Voices, silences and silencing: creative arts and applied linguistics, applied linguistics and creative arts

Santiago Cathedral

On 6th June 2019, the AILA Creative Inquiry and Applied Linguistics Research Network convened a colloquium at the University of Santiago de Compostela as part of the IV symposium of the Asociación de Estudios sobre Discurso y Sociedad (EDiSo). The theme for this year’s symposium was ‘Voices, Silences and Silencing in Discourse Studies’ and the colloquium focused on research which uses arts-based or arts-informed approaches.

The panel had three papers, including research into identity in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon (Pamela Murgia), participatory arts with young people in South Africa (Lou Harvey) and the Global StoryBridges project which links young people from across the world using digital story-telling (Maggie Hawkins, Julia Llompart, Emilee Moore and Claudia Vallejo). A summary of the papers and the discussion by Jessica Bradley can be found here.

A call for papers for the Creative Inquiry colloquium of the AILA Congress 2020 will be circulated shortly.

Multilingual digital storytelling – event at Goldsmiths on 7 June 2019

Information about a multilingual digital storytelling conference and festival at Goldsmiths in June. Event is co-led by Vicky Macleroy in the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning.

This is the link to the Eventbrite:


Multilingual digital storytelling, museum artefacts and the arts: Creative pathways to language-and-culture learning


Conference Friday 7 June 2019 (09:00 – 14:30) Goldsmiths, University of London Department of Educational Studies Margaret MacMillan Building (Top Floor) Funded by the Language Acts and Worldmaking AHRC Project Dr Jim Anderson and Dr Vicky Macleroy Centre for Language, Culture and Learning Talks and workshops addressing three dimensions to the conference theme: experience, culture and identity; process and performance; agency and dialogic thinking.   Plenary: Making space for learning: Exploring affect in stop-frame-animation. Professor Gabriele Budach, Dimitri Efremov, Daniela Loghin and Gohar Sharoyan (University of Luxembourg) Entry to the conference is free with your Eventbrite ticket


New resources online: Creative Language Practices through a Translingual Lens

Creative Language Practices through a Translingual Lens: A Toolkit is a suite of creative ideas and activities that can be used in multilingual settings, ranging from language classrooms to community language-related projects. These resources have been developed by a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow, creative artists and teachers from the Glasgow area. The toolkit is available for free and the team is looking forward to hearing how its activities have been used in other contexts. For questions and collaborations, feel free to contact the team by visiting the project website at https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/gc/creativepracticestranslang/

AILA 2020 Groningen, 9-14 August 2020

AILA 2020 Groningen

As an AILA ReN we will have a symposium at next year’s AILA World Congress which will be in Groningen, NL. s. We shortly be circulating a call for papers but in the meantime, please email me if you are interested in participating (Jessica.bradley@sheffield.ac.uk).  

Creative Inquiry and Applied Linguistics: Researching communication with, into and through the arts

The arts have become an increasing focus of attention for applied linguists, with a rich diversity of approaches and models of working emerging. Creative inquiry can be defined as ‘any social research or human inquiry that adapts the tenets of the creative arts as a part of the methodology’ (Leavy, 2014: 1). However, there is a risk that creative inquiry is seen as method, and that its theoretical affordances and implications remain unmined.


This colloquium therefore considers what creative inquiry in applied linguistics is, how it has been used, and how it might extend our understandings of communication and language in relation to ‘real-world problems’ (cf. Brumfit 1995: 27). The papers present a range of research from different contexts, working with, into and through the arts in multiple ways. These projects – broad-ranging in scope, in place, in questions, and grounded in different forms of arts practice – enable us collectively to ask what the relationship is between communication and creative arts and, importantly, what the affordances of this might be for applied linguistics. The papers will therefore set out the scope of research engaging with creative inquiry in applied linguistics and discuss theoretical implications arising for the field.

AILA ReN / BAAL CUP seminar 10-11 July 2019, University of Leeds

We are really looking forward to our BAAL CUP-funded seminar which takes place on 10 and 11 July 2019. Thank you to all those who submitted papers – you have heard from us now about the arrangements. The programme and details of how to book are available from this link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1s8xiuwywaguEpxZInpbZr6CHCOE6zzFa and there are still places available to attend.

Please contact Lou Harvey (l.t.harvey@leeds.ac.uk) if you have any questions.

Research seminar at University of Leeds ‘If we try we can fly’ by Sari Pöyhönen, University of Jyväskylä, 10 May 2019, 2pm – 4pm

Network member and visiting professor at the University of Leeds Sari Pöyhönen is talking about her research with unaccompanied minors in Finland which used photography to understand life trajectories and everyday experiences. The seminar, organised by the Centre for Language Education Research, is free to attend and booking is not required. The discussant is Lucy Taylor.

