The Cubicle: changing rooms, changing views is an arts-research collaboration between body image researchers and local theatre makers Kilter Theatre. Through The Cubicle, an immersive and interactive performance, Body Positive Café discussion events and body image workshops with artists the project engaged people with body image research at the University of Bath.
Engagement type - Working Together, Informing and Listening
Public group - people with an interest in arts & culture, performance company
Engagement method - theatre performance and dialogue and discussion events
Themes- performance, art-research collaboration
Dr Melissa Atkinson, Department of Psychology
Caroline Garland and Olly Langdon, Kilter Theatre
Facts and figures
Over 2018 as part of a tour including Fringe Arts Bath Festival, Bath Fringe Festival and Arts at the Heart at the Royal United Hospital 1,500 people participated in the performance, Body Positive Café events and listened to the podcast broadcast on Bath Hospital Radio.
The Cubicle: changing rooms, changing views received £9,996 from the Public Engagement Unit as part of the Engage Grants - Innovate Fund.
Motivations for engagement
Before joining the University of Bath Melissa organised a Body Positive Café event series and was inspired by the participation of people who attended to continue to develop projects that engaged public groups with her research in body in understanding and improving body image. One of her biggest motivations is to create engagement opportunities with her work that make meaningful connections with people and go beyond traditional forms of communication and engagement. As a result of her experience connecting researchers, artists, activist groups and the public groups and her desire to develop new ways of engaging people with her research Melissa was interested in collaborations with art organisations.
Purpose of engagement
The Cubicle: changing roooms, changing views aimed to:
provoke and collect perception/experiences on concepts related to positive body image to help inform both research knowledge and inspiring artistic expressions
challenge people's thinking and misconceptions around body image.
broaden the discussion around body image beyond the demographic of teenage girls.
inspire new ways of appreciating diverse body images by introducing playful challenges to media-
driven body expectations, and evidence-based positive body image strategies .
empower people to think and act differently about their own and others body image.
The Public Engagement Unit supports researchers to develop and deliver their own activities to engage public groups with their research through providing funding with the Engage Grants. The Innovate Fund was a funding opportunity ran in 2018 that aimed to match community-based organisations with researchers at the University of Bath to collaborate to develop their practice in public engagement. As a part of the scheme the Public Engagement Unit organised a matchmaking event, during which Melissa Atkinson and Caroline Garland connected and submitted an application to the Innovate Fund that was successful.
The Cubicle: changing rooms, changing views was a programme based around a interactive, immersive and personal theatrical experience based around the idea of a changing room cubicle that engaged people with research on body image and addressed taboo-like body issues, from toe-nails and hairy armpits, to everyday functions that the body performs. The performance toured a number of venues around Bath & North East Somerset over 2018. The perfromance was accompanied by a programme of events that included Body Positive Café discussion events, Body Positive Workshops ranging from singing to yoga and discorobics and exhibitions of commissioned illustrations of peoples’ experience of body image.
There were three main approaches that were adopted to achieve the aims of the project:
To develop her activity to engage public groups with her research, Melissa collaborated with theatre makers Kilter Theatre. The approach adopted was to work together to co-produce the programme with Melissa becoming a core part of Kilter Theatre’s whole creative process. During this process Melissa was able to share her research and research around positive body image with Kilter Theatre and which resulted in a co-produced a script for The Cubicle and participate in ‘R’n’D’ with a broad range of people together from visual artists, musicians, researchers to yoga teachers to shape the performance and events.
Working with Kilter Theatre and using her experience Melissa developed a series of Body Positive Café events as part of The Cubicle: changing rooms, changing views programme. These events drew on new research in the area of body image, brought together a wide range of researchers, activists, artists to share their perspectives and invited participants to to share, reflect and ask burning questions that they have on the subject.
Opportunities to listen
Using creative techniques during the performances, workshops and cafes participants were invited to reflect on body positivity. This was an opportunity for Melissa to collect a diverse range of opinions on body image research and listen to concerns or ideas from participants that after analysis is helping to inform the way she talks about body image and her research around intervention strategies for people with body image issues.
Using reflective interviews, feedback forms and creative techniques during the public events as part of the project several themes emerged from the evaluation:
For Melissa, she:
developed an understanding and appreciation of the creative process Kilter Theatre employed to respond to the key elements of the research and inspired to continue to develop her practice in creative methods of public engagement.
felt a positive sense of reward hearing and witnessing the positive difference participating in The Cubicle performance and events made on peoples’ attitudes towards their body and the issue of body image in general.
developed project management skills.
For Kilter Theatre, participating in The Cubicle helped them to innovate with their theatre practice, using participatory techniques in a way they’d not done before. They also developed their skills in collaborating with researchers and deepened their knowledge and understanding of the research process.
Public participants developed an increased understanding of the ideas about the research, gaining insight into
Listen to an evaluation podcast from Melissa and Kilter Theatre.
If you’re interested in an arts-research collaborations such as The Cubicle: changing rooms, changing views the following are some of our top tips based on the evaluation carried out and Melissa's experience:
If you get an opportunity to work with a creative organisation, be brave and step outside your comfort zone, it was fun and helped being challenged by a creative collaborator in a constructive way as part of the creative process is a really refreshing way to think about your research.
Go into an arts-research collaboration with an open mind, you never know where the creative process could take you and be flexible to change along the way.
For an arts-research collaboration to be a success it has to be of benefit not only to your creative partners but also to you, make sure you have an idea of what the benefits might be to you personally as a researcher, your research or the public group you’re interested in engaging.
Starting planning as early as possible and think hard how you can fit a public engagement activity like this alongside your existing workload.
Prioritise your involvement in the project, for example I got involved at the most key moments early in the creative process and was able to help shape and inform ideas for the project with Kilter Theatre.
Bring in experts who can help you at the University, such as the press team, who can help promote and market any events you produce but be mindful of what they need and when in order to be of most support.
Be open and clear with your creative partners about the demands on your time with teaching or research that will help manage their expectations about timescales.
Create outputs that you can use later such as videos or photos documenting the project.