School of Media and Performing Arts
Theatre and Performance
Our scholars in Theatre and Performance produce leading research in such areas as Musical Theatre, Voice Studies, Immersive Theatre, Applied Theatre and Puppetry. In addition to publishing scholarship in such areas, most of our Theatre and Performance scholars are active as practitioners and have a keen interest in Practice-as-Research. We are the home of the academic journal Studies in Musical Theatre, the leading publication of its kind, and the new publication, Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies. We are involved in several international research networks and our reputation is such that we attract visiting scholars from around the world, who often give seminars and lectures at the university. As our scholarship is all about theatre and performance, our research has a broad impact beyond the university in widely-consumed theatrical publications and public talks and, indeed, it is often presented in rehearsals and performances that are attended by the public. Furthermore, our research approaches theatre for its social impact and thus speaks across to audiences in areas such as social work, criminal justice and mental health. As our innovative scholarship focuses on wide-ranging and interdisciplinary critical approaches to understanding theatre and performance within its social context, it often speaks to issues of commerce, identity, race, gender, sexuality, etc that extend beyond the theatre. However, we believe that viewing such things from the perspective of theatre and performance casts new light on such issues and illuminates critical insights that might otherwise remain invisible.
The Creative Writing team at Portsmouth are engaged in fiction, travel writing, poetry and screen writing at local, national and international levels. Each of the academics strive to forge a vivid practice as research perspective and thus combine ambitious creative work with and serious critical writing outputs. Some of the staff are engaged with the editorship of internationally significant literary periodicals such as The London Magazine and the Writing in Practice journal. Others have research projects of a more local resonance in the fields of writing for good mental health (‘Inkwell’) and a Portsmouth magazine (‘Star and Crescent’). Our commitment to the living utterance of writing ranges from our poetry performance evenings, through assured public discourse in defence of writing as an academic subject, to keynote speeches regarding literature’s power to explore reconciliation. We have crucial experience of funded, collaborative and interdisciplinary research. Furthermore, our scholars see their own writing as transcending the public/academic divide. For, as practitioners, each member of the team has a broad and varied publishing profile, and therefore a keen knowledge of the publishing industry. Together we have a spreading network of contacts with other writers, publishers and critics of the highest eminence. Most of our Creative Writing academics are consciously eclectic in their practice and consider themselves to be poets, short fiction authors, novelists, reviewers and non-fiction authors at the same time. Our outputs continue to offer experimental, challenging and innovative utterances, across all forms genres.
Film and Media
Researchers in the film and media subject areas are extremely active, presenting conference papers across the world, delivering plenary and keynote addresses, publishing quality work eligible for submission to the REF, supervising PhD students, and acting as expert consultants in a number of key research areas of strength. Many are also members of international research and professional bodies and serve as editorial board members and reviewers for world renowned journals and publishing houses. Individual and group research projects advance across the cultural and creative industries, applying a wide range of analytic, critical, historical perspectives to the examination of film, media, music, television, animation, comics, journalism, print and online writing, digital technologies, cybercultures and social media, audiences and fan cultures. As a consequence of this research and subject focus, membership of the research group is largely drawn from the staff and research students located in the School of Media and Performing Arts; however, recognising the interdisciplinary nature of the faculty and potential crossovers in research interests and expertise, some researchers are based in other schools in the faculty: for example, Creative Technologies and Art & Design. We have had tremendous success in winning external funds for major collaborative research projects and those members who were entered into the 2014 national Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the area of Communication, Cultural & Media Studies, Library and Information Management achieved an excellent result for the university: 100% of the research impact was rated as either as being outstanding (60%) or as having very considerable impacts (40) and 90% of research is internationally recognised and above. The research environment was ranked at 90% as either world-leading (40%) or internationally excellent (50%), and 20% of outputs are ranked as world-leading (4*) and 55% as either world-leading or internationally excellent.
