Applied Theatre projects and the Academic Resilience Approach – 17 February 2020 – Brighton Resilience Forum

Applied Theatre projects and the Academic Resilience Approach – 17 February 2020 – Brighton Resilience Forum
Topic  How can Applied Theatre projects support the wellbeing and resilience of young people within secondary schools? – Helen Nelder, Applied Theatre practitioner and drama teacher

Resources  You can download Helen’s slides

Session Summary  Helen Nelder’s MA research into Applied Theatre projects, the Academic Resilience Approach (ARA) (Hart and Williams, 2014) and mental health care provision for children and young people in schools, led her to examine the potential of Applied Theatre practices to create opportunities for relational resilience and to support young people to understand and address their own issues and concerns in secondary schools. In doing so, she hopes that such projects will be part of long-term social investment in schools, teachers and children.

This session gave a brief definition of Applied Theatre and its connection through a social inclusion perspective with the ARA. Drawing on the theory and practice of Paulo Freire, contemporary theatre projects – ‘Brainstorm’ and ‘The Happiness Project’, and practical drama schemes of work, the session highlighted the potential (and problems) for projects in secondary schools from Helen’s experiences as a drama practitioner.

Biography  Helen Nelder is a freelance Applied Theatre practitioner and drama teacher and examiner. Since graduating from Warwick University with a BA (Hons) in Theatre Studies and Dramatic Arts, Helen trained at Ecole Jacques Lecoq, a movement-based drama school in Paris. She then went on to train as a teacher at secondary level gaining a PGCE at Manchester Polytechnic in Drama. After ten years of teaching, she ran her own theatre company raising awareness and training professionals who worked with people experiencing domestic violence and abuse, in conjunction with the Home Office (Government Office South East (GOSE)).

Helen is a dynamic playwright, teacher and workshop leader, she has taught drama, creative writing and scriptwriting for 25 years in a variety of educational contexts from primary through to adult education, including PRUs and secondary schools. She often works through improvisation and has also written and staged a number of her own works locally in Brighton.

Recently graduating from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD) in London with an MA in Applied Theatre, Helen is currently pursuing her interest in physical theatre, puppetry and young people’s mental health in secondary schools. She is currently working as a freelance drama facilitator with a variety of charities and is a qualified UN Climate Change Teacher.

Helen is passionate about social inclusion and climate change, and is keen for the drama and arts to be part of the conversation. She believes in teaching all young people the language and practices of applied theatre (and applied arts) so that they can articulate their own experience of the world and challenge social and economic inequality.

Who might be most interested  Academics, practitioners, researchers, students, parents, carers, community workers, volunteers, public sector workers, young people, service users, people with lived experience of mental health problems.

Key Readings

1) Barnardo’s (2018) Transforming Young People’s Mental Health Provision: What children and young people think of the Government’s Green Paper (online):

2) Department of Health and Department for Education (2017) Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper, Cm 9523 (online):

3) Education and Health and Social Care Select Committees (2018) The Government’s Green Paper on mental health: failing a generation (online):

4) Fisher, M. (2009) Capitalist Realism. Winchester: Zero Books

5) Freire, P. (1996) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (Trans Bergman Ramos, M.) London: Penguin Books

6) Hart, A. et al (2016) ‘Uniting Resilience Research and Practice with an Inequalities Approach’ (online)

7) Hart, A. & Heaver B. (2013) ‘Evaluating resilience-based programmes for school using a systematic consultative review’, Journal of child and youth development, 1(1), 27 – 53 (online)

8) Nicholson, H (2014) Applied Drama (2nd Edition) The Gift of Theatre. London: Palgrave Macmillan

9) Preston S. (2011) ‘Back on whose track? Reframing ideologies of inclusion and misrecognition in a participatory theatre project in London’. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 16(2), 251-264

10) Reay, D, (2012) ‘What would a socially just education system look like?: saving the minnows from the pike’. Journal of Education Policy, 27(5), 587-599

This event took place on Monday 17 February 2020.


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