RSC gets award to carry out “crucial” research

Published: 14 October 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

“Still inspired by Sir Peter Hall”: RSC acting artistic director Erica Whyman

The Royal Shakespeare Company has become the first performing arts organisation to receive an award which will help it to carry out “crucial” research.

It has been awarded independent research organisation (IRO) status by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It will enable the company to expand its research into a range of subjects including audience engagement, developing a diverse talent base and ensuring fairer access to the performing arts.

Commenting on the award, acting artistic director Erica Whyman said, “Peter Hall's vision for the RSC to be a producing theatre as well as a world-class teaching and research specialist still inspires us today.

“We'll be a different kind of IRO as our work is already rooted in research-based practice. A spirit of enquiry runs through every aspect of the organisation from our artistic process and output to understanding the significant impact of arts-rich schools on the development of children and young people.”

The RSC has also announced that the company's first associate scholars will be Professor Ayanna Thompson, Professor James Shapiro and Professor Emma Smith. They will work with the RSC to guide, advise and inform its work in person, online and across all locations.

The company's first research project as an IRO is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and expands on the findings of the 2018 Time to Listen study. This captured the “enormous value” that young people place on creativity and arts learning in their education. It also confirmed the importance of RSC approaches to teaching Shakespeare and the positive impact they have on learning outcomes for young people.

The findings of the new project “will inform RSC practice and influence the work of key decision-makers for the benefit of future generations”.