Exchange Talks programme

The Exchange Talks are our weekly series of public events at RCS in which members of our staff, students, and invited speakers from academia and the professions share their research insights on art and broader issues that affect everyone in society. Exchange Talks are free and open to anyone who has an interest in the performing arts and wants to hear new ideas.

  • For in-person talks, please contact the RCS Box Office for tickets at
  • For online talks, please see the weblinks below to register for each talk.

The 2022-23 season of Exchange Talks has finished. This year we hosted a mix of in-person and online Exchange Talks. The theme was of inclusivity, and a celebration of the arts to enrich and transform lives, and the series touches every discipline at RCS: music, drama, dance, production, film, education, and research.

Please note, the programme is subject to change. You can also watch Exchange Talks on RCS at Home. RCS Staff and Students can access a complete archive of Exchange Talks on the Portal Page.

Postponed until later in 2023:

A Working Class Hero is Something to be… Stanley Baker and British Cinema’s Class Ceiling. Dr Andy Dougan

British movie stars from the Thirties and beyond are very representative of the middle and upper classes. Even in the films of the British New Wave, actors such as Albert Finney, Alan Bates, and Richard Harris may have played working class characters but they were themselves resolutely middle class. So where were the authentic working class movie stars?

In this research, Andy argues the case for the man he considers to be Britain’s first working class hero – Stanley Baker. Baker captured a new style of masculinity and touched a chord with audiences who were struggling to deal with modern times in post-War Britain.

This research will argue for a reconsideration of Baker as more than just a tough guy but as a man who wore the politics of his class on his sleeve.

Previous talks:

Monday 3 October 2022, 6:00-7:00pm. In-person talk, Fyfe Lecture Theatre.

Supporting Fair Access Learners: a dialogue about Fair Access approaches, impact, and achievement. Dr Lio Moscardini, Dr Graeme Smillie, Dr Ben Redman

The authors of three recent reports into supporting Transitions and Fair Access students will discuss their findings.

Dr Lio Moscardini: The Sounding Out Project

This report tells the story of Sounding Out, an arts project which ran for 10 weeks from January until April 2022 and involved a group of seven care-experienced young people attending schools in Aberdeenshire.

Dr Graeme Smillie: Tracking Retention and Achievement: Journeys of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Transitions Students through Undergraduate Study

This report explores Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) 20/40 student transitions from the pre-tertiary conservatoire into undergraduate study.

Dr Ben Redman: The impact of digital learning on Fair Access students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

This report explores the impact digital learning has had on Fair Access students at RCS since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday 10 October 2022, 6:00-7:00pm. In-person talk, Fyfe Lecture Theatre.

Conception, composition and creation of a new piano concerto:

a performer-composer collaboration. Marianna Abrahamyan – piano, Katrin Klose – composition

Marianna and Katrin present their new collaborative partnership as a performer/composer team through a residency jointly funded by RCS and Marchmont House in October 2021. They joined forces and brought together their research projects culminating in a new work for solo piano and ensemble. It was premiered by Marianna and the Red Note Ensemble as part of the RCS PLUG Festival in April 2022. In this Exchange Talk, Marianna and Katrin give insights into the creation of a work that integrates the aesthetics, technical abilities and practice of the performer into the music, while giving the performer a deeper understanding of the composer’s thoughts and working processes.

Monday 17 October 2022, 6:00-7:00pm. In-person talk, Fyfe Lecture Theatre.

Woman-Made – The Future Ballet Choreographers are Here! Deborah Norris

Research project in partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, and DANSOX/St Hilda’s College – Oxford University

In July 2022 a group of women dance students gathered at St Hilda’s College, Oxford to re-visit the seemingly unanswered question: Where are all the women choreographers? A five-day residential offered six dance students from two of the UK’s leading conservatoires a series of workshops with prominent women choreographers, and space and time to explore new choreographic ideas. This Exchange talk led by Deborah Norris, in collaboration with the students involved, will offer an insight into the research project and pose some of the potential changes that could initiate a shift in the culture to find a greater gender balance of ballet choreographers making work on the world’s main stages in the future.

Monday 24 October 2022, 6:00-7:00pm. Online talk.

Sonic Migrations: resonances that hold us as we walk through telematic rituals. Dr Ximena Alarcón

In this talk, Ximena reflects on her search for interfaces to listen to sonic migrations: the resonances left in-between our known divisions when we tune in and meet others across distant locations. Derived from her experience of her own geographical and cultural migration and Deep Listening® practice, she will describe the evolution of her artistic process of creating telematic sonic performances, and also engaging in the creation of interfaces for relational listening that holds us collectively in-between sound fragments, memories and diversity of perceptions across time and space.

