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Researchers of NTU: Laura Ewart

Meet the people behind our research, discover their areas of expertise and find out about life in NTU's research community

PhD student Laura Ewart

Laura Ewart is a PhD Researcher in our School of Arts and Humanities. Her research is a collaboration between Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Nottingham Playhouse, as part of the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership. Her research project is entitled ‘Nottingham Playhouse: A Cultural History and Analysis of its Community Engagement’.

Can you outline your key research objectives?

The key objectives are to develop a cultural history of Nottingham Playhouse alongside a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the community-facing life of the theatre, mapping the Playhouse’s community and outreach initiatives through engaging with both archival and community-based research.  Few written histories exist of the everyday community engagement work that has occurred at Nottingham Playhouse. I hope my research can shine a light on what Nottingham Playhouse means to the people of Nottingham, especially those who have not traditionally considered the integration of theatre in their lives and who did not experience theatre or performance before relationships developed with Nottingham Playhouse.

What inspired you to get into your area of research?

I have always asked the question 'why?' Why do people go here? Why do people do that? Who is controlling this? So, Sociology was the most natural fit. Now I get to ask why as a job. I began to become more interested in the cultural sector during my MA and decided to try and pursue this to PhD. I wanted to do a PhD that had ‘real world’ impact. The Collaborative Doctoral Awards offered by Midlands4Cities, in partnership with organisations that have pre-determined research needs, felt like it was the best of both worlds. When I saw the project with Nottingham Playhouse advertised, I knew that my skill set could be applied to the project and I wanted to get more involved with the thriving arts and culture sector in Nottingham.

How does being based at NTU allow you to fulfil your research aspirations?

My supervisory team has an incredible wealth of experience that they are always happy to share, and the diversity of their backgrounds in both academia and the cultural sector continues to provide invaluable insight into my research. NTU has very strong relationships with the cultural organisations in the city - the Curated & Created programme has been incredibly advantageous as there are always fascinating exhibitions, events and workshops to attend that enrich the research experience.

How do you think your research has had an impact?

The impact of the participation department at Nottingham Playhouse speaks for itself. If my research can help them to reach even more people and engage with their local community more effectively, then I will have done my job. There is also the cultural history element of my research - events like the digital Nottingham Playhouse Community Café as part of the Being Human Festival. We want people to be able to engage with the history of the Playhouse and see their experiences as a participant proudly reflected in the public story of Nottingham Playhouse.

Which partners, both at NTU and externally, have you worked with?

I am currently planning a digital Nottingham Playhouse Community Café as part of this year's Being Human Festival. Being Human is the UK’s national festival of the humanities and aims to celebrate research through public engagement. The café will run in November on Nottingham Playhouse’s website, and the public will be encouraged to grab a cuppa and reminisce on their experiences of Nottingham Playhouse.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is hard to find the balance between managing a chronic health issue and the demands of postgraduate study. Sometimes you can’t overcome it; you just learn to manage it. Prioritising my health over my work is not always an easy choice, but I am fortunate to have a supportive supervision team. I must also acknowledge the privilege I have in being able to access university education. The ability to pursue an academic career is only an option for me because I have been lucky enough to have the resources to do so. Many people are excluded from pursuing academic research, and I appreciate that NTU is trying to challenge this.

What has been the highlight of your research journey so far?

Building a successful relationship with the team at Nottingham Playhouse and seeing it become mutually beneficial as the research progresses.

What three tips would you give to someone embarking on their research journey at NTU?

  1. Your research is unique, and so is your research journey
  2. If you need help, ask, from an online chat with the library to housing support, there are people whose job it is to help you succeed
  3. Goldsmiths (opposite the library) does a fantastic peri-peri chicken wrap!

What are your ambitions for the future?

In an ideal world, I would love to keep one foot in the university and one foot in the cultural sector.

Explore more research in our School of Arts and Humanities

Find out more about Laura's research on the Midlands4Cities website

Researchers of NTU: Laura Ewart

Published on 22 October 2020
  • Category: Research; School of Arts and Humanities

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