Learning Theatre Research Overview

Published Thursday 2nd April 2020
Explore the rich research into Derby Theatre's partnership with the University of Derby and work as a Learning Theatre, and discover the social impact of cultural education on young people.

Our Role

Derby Theatre is the UK’s only professional producing and learning theatre.  This means that our doors are open for everyone to learn through and about theatre.

The job of the Learning Theatre is not only to create and present high-quality professional theatre; we also want to inspire, support, listen to, connect with, train and learn from our community.  Whether you want to become a theatre-maker or just get involved, our entire staff team is trained to share their skills with learners of all ages.

Our Approach

Our dynamic programme for communities, schools, young artists and developing artists means that we work with a really diverse range of people, aiming to give the most opportunity to those with the least.

We also take our work out into communities, touring shows and delivering projects in new places and spaces where perhaps theatre isn’t normally seen.

Our approach ensures that our work is relevant, exciting and genuinely reflects people’s stories and lived experiences.

Collaboration for Research

Our partnership with the University of Derby also enables us to forge rich research collaborations, with academics and undergraduates from a wide range of disciplines from Education to Social Sciences, carrying out research on our diverse learning programmes.

The focus of this research often explores the social impact of cultural education on young people, particularly those who may not currently have much access to these opportunities.

The Research Group at Derby Theatre

Derby Theatre Research Group is a network of creative and academic practitioners and researchers that enables an exploration of theatre practice and cross-disciplinary engagement. It aims to promote and acknowledge collaborative research as a community focused endeavour that can make a positive impact in our city and beyond.

Derby Theatre is a place where students, academics, artists and the wider community work, create and learn side by side as co-producers, -makers and –researchers. As part of the University of Derby, we position research as an integral part of the way we work.

Derby Theatre’s innovative ‘Learning Theatre’ model, is used as a vehicle to challenge exclusion and inequality. The Research Group facilitates how to better understand the link between artistic and cultural sector initiatives and the wide range of social outcomes made possible through local, the regional and international opportunities.

The University of Derby is a civic university and socially engaged theatre that aims to co-create with its community; our work sits within the context of a city that is striving to increase social mobility

1) To create an innovative model of embedded research and research-informed practice. We are particularly interested in the social impact of our work.

2 To support a sustainable and accessible theatre archive through a co-curated, “citizen scholar” approach – a learning and research community resource for all.

3) To disseminate our work through a variety of artistic research projects through creative events, academic papers and social and public engagement.

– To transform the landscape of theatre and learning through our ‘Learning Theatre’ model and city-wide partnerships

– To inspire a new generation of theatre makers from diverse backgrounds locally, nationally and internationally

– To develop the capital culture and transform the ecology of Derby City and beyond through the presence of and activities at our International Theatre and Learning Research Centre

Derby is a city of contrasts. It hosts world leading high technology manufacturing industries and some of the most high-paid jobs in the country.

It is also home to severe deprivation, and the Social Mobility Commission designated it a Social Mobility Cold Spot in 2016; ranking it 303rd from 324 areas in the country.

Research at the University of Derby has informed and measured the impact of a range of innovative cultural and sports interventions designed to reduce and transform inequalities; remaking the Derby as a place of opportunity where the talents of its young people are celebrated and civic pride is enhanced.

Plus One

Giving young people in care and care leavers free access to life-changing creative projects, mentoring, training, work experience and tickets to cinema and live performance

#ThisIsDerby 2018-19

A city-wide approach to providing sports and arts to young people in areas of deprivation and of low cultural engagement, with young people’s voices at its heart.

Derby Creative Arts Network

Local venues, independent artists and the local community developing new work of substance, unearthing local talent and testing a brand new model of coproduction.


An ambitious, strategically connected, performance and careers programme generated by young people in areas of deprivation and lowest cultural engagement.

Research Partners