Ximena will focus on her latest experience with the creation of the INTIMAL App©, which she is developing as an embodied interface that holds a vibrational interstitial space as we tune in with the surrounding environment, our walking and breathing pace, for the emergence of vocal improvisations shared with others across distant locations. Devoid of geo-locations and playing with different levels of immediacy, directions, and time, the INTIMAL App© invites users to perform dream-like rituals, for the emergence of networks of presence.

Monday 31 October 2022, 6:00-7:00pm. Online talk.

Is diversifying repertoire enough? Professor Nathan Holder

With the recent emphasis on diversity and equality in the music industry, repertoire is one of the most talked about ways to ‘achieve’ this. However, many barriers to access this ‘new’ repertoire exist which prevent teachers and students from discovering and performing music. While performing works by historically marginalised groups in the Global North is important, questions must be asked as to how these works are treated and added to the existing canon of Western Classical music. What does true equality mean in relation to repertoire, and is simply diversifying repertoire enough in 2022?

Monday 14 November 2022, 6:00-7:00pm. Online talk.

Dance in the Primary School in Scotland. Eilidh Slattery

In this Exchange Talk, Eilidh will be discussing her recent research project which was funded by an RCS Athenaeum Award. ‘Dance in the Primary School in Scotland’ provides an up-to-date picture of what is happening with Dance in Scottish primary schools and why. The survey was open to all primary teachers teaching in Scotland and data was also gathered from the Scottish Universities who provide Primary Initial Teacher Education programmes.

In Scotland, Dance is part of the curriculum for primary schools. 85% of teachers stated they felt dance was an important part of the curriculum, but many felt they lacked the key skills and confidence to deliver the subject. Join Eilidh as she discusses the findings and recommendations from this project and considers where we go from here.

Monday 21 November 2022, 6:00-7:00pm. Online talk.

“Emancip’ARTE”: an audiovisual investigation into the emancipatory potential of art for women in Peru. Serjara Aleman

This talk focusses on the screening and discussion of the film “Emancip’ARTE”, an audiovisual exploration of the emancipatory potential of art for women in Lima’s shantytowns. Oscillating between the global ‘culture for change’ development paradigm and the immediate need to create spaces for female art and community making, a group of Peruvian cultural workers have initiated an annual urban art festival. Serjara accompanied the women on their journey of intervening in different neighbourhoods and engaging with local community art groups. Through the creation of alliances and non-capitalised labour relations they collaboratively build community. Finally, the women’s cultural work effectively materialise utopian imaginaries used to enact the right to make art for all.

Monday 16 January 2023, 6:00-7:00pm. In-person talk, Ledger Recital Room.

Positionality and self-advocacy: reflections on Lena Horne and directions in musical theatre scholarship. Dr Hannah Robbins

Lena Horne remains one of the most famous African American stars to feature in stage and screen musicals. However, her contribution and the reception to her career have always been viewed in conversation with ethnic ambiguity and distance from other Black artists. In this paper, Dr Hannah Robbins questions how our understanding of Horne’s career and identity have been constructed through racist biases and consider how she navigated her experiences of racism by maintaining her own voice and community.

Monday 23 January 2023, 6:00-7:00pm. Online talk.

‘Opening Doors’: Making the Most of Creative Opportunities. Isaac Savage and Jonathan O’Neill

As emerging theatre-makers and performers who graduated during the pandemic, Jonathan O’Neill and Isaac Savage have tried to make the most out of every opportunity possible, and to create new opportunities of their own in order to kickstart their creative careers.

This Exchange Talk is named after Stephen Sondheim’s only autobiographical song, ‘Opening Doors’ from Merrily We Roll Along, in which the protagonists (also musical theatre writers) are taking their first steps into the creative industry and knocking on producers’ doors trying to get their first hit.

Applying for new opportunities can be daunting and missing an opportunity can be frustrating. And of course, the rejection, though inevitable, is disappointing. No one likes a door slammed in their face!  This has been the same story for Jon and Isaac, but occasionally they have been lucky enough to get their collective foot in the door and have received funding, platforms, and support for various projects.

Jon and Isaac will share their experiences of these application processes and how they try to use every opportunity to better their work and creative development. This talk will mainly centre around musical theatre creative opportunities (although it will be applicable to other mediums) and focus on their experience in winning the RCS Bruce Millar Graduate Fellowship in 2021, which enabled them to develop their new musical, Stay.

Monday 30 January 2023, 6:00-7:00pm. Online talk.

Reconstructing Fragmentary Renaissance Polyphony: Jacob Obrecht’s Missa Scaramella. Dr Fabrice Fitch.

