News: Belinda McElhinney

26 September 2019


We are delighted to announce that Belinda McElhinney has been appointed to undertake a PhD over the next three-year 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". Speaking about her appointment Belinda said:

"As a producer of theatre and dance my interest has always lain in the moment when the work and the audience come together for the first time, and the circle is completed. Working as Executive Producer for Barrowland Ballet for a number of years I had the privilege of witnessing that moment with children from around the world. I’ve seen the expressions on their faces, the unfettered reactions and the energy they give to and take from the performances. I’ve watched children bound from the theatre in full tiger mode, seen them tuck Poggle into bed and dance on the side-lines throughout a show. The children are active audience members, making the work unique to them. The world they’ve experienced and helped shape stays with them beyond the theatre walls.

When the opportunity arose to apply for a PHD working with Imaginate and the University of Aberdeen researching the value and impact of theatre and dance on young audiences the pull was immediate. To be gifted the time to research and evidence the impact we all know theatre has on children and young people was undeniably appealing. My wish is to go some way in understanding the detail and complexity of how audiences are impacted and the value this creates.  To substantiate this with rigour and evidence, outlining the value for young audiences in a way that policy makers and funders can appreciate.

The research will focus on both work in schools and venues. Spending substantial time in schools when Punchdrunk’s immersive work and Theatre in Schools Scotland programme is performed. With an additional strand detailing the experience of children when watching shows in venues as part of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival. 

Right now I don’t know where this journey will take me - in essence the children will be leading the way. All I do know is I that I feel very lucky to be able to join them and get the chance to explore and discover."

Belinda's PhD is funded by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities.