About LILA

In formal educational contexts, and often in informal settings too, language is the chief medium for expressing, recognising and evaluating learning. Yet the arts are being increasingly employed in public support services such as health and wellbeing and migrant support, children’s services and programmes, and in engagement contexts as researchers and cultural organisations seek to communicate with wider publics.

The LILA network therefore responds to a need to more fully understand the relationship between language and the arts for learning in these informal contexts. It aims to generate insights into the communication of what is otherwise unsayable: for example, the narration of unconscious knowledge, things people do not know how to talk about, do not have language for, or are prevented from speaking about. This may relate, for example, to people learning to address histories of illness or trauma, or to organisations working across sectors who are learning to communicate and enhance aspects of their practice.

LILA builds upon an emerging body of research into language use and language learning in which multiple creative arts practices have been part of the context, methodology, or outputs. Although some of this research has been analysed in terms of participants’ learning, this has focused on how arts practice supports language/intercultural learning, and the ways in which learning takes place through the co-production of language- and arts-based practice remains under-explored. The network therefore aims to address this gap by bringing together researchers across disciplines, artists, and community and cultural organisations in order to share projects and insights.

Through four one-day events in the UK (Leeds, Pudsey, London) and Catalonia, Spain (Lleida), the network will consider what different actors – research participants, audiences, organisations, researchers - learn at the intersection of language and the arts, how they learn it, and how this learning can benefit individuals, communities, and organisations. Each event will host an invited speaker from a community or cultural organisation, and at each event an artist collaborator – a sculptor, two musicians, and a theatre company – will lead a short creative making session. In this way the network aims to cross boundaries between countries, disciplines, sectors and practices, and to invite active participant engagement with different ways of working.

We anticipate that two key benefits will arise from these insights. Firstly, they will enable different understandings of how learning might be recognised and evaluated in ways which both acknowledge the role of both the linguistic and the non-linguistic in people’s engagement with and responses to the arts. This will benefit participants in community arts, and artists, art educators, and community and cultural organisations who are under pressure to demonstrate the value of working with the arts. Secondly, they will enable new understandings for the professionals and organisations working together on community arts projects of how other sectors work and how they might improve communication and collaboration. We therefore hope that these insights will contribute to enhanced relationships within and between organisations.

LILA has emerged from, and builds upon, work in the AILA Creative Inquiry and Applied Linguistics Research Network.