The fragmentary Missa Scaramella by Jacob Obrecht (c.1457/8–1505) survives uniquely in two of an original set of four part-books. Reconstructing the material of the two missing part-books (the top voice and the tenor) poses very different problems. In this presentation, Dr Fabrice Fitch will explore these challenges and presents some proposed solutions (part of a reconstruction of the entire mass cycles). One of the outcomes of the work is the rediscovery of the original notation for two enigmatic canons in the Credo, which it has been possible to identify and reconstruct.

Monday 20 February 2023, 6:00-7:00pm. In-person talk, Fyfe Lecture Theatre

Instruments of Change. Sandy Coffin.

Drawing on her research and her own period performance experiences, Sandy Coffin will discuss the timbral possibilities presented in chamber music composed for chromatic brass from 1848-1868. Using original works by Jean-François Bellon and Auguste Mimart and the arrangements by Julian Tollot of Haydn string quartets for five brass, she examines how those qualities shifted as the instruments developed, the impacts of those changes on brass performance and education in France and Britain, and how in turn the opportunity to work with original instruments can benefit music learning today.

Monday 27 February 2023, 6:00-7:00pm. In-person talk, Fyfe Lecture Theatre

Lost Art of Hollywood. Gary Fry.

Gary Fry, lecturer in Scenic Art at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, will introduce the work of Scottish artist George Gibson (1904-2001). Gibson is a name unfamiliar to most, despite his work being widely seen in iconic films including The Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951) and Brigadoon (1954).

Gibson was unsung and unknown throughout his long career due to the secrecy surrounding his craft – the studios kept this from audiences to further enhance the spectacle seen on screen. Travelling to the US from Glasgow, as many did between the wars, Gibson found himself in California, via New York, in 1930. Gibson is widely regarded as the best in the business and trained many others who went on to set up their own painting studios.

We are very fortunate at the RCS to have been donated six backdrops from the Gibson era at MGM. These are used as teaching tools for scenic art students studying at the RCS. They are also used to educate the wider public on this remarkable Scot whose life’s work has been seen hiding in plain sight in some of the most cherished films ever made.

Monday 06 March 2023, 6:00-7:00pm. Online talk.

RCS  MEd Learning and Teaching in the Arts Graduate Showcase

The MEd in Learning and Teaching in the Arts programme from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is suitable for all arts education professionals who wish to enhance their teaching practice. It is a part-time 180-credit programme that provides a unique opportunity for arts educators to upgrade their teaching qualifications and obtain a Masters qualification that has been designed to develop teaching skills for the arts. It is delivered on a part-time basis through a blended learning model, which includes a mix of face-to-face sessions, online sessions, one-to-one tutorials, and independent study.

In this session, five of our recent graduates will present a brief overview of what they chose to do for their final project, and what impact it had on their practice.

Ros Maddison

For her MEd Final Project, Ros set out to investigate the challenges of teaching the current ‘Generation Z’ undergraduate students, and whether learning and teaching methods need to change to accommodate them.

Ros is Head of Production at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She has been leading the production department at RCS since 2002, as well as fulfilling several external academic advisory roles across the UK and internationally.

Nikki Doig

The teaching of drama is frequently marginalised in the primary school, with teachers often lacking the confidence and subject knowledge to teach it effectively. Nikki’s MEd Final Project investigated the potential for the dramatic enquiry approach ‘Mantle of the Expert’ to develop student teacher confidence to apply drama as pedagogy.

Previously a class teacher and principal teacher in primary education, Nikki is a Lecturer in Education at the University of Dundee. Her scholarship centres on teacher confidence, drama in education, and learning beyond subject boundaries.

Finlay Hetherington

Finlay will share the results of his Final Project report, investigating how a training resource could best serve Instrumental Music Teachers in Scotland in supporting learners with additional support needs.

Finlay is a music educator and trumpet player. Over the past 20 years, he has taught in primary, secondary and tertiary education, specialising in instrumental and class teaching. Finlay has also written and delivered degree modules for Edinburgh College, accredited by Kingston University London.

Ray Tallan

With filmmaking being the epitome of collaboration, how does one negotiate with its perception as a director’s medium, especially in education? Ray’s research looks at how the film industry, along with educational institutions, can begin to negotiate with this common view shared by an uneven balance of film course applicants and students.

Ray is the Head of Film at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Ray’s background is in cinematography, and he taught in this area before taking up his current post.

Clara Bloomfield

“Hey you guys, what is the impact of autobiographical performance as an online pedagogical approach on the well-being of performing arts students in Further Education during the COVID-19 pandemic?”

