The BA in Contemporary Performance Practice at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is total immersion in a challenging programme with a central philosophy that human beings make art in order to understand better the world in which they live. The programme was significantly shaped by Natural Change.
It’s one of the most important things that I ever did. Before I applied for the course I knew that I wanted to create changes in the world through the arts but I had no idea how I’d actually achieve that … This was the right place for me. It allowed me to take those ideas, break them down, analyse and rebuild into the artist I am today. (David Banks, graduate)
The programme is for aspiring performance makers who wish to develop their skills as innovative and socially engaged performers, directors, teachers, and cultural leaders. Graduates leave as independent and entrepreneurial self-managing ‘eco-centric’ artists with an awareness of the aesthetic, intellectual, social, emotional, political, and ecological considerations of a holistic and sustainable arts practice.
It formed an ambition in me of a socially engaged practice, so not thinking of the work I make as something that operates within the kind of vacuum of a theatre or a studio, but something that is entrenched in a social awareness. (Peter McMaster, graduate)
The current programme was founded under the leadership of Deborah Richardson-Webb and its recent development has been deeply influenced by her experience as a participant in a Natural Change Project in 2011. She said:
I felt like there were loads of things that were becoming clearer and imperative and that artists are going to be part of the solution, the ecological solution, to the crisis that we’re facing. If we’re really serious about transformational education that we want to engage the students in here, then it has to be embedded in the curriculum.
As a result, Deborah created a radical new model for the path that students would follow through their four year programme. The path is based on a model of the human self as an integral part of nature.
It starts in the first year with an exploration of the artist’s personal history – a ‘personal archaeology’ called ‘Digging from Where You Stand’; in the second year, called ‘Radical Pedagogy in Action’ students move out to test their arts practice in a variety of social contexts; in the third year, they deepen their research in a year entitled ‘An Ecology of Mind: The Researching Artist’; and in the final year, they consolidate the ecological context and implications of their work. This final year is called ‘Living A Sustainable Practice’.
We understand this idea of going on a process, of having an inquiry, and thinking ethically about every decision that you’re making. (Rosana Cade)
The programme is not concerned to teach artists to make work that is didactically ‘environmental’ in its subject matter. Instead it nurtures artists who make work which is deeply ecological in all aspects: its consciousness, its values and its very nature. By which means the programme cultivates artists who understand their role in the world and the part art making can play in speaking the unspeakable, revealing the complexity of our world and being the change we wish to see. This makes the development of social and ecological performance practice an obvious, necessary and hopeful thing to do.
It can be a tempting for people to make work that’s not urgent, that’s just entertaining or just amazing. But as a result of being here it’s impossible not to be engaged in the world. (Gary McNair)
This work has had a significant impact on the development of the next generation of artists, cultural leaders and researchers. The Programme is leading the way in the Conservatoire as it seeks to enable practitioners from all arts disciplines to meet the following core principle:
Graduates will be equipped to make a contribution in the world, as an artist, educator, advocate and active citizen and use highly developed skills to communicate a profound appreciation of how her/his artistic discipline connects with the world.
Prof. Deborah Richardson-Webb
Head of Performance Pedagogy & Programme Leader | The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Natural Change Facilitator | Trustee | Natural Change Foundation