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Drama Davis Conference 2019

Who am I?

Who can tell me who I am?

The Importance of the Social and Political in Children's and Young People's Drama


"If education is about opening the doors for young people onto the whole of human culture, then drama in education is about enabling those young people to find out who they are; who they want to be; what ground they wish to stand on; what sort of human person they want to become. They will inherit a world on the brink of ruin.

What sort of drama can help them locate themselves without dictating who they should be? As they grow up they are socialised into a form of ideological blindness. What form of drama can give the gift of sight and insight?" (David Davis, 2019).

Prof David Davis is a passionate and gifted teacher, artist, philosopher, drama theorist and dramaturg with a powerful, memorable and distinctive 'voice'. His work ranges from socio-political commentary on education to classroom practice but always with a quest for authenticity of emotion and experience, undertaken with the highest ethical intent and values. A pioneer in the field of drama and theatre in education, at the heart of Davis' work is a belief in the power of children and young people, and a genuine concern for the survival of our humanity. Informed and inspired by the work of Gavin Bolton's 'making' drama and his consideration of 'when and when not to adapt to society's norms', Dorothy Heathcote's idea of 'Living through' drama and her association with Brechtian distancing and reflection, and in more recent years, the work of the renowned playwright, Edward Bond. Davis has crafted his own artistic response to the potentially catastrophic social, political, and environmental challenges now facing our world. His approach to 'Living through' or 'being in the drama' is based on critical pedagogical underpinnings which place issues of social justice, of direct and immediate concern to the participants, at its centre. Davis challenges us to take seriously our responsibilities as learners, teachers, educators, artists and members of society, which is always a political act, and he is passionate about the power of inclusive, collective practice in classroom drama to build a better future; 'begin again' as the renowned Trinity based Irish poet Brendan Kenneally writes.

As we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century, his is a message of hope, offering another route for developing the theory and practice of making drama, and a wake-up call to all of us in the world of drama and theatre in education to help children and young people 'imagine the real'.


Begin again to the summoning birds

to the sight of the light at the window,

begin to the roar of morning traffic

all along Pembroke Road.

Every beginning is a promise

born in light and dying in dark

determination and exaltation of springtime

flowering the way to work.

Begin to the pageant of queuing girls

the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal

bridges linking the past and future

old friends passing though with us still.

Begin to the loneliness that cannot end

since it perhaps is what makes us begin,

begin to wonder at unknown faces

at crying birds in the sudden rain

at branches stark in the willing sunlight

at seagulls foraging for bread

at couples sharing a sunny secret

alone together while making good.

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending

that always seems about to give in

something that will not acknowledge conclusion

insists that we forever begin.

— From The Essential Brendan Kennelly



In association with ADEI (the Association for Drama in Education in Ireland), the Arts Education Research Group on behalf of the School of Education in Trinity College Dublin take great pleasure in inviting participants from across the world to attend this once in a lifetime conference in Dublin, Ireland. This is an opportunity for many of David's former students, collaborators, friends and colleagues, to appreciate anew his passion and drive for drama in education, and to celebrate his lifetime's contribution to a field whose work has never been so necessary in the world as it is today. For those who have encountered David's thinking and practice only through his writing, this is an unmissable opportunity to experience for the first time the depth of his convictions and the passion and commitment he brings to his teaching and drama facilitation. Always challenging, often controversial, David's original and ground-breaking ideas on drama and theatre in education will enrich your thinking and remain with you for many years to come.

'Who am I? Who can tell me who I am?' brings together a rich array of voices from different traditions and perspectives in drama and theatre in education to discuss the central theme of this conference: the importance of the social and political in children's and young people's drama. Invited speakers will address this theme with reference to their own practices and how they engage children and young people in different parts of the world, where social and political themes are being pushed further and further to the side in favour of the individual and the subjective.

We warmly invite you to join us at this conference which will be a useful sharing of ideas and practices, a strengthening and a celebration of common ground amongst us, and an opportunity to discuss the challenges for our future ahead. We want to hear your voice, your experience, and your perspective about the future directions of drama and theatre in education in your context. In addition, there will be an opportunity to present a poster at this conference for those interested in presenting (click here for more information and details of how to submit an abstract).

Finally, there will be a very special evening meal for all delegates on Saturday 9th March (included in the conference fee), where we can celebrate David's 80th birthday and reconnect with old friends (and make new ones!) over some food and Irish style entertainment.

We are waiting to meet you in Dublin!

Carmel O'Sullivan

(On behalf of the organising committee)