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Ava Hunt

Applied Theatre Practice: Preserving the Past Confronting the Present 
Reflecting on the career of Theatre Centre’s Artistic Director David Johnston (1977-1986), this paper will investigate how their artist-led practice is a model from which contemporary practitioners can learn. Recent research by Hunt into Theatre Centre’s archives, including unearthing a previously unseen documentary, reveals a practice that demanded diversity and socially conscious policies before it’s time. In the 1970’s they would regularly perform to a quarter of a million young people each year. Is that scale of provision an aspiration that is possible for the 21st Century?  
This paper will argue the historical practices of Theatre Centre’s work created in the 1980’s produced an aesthetic-pedagogic practice that moved beyond learning based solely on knowledge acquisition and conceptual understanding, to also develop social bonds, emotional literacy and provide uplifting experiences that many define as ‘spiritual’ (Morris Hargeaves MacIntyre, 2005). And how this historical legacy may inform contemporary Applied Theatre practice to continue to challenge young people. Schools are all too often providing only the slimmest of arts pickings: Joseph Conrad would argue that experience of and with the arts goes beyond the everyday, it goes into the spaces in between, into the ephemeral, the unmeasurable – a sigh – a smile (Anderson, O’Connor 2015).  

This paper will position this legacy within a contemporary framework whilst drawing on Hunt’s canon of work including: Acting Alone, which focused on empowering the bystander within a human rights context to make a difference, and Journeys of Destiny a model that develops and ensures that we engage community audiences in genuine discourse so we are not preaching to the converted to create real change - as Karl Marx once stated: “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”  
Ava Hunt trained as a performer, and has been an applied theatre practitioner for over 37 years, as well as a researcher and Senior Lecturer at University of Derby. She is currently enrolled on a PhD by publication based on a cannon of work that explores the artistry of solo performance investigating themes of the by-stander within human rights context using verbatim and autobiographical theatre. Her work internationally has included working in Palestine, India, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Sri Lanka and Russia.