The potential of academics and artists to share knowledge and practice in a way that sparks new thinking, new debate, and new ways of doing things, could be considered to be under-exploited – under-celebrated.  It is often more one-way; an academic seeks a vehicle to communicate specific research; an artist seek knowledge that informs a project.

So it was exciting to be in the presence of talented researchers and arts practitioners in the arts at the launch of the DARE edition of Leeds Creative Labs, when we all readily admitted that we don’t have specific goals, or know what the result of our collective conversations might be.  As project manager for the programme, it felt a bit odd not to have a target to aim for other than to ‘see what happens’.  Felt a bit naughty.  It felt like we were embarking on a real adventure when technologist Imran Ali and academic  Simon Popple described their own Leeds Creative Lab experience as a two year journey which started with a chance connection and a caffeine fuelled conversation, and is now a Connecting Communities funded technology framework with national reach and the potential to change the way our stories are archived and shared.

The Labs give us permission to remove the shackles of objectives and targets, to breathe and think freely.

I was interested to hear why DARE Lab team members wanted in, and I’m particularly keen to see how the relationships develop.  Brad from Cap-a-Pie’s description of their first Lab encounter with Dr Lou Harvey as kicking off with a ‘hiss and a roar’, makes me really look forward to learning how their combined experience and spirit of adventure approaches a topic so relevant to contemporary society – how struggling with a language influences a person’s connection with a different  culture.

Never having worked with academics, Keranjeet from SAA-uk, who is committed to enabling audiences to experience meaningful engagement with South Asian Arts, is curious to learn how research and academic expertise might influence her practice.  Cue Doctors Joslyn McKinney and Anna Fenamore, who are interested in experimenting with research methods that explore how an audience makes sense of what’s on stage – how we experience a performance as a spectator.

It was refreshing to hear Katie Brown, Social Innovator and artist, speak about her Hepworth Lab experience – how by simply ‘hanging out’, researchers and artists can find the synergies and conflicts that make for the most creative conversations – that can change the way we think, and enable us to understand our own practice better.  I love the idea of ‘collisions’ of conversations – a few ripples can be a good thing.

So, what happens when the driver is simply curiosity?  When there isn’t an objective or target?  An expected measurable outcome or definition of success?

I have no idea.

Watch this space!