Following the recent success of Nick Hammond’s Forum Theatre workshops at the IOE, he told us more about the concept of FT and why the workshops are so important.
Q1. Please tell us a little about your background in working with Forum Theatre and what motivated you to write this book.
Nick: My background before studying for my first degree in psychology was in multimedia arts, including film making and radio broadcasting. During my psychology studies I became interested in combining the science of psychology with a range of art forms, and thought about how this process could be transformative for adults and children seeking psychological support. So I began apprenticeship-type training and paid work with various exciting theatre makers such as the Wolf and Water Arts Company. I had the privilege to work with some incredible drama practitioners and psychologists, such as dramatherapist Penny McFarlane and psychologist Peter Jones. These experiences introduced me to a variety of art forms, but it was Forum Theatre which captured my imagination the most. I continued to study Augusto Boal’s work and the links between his ideas and psychology, pedagogy, sociology and politics during my master’s degree and then for my doctorate. This accumulated to shape an enriched, hybrid form of Forum Theatre which I present in my book Forum Theatre for Children. In the book I build upon and vastly expand Boal’s suggestions for the psychological processes underpinning Forum Theatre. I propose evidence-based frameworks that explain the psychological processes that make Forum Theatre for Children safe, efficient and potentially transformative. But I also thoroughly explain the Forum Theatre process – how this can be facilitated, points for consideration and even potential future research questions.
Q2. Why Forum Theatre for Children?
Nick: There are a number of reasons. Firstly, if we consider Forum Theatre as inherently political – it aims to magnify challenges and help individuals and communities overcome these through a range of conventions – but children may be considered as having limited political agency. There is, then, a clear disparity between FT’s aims and this specialist sub-group and this raises a questions, such as: how do we reduce or – better still – overcome this disparity? How do we engage parents and communities which are important to children? How can we empower children to have voice, explore issues that matter deeply to them and contribute constructively to decisions which affect their lives? I think these are all very important questions – yet there hardly any literature on the use of ‘theatre of the oppressed’ models such as Forum Theatre specifically with children. And much of the generic drama literature, including that by authorities on forum theatre leave out the really important considerations for young people, such as de-role and aftercare. I devote a whole chapter in my book to de-role and aftercare, not just to reflect their great importance but because working with children requires special care and attention. This is where I use psychological theory to show how such work can be safe and accessible for children. But the book goes even further, because it explores how Forum Theatre can be used to support children to develop social skills, emotional well-being and creative problem-solving skills – all highly relevant to education and society as a whole.
Although Forum Theatre has long been claimed to be a therapeutic approach (and potentially a form of therapy), this is the first book that presents psychological frameworks within which the work can be used safely. The book makes psychology and drama accessible to those who are unfamiliar with either or both disciplines.
Q3. You’ve just finished some Forum Theatre for Children workshops at the IOE. How did you find the experience?
Nick: Exhilarating! The participants were genuinely fabulous. The book has been five years in the making from starting the research to seeing the finished product, so at last meeting readers, hearing their questions, discussing the work and how it can be adapted into their own practice has been amazing. I’ve really enjoyed meeting everyone who attended. To see people buying my book and even signing a few copies on request has been a great privilege and quite humbling. I feel blessed to have met some incredible people who have been willing to share this experience with me.
Q4. The workshops were very popular. What did you hope to achieve in them?
Nick: I hoped to provide the participants with two key experiences: an overview of the FT process and a training session on some of the drama activities used and the psychological theory that underpinned the use of such approaches. This was a tall order in many respects as I was essentially condensing 20 hours’ work or more down to a day, or even half a day. So, my aim really was to provide a summary introduction so the participants would be able to discover more in the book. I also wanted the opportunity to discuss the work and answer questions from real readers and drama workers. This was really important for me as the work is experiential and I wanted to offer another level of interactivity for the potential readers. For those who couldn’t attend, I was delighted to have a film crew capture the workshops for a short online video which will be released soon.
Q5. What are your plans for the future? Will you run more Forum Theatre workshops at IOE?
Nick:Yes, I’m hoping to arrange more workshops at the IOE in the Autumn, as they were such a success. Forum Theatre for Children has set the foundations for future research in the area. I would certainly hope to remain a part of that ongoing exploration. I have Forum Theatre for Children workshops scheduled in for Yorkshire, Humberside and Devon – so I am looking forward to running those and meeting more people later this year. I’ve met some great people through the IOE workshops and have already started discussing the possibility of developing a network of multi-disciplinary practitioners to continue developing practice and research in this area. I hope that some time in the future another book might emerge which will extend the work further – whatever shape that might take. For now, I’m enjoying the moment, giving interviews like this one, meeting new people and, in between, taking a well deserved rest!
Dr Nick Hammond is an educational and child psychologist, and author of Forum Theatre for Children: Enhancing social, emotional and creative development which is out now from Trentham Books@IOE Press.
Follow Nick on Twitter @indigomaverick