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New jazz musical tunes audience into ground-breaking austerity research

On Wednesday 1 November, Professor Laurence Ferry’s (Durham University Business School) and Professor Ileana Steccolini’s (Newcastle University) research was brought to life in the form of a jazz musical play. The Austerity Playbook, a work-in-progress performance, took place at Northern Stage, Newcastle.

The play provided a powerful and unique insight into how austprofeerity affects people’s lives in a variety of ways. With a particular focus on the issue of poverty in the context of austerity in North East England, the play was located in the mythical city of Burnside.

A collaboration between director André Pink, writer Mark O’Thomas and jazz composer Andrea Vicari, it was an excellent demonstration of how the arts can present ground-breaking research.

Following the play, Laurence, who is a Professor in Accounting, said,

“I think it portrayed the research quite well and highlighted the fact that maybe austerity is not the only solution and that maybe what we really need is some kind of prosperity playbook, especially that which embeds communities in embracing not just economic growth but social cohesion. Even more so in a post-Brexit world.”

A broad range of characters were featured in the play and each had an emotive and compelling story to tell. One example, a local librarian, was at risk of losing her job following Government cuts threatening to close her branch. The performance exemplified how it would not be only her life effected, but those such as her ill mother who relies on support and for people in the local community who find solace and belonging in their local library.

The play also looked at the ways in which austerity is defined and presented by those in power. Despite the issues being explored, humour was interweaved throughout the play alongside powerful music and impactful lyrics, as well as romance. Audience participation happened at various points, including musical instruments and cake. This combination was an exemplary, entertaining and impressive way of presenting such important and ground-breaking research.

Following the performance, members of the audience were invited to ask questions about the play and comment about what they thought of the way the topic was presented. Their responses will be considered when looking at the impact of the research. A post-show discussion with the artistic team and researchers also took place.

This performance was part of Freedom City 2017.

About Laurence Ferry

Laurence is a Professor in Accounting in the Business School and his research, teaching and consulting covers accounting and accountability with a specific focus on the public sector where he is a recognised international expert in public financial management.

About Freedom City 2017

Freedom City 2017 marks 50 years since Martin Luther King was awarded a doctorate and gave a speech that highlighted the problems of racism, poverty and war. The initiative brings together international artists, musicians, filmmakers, academics and community groups to inspire a new generation to contribute towards tackling the issues that Dr King spoke of in his acceptance speech.