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Sewing shadows: investigating performance research in the primary school curriculum

Piasecka, Michelle (2012) Sewing shadows: investigating performance research in the primary school curriculum. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This thesis recounts the development through fieldwork in primary schools of a distinctive performance pedagogy that bridges drama and live art. Two inter-connected strands run through the thesis. First, a praxis in the context of the primary school curriculum involves the creation of learning spaces through performance work which embrace qualities of ownership and subjectivity within imaginative and participatory practices. This prompted a shift from live art to more conventional drama praxis and has special benefits for disadvantaged and marginalised children. Historically, the thesis sits within Buckingham and Jones (2001) description of the “cultural turn” towards the creative industries. In the years following New Labour’s election victory (1997) a number of influential documents and directives were launched to promote creative learning in schools. The creative agenda emerged at a time when teachers experienced unprecedented levels of control over, and public scrutiny of, their everyday working lives; it was a period dominated by a “bureaucratisation” of education. I have positioned practice in the midst of reform, which at times appeared to be pulling in opposite directions. Secondly, a conceptual framework examines the “crisis of representation” (Denzin, 1997) in relation to lived experience and the written word. Writing often fails to capture the ephemeral nature of the performance studies agenda. In performance, meaning is found in the moments between thought and expression and in the silence between words. But, whilst words cannot replicate reality, writing can offer a deep and long-lasting impression of the world we inhabit. In response to the crisis of representation the thesis works towards a polyphonous account of the research process, weaving between performance texts, narrative stories, diary entries and the writing of others. Poststructural and phenomenological perspectives have illuminated the shifting space between competing discourses and ways of seeing. Above all, this thesis is the product of work with children, made possible when the desire to imagine outweighs the reality and actuality of the present.

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