New arts project will examine histories of gender play in music hall and pantomime

Kent is delighted to announce that the School of Arts has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, for a collaborative research and public engagement project titled Beyond the Binary.

This project will examine the histories of gender play and presentation currently unexplored in Kent’s music hall and pantomime collections. Specifically, researchers will analyse the Max Tyler Music Hall collection (which includes 2000+ song sheets) and the David Drummond Pantomime collection which includes extensive scripts, costume and set designs.

The project will involve working with researchers and performance-makers from across the gender spectrum – including queer, gender-fluid and non-binary people – to uncover and share new understandings and perspectives on performance and gender in the past.

The project also aims to engage new audiences with diverse, inclusive histories of performance and gender, and thereby contribute constructively to current discourse around gender expression.

Led by Dr Helen Brooks (Reader in Theatre and Cultural History) in the School of Arts, with support from Dr Oliver Double (Reader in Drama and Theatre) and Karen Brayshaw (Manager of Kent’s Special Collections & Archives), the project findings will be shared through a creative public engagement programme in Summer 2022. This will include a touring pop-up exhibition, an interactive Hands-on-History workshop presented at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury, and a showcase lecture-concert co-created with non-binary performers.

Dr Brooks, who is also Director of Research & Innovation for Kent’s Division of Arts and Humanities, said: ‘The inclusive public research team will be key to Beyond the Binary and we’re looking forward to working with a diverse range of people with interests in the themes, including those who can bring their lived experience and unique perspectives to the materials we’ll discover in the archives.’