The photography site for sore eyes. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.
Owning Your Walrus. You know you’re going to experience something different when the symposium has a title seemingly advocating a new line of business for pet shops.
This walrus, however, is a rather different beast in relation to this UCLan symposium (November 23, 2016), focusing on the universally recognised subject of loneliness. And this symposium also came with an extra twist: It included full-on theatre performance How (not) to live in suburbia.
The symposium specifically focused on research into loneliness within the fields of performance and psychology. So, the inclusion of performances – both by students during the symposium the main concluding performance – was perhaps not a huge leap of faith. But it was still an important one.
How (not) to live in suburbia is a fantastic piece of theatre, mixing lecture-style delivery with humour-laden video segments.
The show was a big hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe (yes, I know it’s really called Edinburgh Festival Fringe) and achieved two things for its Preston audience: it re-emphasised the themes and discussions from the symposium itself, giving the attendees an alternate way to connect with the research and the issues involved, and, secondly, it entertained everyone to the point that the symposium and its messages were reinforced through memorable experience.
Now, this second point is important. No symposium, forum or conference has a duty to entertain. Delegates or audiences attend out of interest, to learn and develop their own practice, or area of research. But any event which entertains an audience is giving itself a massive boost in terms of enjoyment and engagement.
Simply put, any kind of entertainment, be it performance, poetry, music or humour cannot be undervalued in terms of worth.
So, Annie Siddons, who wrote and performed How (not) to live in suburbia (which also featured supporting Walrus Nicki Hobday): next time ask for more money.
Using theatre and performance in conference environments is not new. I once saw a brilliant music video about Sophie Lancaster, murdered because of the way she was dressed, during a conference about bullying. People were rushing out of the room in tears. It had a massive impact on everyone in the room.
Then there are performance groups like Progress Theatre, who discuss good and bad practice in the world of midwifery. Their theatre pieces go down a storm at conferences.
Owning Your Walrus was a joint collaboration between the University of Central Lancashire’s psychology and BA theatre departments, Dr Pamela Qualter and Krissi Musiol.
And Dr Stuart Andrews, who had the tough task of speaking last, highlighted the impact entertainment with a first few minutes that was part stand-up comedy. I’ve no doubt the audience will not forget him in a hurry because of that.
Mind you, that’s not to say every speaker needs to deliver their words in the style of Peter Kaye. During Owning Your Walrus there was some fantastic research revealed on the subject of loneliness, with some particularly interesting engagement during the Q&A segments.
I’d go so far as to say the inclusion of entertainment – in any form – is crucial to symposiums and conferences.
I photographed the performance. These are some of the images.