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SGSAH ARCS Studentship 2017

Applications are now closed for our three-year PhD studentship onSGSAH logo

Living Tradition and Cultural Revival:

Scottish Folk Drama in the 21st Century

A collaboration between

  • Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University
  • Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh
  • Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS), Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh


Folk play in the broadest sense is experiencing a revival in Scotland. In recent years, we have seen the reintroduction of a variety of forms of community drama traditionally performed throughout Britain since the medieval period. The Intercultural Research Centre (Heriot-Watt University), Celtic and Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh) and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS, Scottish Storytelling Centre) are offering an Applied Research Collaborative Studentship (ARCS) for a project entitled Living Tradition and Cultural Revival: Scottish Folk Drama in the 21st Century to start in January 2018. This ARCS is one of five such studentships funded nationally by the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) and the partner HEIs.

This research project examines the reasons behind the resurgence of interest in this old art form and folk custom and its cultural implications. It seeks to investigate the motivations for participants and what these can tell us about modern attitudes to concepts like tradition and authenticity. Through the partnership with TRACS, which has been at the forefront of this renewal, the project offers a unique chance to examine revival in action.

The main aim of the project is to explore the place of revived folk drama in contemporary Scottish society through the following objectives are: to produce a survey of Scottish folk drama activities today; to examine community-led performances and related activities ethnographically; to evaluate the motivations and aspirations of participants and organisers and to assess their contribution to aspects of local identity, ideas of tradition, and community dynamics; to investigate how folk drama as a living practice contributes to developing conceptualisations of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland; and to contribute to the newly emerging ‘Creative Ethnology’ movement led by the three institutions involved.

A central aspect of this ARCS is that it involves extensive placements at TRACS, which allow for practice-based and participatory research, e.g. in the form of developing a performance or workshops and community engagement activities centred around the practice of traditional drama. Thus you will gain experience of working within a relatively new and dynamic national organisation which plays a key role in the ongoing development of arts and culture in Scotland and be able to engage with a wide range of theatre groups, heritage groups and other associations.

Further information about the project can also be found on the SGSAH website.


Supervisory team:

Principal Supervisor: Dr Kerstin Pfeiffer (Heriot-Watt University)

Co-Supervisors: Prof. Gary West and Dr Neill Martin (University of Edinburgh)

Non-Academic Supervisor: Dr Donald Smith (TRACS, Scottish Storytelling Centre)


 Enquiries about the project can be directed to and