonstrate that parents’ perception of outreach from school actors, such as teachers and headteachers, has a significant influence on their involvement at the school. Parents’ level of education, on the other hand, is a main driver of parents’ involvement with children’s education in the home. This study also considers the factors that enable parents’ participation in activities implemented in the school, home and community as part of an education intervention in rural India. Analyses show that school outreach also significantly influences parents’ participation in school related intervention activities. Parents’ level of education and perception of the time they have available to support children’s education significantly influences their participation in interventions focused on their involvement in the home and wider community. 

These findings could inform policy-, practice- and research-focused discussions around why parents become involved in interventions that support their children’s education or their schooling and learning more broadly. However, this study also demonstrates that household wealth status influences the paths between certain enabling factors and parents’ involvement or participation. In other words, certain factors matter more for wealthier parents than their less affluent counterparts, and vice versa. For instance, school outreach is more influential for less affluent parents’ school-based involvement than their wealthier counterparts whereas parents’ time is more influential for more affluent parents’ home-based involvement. This implies that household poverty continues to exacerbate inequalities in how and why parents become involved in their children’s education in rural India. This study will provide stakeholders with a more nuanced view of the factors that influence parental involvement and the enabling role of household wealth, which could be a potential route through which we could improve parental support to low-achieving children. 

In order to make the research findings actionable and valuable to the communities they represent, Laura Cashman and Sarah Hopkins worked together to create a booklet that illustrates the research in a way that is succinct, direct, and digestible. The publication takes the reader on a journey to understand the significance of parental involvement in learning through infographics, visually compelling facts, and storytelling. This creative output provides a visual complement to the statistical findings, placing emphasis on the many low-lift actions policymakers can focus on to increase student success with parental involvement in their communities. By distilling the data into a compelling, action-oriented narrative that is eye-catching and easy for anyone to understand, the research becomes directly influential.

About the work

It’s no surprise that parental involvement in children’s education would have a positive influence on learning. But what makes a parent more involved in their child’s schooling, and what do these findings mean for policy, practice, and research? Doctoral student Laura Cashman found that even small actions have a big positive influence for students and families in rural India. Laura worked with graphic designer Sarah Hopkins to build a visual narrative around her research in order to provide statistically-backed best practices to policymakers and the broader community.

Tell us a bit about this project

Considering that recent evidence shows that children in resource-constrained areas in the Global South benefit disproportionately from their parents’ involvement in their education, this could be a potential route through which we improve learning outcomes for the most disadvantaged in post-COVID, rural India.

Tell us a bit about the research behind this work

Research situated in rural India demonstrates that less affluent parents are less likely to engage in activities that support their children’s schooling and learning, than their wealthier counterparts. School actors and community leaders attribute this to parents living in poverty being unaware of, or simply indifferent to, their children’s educational needs. However, mothers from these less affluent groups in India maintain that these lower levels of involvement amongst the less affluent is a result from of the poverty-related challenges and the barriers they face, such as time and resource constraints. This project considers the influence of five parent-level factors on parental involvement and participation in intervention activities in the school, home and community in rural India. It is hoped that this project will allow for educationalists to engage with the challenges and barriers to participation these parents face.

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Ukuhlukunyezwa Okuphindaphindiwe
Translation: 'multiple intersecting oppressions'

TRAUMA

TRAUMA

SKETCH 07

SKETCH 07

STRENGTH

STRENGTH

SUBSERVIENCE

SUBSERVIENCE

SADNESS

SADNESS

SKETCH 04

SKETCH 04

RESILIENCE

RESILIENCE

ROYALTY

ROYALTY

FATIGUE

FATIGUE

WEALTH

WEALTH

POVERTY

POVERTY

JOY

JOY

CHILD

CHILD

ADULT

ADULT