Please contact James Simpson (j.e.b.simpson@education.leeds.ac.uk) for further details.  

Visual Representations of Multilingualism – competition now open

We are delighted to announce that we are working with the British Association for Applied Linguistics, publisher Multilingual Matters and CuratorSpace to launch a competition for visual arts representations of multilingualism. More details below!  

BAAL (British Association for Applied Linguistics), in partnership with CuratorSpace, Multilingual Matters, and the AILA Research Network for Creative Inquiry and Applied Linguistics, is looking for applied linguists and visual artists to submit visual representations of multilingualism as part of an international competition. 

This competition aims to provide a creative opportunity to explore new ways of representing multilingualism through visual means and to stimulate debate and raise awareness about innovative ways of thinking about multilingualism.

Multilingualism has often failed to be represented, or – when it has been represented – this has been done through the co-presence of a select number of languages. However, this raises the question of which languages are represented and why, while recent research about multilingual practices, for example translanguaging, has questioned traditional views of languages as discrete systems.

This research has also highlighted the multilingual language user’s capacity to create an apparently seamless flow between named languages and language varieties to achieve effective and meaningful communication in everyday social interaction.

Our interests are in how applied linguists and artists represent these new ways of thinking about multilingualism creatively and visually and how these images communicate the message about dynamic multilingualism to the public.
To apply

The competition is open to artists, designers and/or applied linguists working in a range of 2D practices, including, but not limited to: drawing, painting, illustration, graphic design, collage, digital, photography, etc. Sculptural/relief works presented in a 2D format will also be accepted.

Collaborations between artists and applied linguists, and submissions from students of all levels are particularly welcome.

Submissions can be of new or existing works, however artwork should have been made within 2 years of the submission date.

To apply, please complete the application form with a good quality image of the finished work along with title, medium, size, year and a statement (250 words max) about how the work responds to the theme. Please also include a brief artist bio (250 words max). Statements and bios will be used to promote the winning works.

Applicants can make up to 2 submissions and separate forms should be used for each submission.


Please submit works by Friday 29 March 2019, 11:59pm GMT

Winners will be chosen and all applicants will be notified of the outcome by early June 2019.

Prizes will be awarded to three winners at the BAAL conference at Manchester Met University on 29-31, August, 2019.

First prize: £400

Second prize: £200

Third prize: £100
A number of works by selected applicants may also be included alongside the prize winners in an exhibition at the BAAL conference 2019.

Works will be promoted through BAAL website and may also be used to promote visual and creative approaches to multilingualism within the research community. Elements of the winning work may also be incorporated into the BAAL logo upon further discussion with the applicant(s). All applicants retain copyright of their work.
Selection criteria

Applications will be judged against the following criteria:

  • Close engagement with the theme, i.e. creative ways of representing multilingualism
  • Effective communication: clear and compelling in communicating dynamic multilingualism to the public
  • High quality digital image (300 dpi)
  • Relationship between medium and content: providing clear reasons for using a particular medium in the production of the work

Judging panel

Professor Zhu Hua (BAAL Executive Committee Rep / Birkbeck College, University of London)

Professor Bernadette M A O’Rourke (BAAL Executive Committee Rep / Heriot-Watt University)

Professor Abigail Harrison Moore (School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds)

Jessica Bradley (AILA ReN Creative Inquiry and Applied Linguistics Rep / Leeds Trinity University)

Dr Louise Atkinson (Visual artist and researcher / CuratorSpace / Yorkshire Visual Arts Network)
Contact for further queries

The competition submission will be managed via Curatorspace

Link here: https://www.curatorspace.com/opportunities/detail/competition-for-visual-representations-of-multilingualism/2687

Introducing art: is it a good thing to do in a language lesson?

Guest blog by Dobrochna Futro

“I want to finish with something that one of our students said about working across art and language because I think it is relevant to what we will be thinking about today”, said at the end of her keynote presentation Prof Vicky Macleroy, Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London. We invited her to talk at our workshop On the Border of Art and Language Teaching in the Multilingual World organised as part of the GRAMNet programme for the Refugee Festival Scotland 2018 in Glasgow.

The quote she selected was by 11-year old primary school student who was interviewed whether introducing art, is a good thing to do in a language lesson. The answer was short and sharp:

“Yes, it is. It helps you know what language is really about. (…) That language is not just words, everything has a meaning behind it, even one little word like ‘la’ just two letters that have a big meaning and create a big picture, there is hidden stuff that we have to… like… analyse it and find meaning.”

