PhD: Valuing Young Audiences

Children enjoy a TiSS performance in Brunstane Primary c. Julie Howden
Children enjoy a TiSS performance in Brunstane Primary c. Julie Howden
Theatre and dance for children and young people which is made in Scotland has a worldwide reputation for excellence and care; it is worthy of investigation, celebration and promotion, although little concrete data exists of its importance and high quality. It’s hard to prove to those who have never seen or heard a young audience at a performance what a profound effect it can have; thus far it has been difficult to measure wonder in numbers. However, I am looking forward to reflecting and considering the value that many of us know exists - both in the work and within the audiences. I am keen to draw on my experiences and continue my contribution to the sector, in supporting and studying this genre, but also joining and making positive networks, with Imaginate at the core.

—Siân MacGregor

Since October 2021, Siân Mitchell MacGregor has been undertaking a PhD in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, on the following topic: "Valuing Young Audience: how children experience and value live theatre and dance, and why it matters".

Siân said: "Through my work and taking my own children to the theatre, I have found that young audiences are often the most rewarding, and at the same time, the most challenging. Their honesty is inspiring, and at times hilarious – and they don’t tend to sit still and politely if they don’t feel like it; their reactions are often spontaneous and unhindered by etiquette, frequently unpredictable. This is also what makes them equally really interesting, and well worth investing in. Theatre and dance for young audiences can introduce to children and young people the fundaments and benefits of the arts, both in participation, and as spectators. What’s more, the responses of young audiences can help underpin wider thinking and understanding around audiences as a whole, as well as the broader importance of the arts for everyone."

Siân aims to undertake both practical and academic work during this doctoral study, especially as her specialism has become the melding of both these. She welcomes queries and conversations with all those involved in the sector, and beyond it. Above all, she hopes to strengthen networks, make connections and show the indubitable benefits of valuing young audiences, particularly from the audiences themselves.

Funded by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities and the University of Aberdeen.