Workshop review: Dorothy Heathcote NOW

Roberta Luchini Boschi
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Participants had the opportunity to touch, read, explore and create based on Heathcote's work

 Participants in the conference share ideas in practical sessions
Participants in the conference share ideas in practical sessions

Kate Green

The Dorothy Heathcote NOW conference brought to the surface important work of the inspirational educator whose practices keep influencing drama teachers and educators around the world. With workshops, talks and opportunities to reflect upon Heathcote's work, the conference provided the older and younger generations of drama practitioners with the chance to discuss past experiences and also how the field should move forward with Heathcote's inspirational practice as a propellant.

The conference started on 8 October with an online event where local and international drama teachers and practitioners were able to share their memories and experiences of Heathcote's work and also show how their time with Heathcote resonates in their lives and work, ten years after her having passed. Excellent presentations from India, America, Turkey and the UK set the tone for what was coming in the in-person conference that followed.

On 9 and 10 October, practitioners from countries such as America, Norway and Spain were able to participate in person, even with all the Covid restrictions. An opening discussion panel with Cecily O’Neill, Luke Abbott, Brian Edmiston, Iona Towler-Evans, Tim Taylor and the chair David Allen was held. The practitioners participating in the panel remembered moments of Heathcote's life both in sessions and out of them, explaining how her work has helped them to develop their practices and inspired them in a variety of different ways.

One of the highlights of the conference was the chance to work with materials from Heathcote's archive. Primarily organised by Sandra Hesten, the archive continues to receive materials from Heathcote's previous students. Participants were divided into groups with different facilitators and got the chance to touch, read, explore and create based on Heathcote's work.

Luke Abbott closed the first day with an emphatic talk about the importance of a change in the school system through the increased use of drama. He also highlighted that teachers who want to promote change through drama must have the opportunity to continually develop and learn. Abbott reinforced the idea of a quality mark for Heathcote practitioners.

Being close to so many inspiring people and practices gave the participants a fresh view of Heathcote's ideas that will now be transformed into new work, ideas and drama practice for all generations. There was a clear feeling that conferences such as this should be held more regularly.