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Practice as Research in Performance

Introduction  | Context | Aims and Objectives
Project Development
 | Outcomes
 | Project Management


PARIP — Practice as Research in Performance — was a five-year project directed by Professor Baz Kershaw and the Department of Drama: Theatre, Film, Television at the University of Bristol. It is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board . From January 2001-February 2005 Dr Angela Piccini and Dr Caroline Rye were the project's post-doctoral research associates and were responsible for the day-to-day running of the project. Dr Ludivine Allegue Fuschini was the post-doctoral research associate from April 2005-September 2006. PARIP has now finished.

PARIP's objectives were to investigate creative-academic issues raised by practice as research, where performance is defined, in keeping with AHRB and RAE documentation, as performance media: theatre, dance, film, video and television. As a result of PARIP's investigations and in collaboration with colleagues, educational institutions and professional bodies throughout the UK and Europe PARIP aimed to develop national frameworks for the encouragement of the highest standards in representing practical-creative research within academic contexts.

The text that follows below is from the active period of the project and should be read as a 'history' of the project.


The pursuit of practice as research / practice-based research (PAR / PBR) has become increasingly important during the past ten years to the research cultures of the performing arts (drama, theatre, dance, music) and related disciplines involving performance media (film, video, television, radio) as the contribution of the arts and cultural industries to national health and prosperity has climbed up the political agenda. A growing number of performing arts / media departments in higher education are now offering higher degrees which place practice at the heart of their research programmes. This represents a major theoretical and methodological shift in the performance disciplines — traditional approaches to the study of these arts are complemented and extended by research pursued through the practice of them.


Three interwoven strands of activity will be undertaken during the course of this project in order to address the key questions surrounding practice as research. PARIP seeks to:

  • identify the range of PARIP in the UK and selected European Union higher education institutions and produce a database of PARIP activities in UK HEIs;
  • investigate key issues raised by PARIP and develop knowledges about appropriate criteria for evaluation;
  • consult on a series of creative projects — focusing on fields of concern which engage with questions of historiography — to advance potential uses of new digital technologies for the documentation and dissemination of best practices.


In keeping with the collaborative nature of this project an advisory group has been set up to initiate debate about the various theoretical frameworks that might best inform practice and analysis. This group — consisting of Christopher Bannerman (rescen, Middlesex University), John Ellis (University of London, Royal Holloway), Carol Lorac (University of London, Royal Holloway), Robin Nelson (Manchester Metropolitan University), Barry Smith (Digital Performance Archive, Nottingham Trent University) and Phillip Zarrilli (Exeter University) in addition to Bristol departmental members Baz Kershaw, John Adams, Simon Jones, Martin White, Janet Thumim, Caroline Rye and Angela Piccini — is developing the critical interrogation of practice as research.

More local approaches to practice as research are being furthered by a network of local forums, coordinated by noted practitioner-researchers in the cognate fields.

PARIP's critical investigations feed into the generation of creative digital tools for the wider research network — website / database / e-journal / symposia / multi-media and multi-stream materials. These will enable the development of national frameworks for improving standards by providing complementary methods for the analysis and assessment of PARIP projects.

A PARIP working bibliography is currently on-line. This list of readings is continually updated and the PARIP team would welcome your additional suggestions. Please e-mail


The stated outcomes for the project include:

  • A survey, taxonomy and database of practice as research in all UK HEIs;
  • A website and / or electronic journal to broadcast the database and case studies and promote debate.
  • Working papers on the key issues in performance arts and media relevant to PARIP to initiate debate about the various critical frameworks that might best inform practice and analysis;
  • A seminar series with leading practitioner-researchers in the field;
  • Regionally based inter-institutional working groups that will develop the theoretical frameworks in the light of selected practices in their areas;
  • A continuous on-line symposium geared to map out the relationships between theories and criteria, to form the first comprehensive account of the interaction of scholarship and creative achievement in PAR and PBR in UK Higher Education.
  • Collaboration with a series of creative projects in key areas of concern to PARIP, to provide a practical platform for investigation into advanced uses of new digital technologies for the documentation and dissemination of processes and outcomes;
  • Innovative applications of video-based recording for simultaneous multi-viewpoint documentation. The aim is to create digital documentation frameworks for PARIP that will be transferable across institutions;
  • Case studies of selected representative practices from a range of HEIs, aimed to investigate the most effective approaches to documentation / dissemination.


The Department of Drama: Theatre, Film, Television at the University of Bristol is exceptionally well placed to undertake the first major research project to focus on PAR and PBR. Both Departmental professors, Baz Kershaw and Martin White, have extensive and complementary experience of successful PAR / PBR projects and both have chaired the SCUDD working parties. Their work is augmented by the practical research of Bristol's academic staff, with work spanning drama, theatre, film, video, television and new digital technologies.

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