(Student, age 11)

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It is precisely the fact that whilst using language we reach ‘behind it’ that constitutes its essence. Whilst it may seem that the ideal of a language is its idealised ‘pre-Babel’ state, the state when the language and the world were identical, the state when there was just one – fully transparent – language and there was no ambiguity in meaning-making, so far this has not been possible either in a monolingual (if we can agree that a such exists at all), or a multilingual context. It is simply not ‘what language is really about’. We understand it easily when looking at artworks but often, and for various and complex reasons, forget about it when thinking about language(s).

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Can art help us understand more about the way we use and learn languages? Should we use art in language research and language teaching? How? The three of us, Marta Nitecka Barche (University of Aberdeen), Deirdre MacKenna (University of Dundee) and I have wrestled with these questions in our practice and research for a while.

Eventually, in February 2018 we submitted an application to the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities Cohort Development Fund to organise a student-led training workshop to explore the use of art-based methods as research tools and as pedagogy. Our aims were:

  • To learn about using artistic inquiry for research – how we could use artistic enquiry to establish a better understanding of multilingualism itself, about the process of language learning (becoming multilingual) and a language learner (being/ becoming a multilingual language speaker),
  • To learn how and what art and art-based teaching activities could be used to support the process of language learning in the multilingual context.

By organising the event in the very place where the community learning happens (MILK Café), surrounding ourselves with artworks (an exhibition that explored experiences of the new speakers was installed by Deirdre MacKenna in the MILK Café just before the event), and placing art and experiences of language learners at the centre of the learning process, we hoped to invert traditional models and be led by the learners/speakers themselves.

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We invited Prof Vicky Macleroy (Goldsmith College, University of London), Prof Bernadette O’Rourke (Heriot-Watt University), Gabrielle Cluness (Milk Café), and Jessica Bradley (Leeds Trinity University) to come and talk to us about their fascinating projects in which they explored the use of art in linguistics and education.

Vicky Macleroy discussed research from a global 5-year project, Critical Connections: Multilingual Digital Storytelling (2012-2017), which links language and intercultural learning with literacy, active citizenship and the arts, Bernadette O’Rourke presented the New Speakers Studio developed with Deirdre MacKenna, Gabrielle Cluness talked about community language learning at the MILK Café and Jessica Bradley about arts-based practice and informal language learning for refugees sharing lessons from the Migration and Settlement project.

We gathered together a group of artists, teachers, children, and adult ESOL and foreign languages learners so the initial ideas and examples presented by our invited speakers could be tested, explored, evaluated and debated not only by academics but also by artists, language teachers and learners themselves, and invited other PhD students to participate in this small gathering. The many stories and case studies brought by the workshop participants also needed to be explored and debated so the discussions were rich and often very passionate.

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We talked about the use of art in teaching Gaelic and the politics of Irish language, we discussed ways of mapping students’ full linguistic repertoires and supporting their home languages, as well as motivating them to learn foreign languages and English (and which English). We considered singing, baking Polish gingerbread, drawing on cushions, embroidery and learning outdoors.

We finished the day exhausted but hungry for more, for more case studies, more discussions, more viewpoints, more embodied and experiential learning.

Please check the workshop website for more details and get in touch if you are interested in art and language learning – there will be more to come and we would like you to get involved!

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 11.20.35

The workshop: On the Border of Art and Language Teaching in the Multilingual World was devised and produced by Marta Nitecka Barche (University of Aberdeen), Deirdre MacKenna (University of Dundee) and Dobrochna Futro (University of Glasgow), and funded through the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities Cohort Development Fund.

Photo: ©Deirdre MacKenna (3, 5) and ©Erskine Logan Photography (1,2,4)

Network gathering in Leeds

Post by Sam McKay (pcssm@leeds.ac.uk)

Last Thursday (17th May 2018) members of the network gathered at a network seminar at Leeds Trinity University, to share research around creative inquiry, education, and the arts. This event was co-convened with the AHRC-funded TLANG project (University of Leeds). The event had 18 attendees, with members of the network, and colleagues from across the Institute of Childhood and Education, Leeds Trinity University more broadly, the University of Leeds and beyond. 

We heard presentations from a number of speakers. Amanda Fulford and Clare Skea shared their exploration of public philosophy in art galleries. Marie Potter detailed the ways in which she uses creativity when teaching early childhood studies to undergraduate students. Carmen Lau Clayton shared creative methods of data collection used in her research with young fathers. Pam Jarvis updated the group on a research process currently underway that uses I Poems to analyse research data. Following the presentations, we shared a rich discussion about what creative inquiry can mean, how creative methods are used in other fields of work particularly outside of academia, and how we might move forward in collaboration. Those in attendance were particularly interested in developing further seminars and engagement, with suggested workshops on the I Poem, and applied theatre in education.

This event was organised by Jessica Bradley, Lou Harvey, and Emilee Moore, with thanks to James Simpson, Louise Atkinson and Sam McKay.