Channel 4 and British Film Culture (2010-2014)
This four-year AHRC-funded project made an assessment of the broadcaster's film policy and programming and its impact on British film culture since 1982. It was led by Principal Investigator Dr Justin Smith, Reader in British Film Culture (University of Portsmouth) and Co-Investigator Prof. Paul McDonald (Nottingham University). Linda Kaye, Research Executive at the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC) was a project partner. The Research Assistant was Dr Ieuan Franklin. The project supported two PhD studentships (awarded 2015): Dr Rachael Keene and Dr Laura Mayne. Rachael Keene's doctoral thesis is entitled Channel 4 Television: Film Policy and Programming, 1982–2011, and Laura Mayne's thesis is entitled Channel 4 and British Film: An Assessment of Industrial and Cultural Impact, 1982-1998.
Before Channel 4, film and television in the UK had been seen as rival media with only limited opportunity for collaborative exchange. Sir Jeremy Isaacs, Channel 4’s first chief executive (1981-87), was determined that one of the new channel’s many innovations would be to fund feature film production, not only for domestic television broadcast, but for theatrical exhibition internationally. The success of the Film on Four broadcast strand in sponsoring a new generation of British film-makers brought to prominence notable talents such as Peter Greenaway, Derek Jarman, Gurinder Chadha and Danny Boyle. And hits such as My Beautiful Laundrette, Trainspotting, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Slumdog Millionaire saw Film4, as it is now called, transformed into an international player and a cornerstone of the British film industry, with production and distribution arms, a digital channel (Film4) and a download service (4OD). The project’s research involved three elements: a 30-year history of Film4 as a feature film producer, a survey of the breadth of Channel 4’s broadcast film content (including purchased film, commissioned independent film and video, animation, shorts and magazine programmes), and the Channel 4 Press Pack database, produced in collaboration with the BUFVC. The project also involved extensive archival research and interviews with over 30 current and former employees at Channel 4 and notable figures in the British film industry.
Besides the PhDs, the project partnership with the BUFVC resulted in the digitisation of Channel 4's weekly press information packs (1982-2002), accessible to researchers on the BUFVC website. In November 2012 a two-day project conference was held at BFI Southbank to coincide with Channel 4’s 30th anniversary. Media historians and industry personnel gathered to assess the impact of Channel 4’s contribution to British film culture and to debate the future role of Public Service Broadcasters in the film industry. The project’s published outputs include special issues of the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television and the Journal of British Cinema and Television, and a complete, illustrated filmography of 30 years of Film4.
Find out more about the project and the Channel 4 Press Pack database by visiting the BUFVC website.
Fifty Years of British Music Video, 1964-2014 (2015-2017)
This two-year AHRC-funded project is led by PI Dr Justin Smith at the University of Portsmouth and Dr Emily Caston at the London College of Communication UAL to examine the history of British music video since the 1960s. Dr Emily Caston is a senior-award winning music video producer who has worked with artists from Madonna, Bjork, Oasis and the Chemical Brothers to U2, and directors such as Spike Jonze and Chris Cunningham and publishes regularly on music video history. The project team includes a full-time Research Assistant and a full-time Research Administrator and involves archival collaborations with the British Library and the British Film Institute. David Knight (BUG, editor Promo News TV, curator UK Music Video Awards) is a project consultant.
British music videos have been highly influential internationally but are rarely recognised as part of Britain's national screen heritage or moving image art, despite the emerging of many of its leading creatives from Britain's art schools. The project's primary aim is to document the acclaimed and innovative work of the British music video industry from its origins in the 1960s through to its professionalisation in the MTV years and its subsequent amateurisation in the YouTube era. A panel of industry executives and creatives from record labels and production companies will work with an advisory committee of academics to select a canon of titles for conservation within the BFI's National Archive.
These selected music videos will be distributed to the general public by Soda Pictures as a box set DVD and exhibited across the UK in four national cinema screening sessions with leading music video curator David Knight. Working with data generously donated by the music industry via its licensing agency, Video Performance Ltd, the project will create the first national database of British music videos free to access at the BFI and British Library. With original video masters and accompanying paper archives donated by Ridley Scott Associates and Warp Records, the project will create two new collections of major national significance at the BFI National Archive and British Library respectively. These audio-visual collections will be documented and analysed in a journal special issue, and a book charting the as yet untold story of British music video art. As well as increasing public engagement with appreciation of the history of British music video art, this research project aims to stimulate a new agenda and research programme in short form audio-visual work in British universities. The new collections will be introduced and publicised through a major talk at the British Library by Dr Emily Caston for the general public on the significance of Fifty Years of British Music Video.