Clara is an award-winning Scottish Theatre-Maker, Lecturer and Creative Therapist. Through her work, she creates socio-politically engaged performance and participation experiences across a range of contexts and settings.

Monday 13 March 2023, 6:00-7:00pm. Online talk.

ACADEMIX: A shared European industry in the making? Colleen Cameron

ACADEMIX is an EU funded project between five European Conservatoires, in which Heads of Studies discuss how their curriculum could better equip acting students to seek and create work in Europe.

What is the theatrical landscape in each country, the challenges artists face in their respective industries, and what would it mean to build towards a common industry of theatre?

In this talk, Colleen Cameron will share the core discussion points and outcomes of the first phase of the ACADEMIX project, whilst reflecting on how, if it is indeed possible, we might dare to create the foundations of a Young National Theatre of Europe.

Monday 20 March 2023, 6:00-7:00pm. In-person talk, Fyfe Lecture Theatre.

RCS Doctoral student showcase.

Please join us for a special Exchange Talk showcasing the fantastic doctoral research being undertaken by first-year full-time and second-year part-time students from the PhD and DPerf cohorts at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The evening will consist of short, fast-paced presentations focusing on each student’s field of work. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in undertaking doctoral study to hear about current projects and the research process.

Rakhat-Bi Abdyssagin: Timbre-Texture Co-ordinate

This presentation will demonstrate how timbral-textural relations can create very specific dimensions in contemporary music. Emphasis will be made on displaying a process of construction and revealing a distinctive compositional ‘co-ordinate’ on an architectonical level, using examples from selected own works.

Rakhat-Bi is a composer and pianist. At the age of 20, he wrote two Operas (The Path lit by the Sun and The Mysterious Lady). He is the author of more than 150 music compositions, including large-scale symphonic works. His music is performed in concert halls in Europe, Asia, and America. He gives solo recitals and symphonic portrait concerts.

Huixin Hu: Exploring the idiom of Bartók’s musical language in 44 Duos for Two Violins, its technical and pedagogical significance and correlation to his other string works.

Huixin will introduce her DPerf project and explain why she believes the 44 Duos for Two Violins can be an important key to understanding the string works of Bartók written both before and after the 44 Duos. She will also explain why she wants to transcribe a selection of Bartók’s Microkosmos piano series as an educational tool for teaching young violinists.

Huixin came to RCS in 2016 to study violin with Professor Andrea Gajic, gaining undergraduate and master’s qualifications. She has been a soloist and leader of RCS orchestra on a number of occasions. She has also been part of the Twogether duo, performing in Scotland for Live Music Now since 2019.

Jamie Mackay: The Goals, Values and Strategies of Art School Lecturers

Jamie will share the findings of his recent study with lecturers of fine art, in the context of his wider exploration of the potential for non-directing coaching methods to support artist development.

Jamie is a graduate of Glasgow School of Art and after working at the RCS (formerly RSAMD) as a Scenic Art and Theatre Design lecturer for many years, he took on his current role as Head of Postgraduate Learning and Teaching Programmes and Academic Development. His PhD study is allowing him to challenge his assumptions about art, art education, creativity, and self-determined learning.

Marina Sanchez-Cabello: Exploration of the relationship between listeners and performer in a musical encounter model

Marina’s research explores the relationships between music-performer-listener in a musical encounter model that is characterised by an active and reciprocal engagement between participants. Marina’s first pilot study explores the experience of the listener.

Marina is a modern and baroque cellist based in Glasgow. She is currently in the second year of part-time PhD study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She teaches lower strings for Big Noise Govanhill (Sistema Scotland).

Kenneth Tay: Negotiating the Sacred, Secular, and Multicultural

Kenneth explores sacred music through the hybridisation of Western and Asian influences in his compositional voice.

Kenneth is a choral music practitioner, and divides his time between composing, conducting, singing, teaching, research, music production and recording. He is currently a PhD candidate in composition, under the supervision of Oliver Searle and Stuart MacRae at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Shilpa T-Hyland: Talking to Ghosts – the 21st Century History-Play

How does the contemporary history-play contribute to historical knowledge in the UK, and can it do so differently from other forms of historical narrative? Shilpa will give a brief contextualisation of the 21st century history-play, using the meeting points of Re-enactment Studies, Historiography, and Performance Studies.

Shilpa is a PhD candidate and theatre director. She studied for an MA in Classical and Contemporary Text at RCS, and has an MA (Hons) from Glasgow University in English Literature and Theatre Studies. Recent directing work includes: Wickies: The Vanishing Men of Eilean Mor (Park Theatre), Revolution Days (Bijli), We’ll Meet in Moscow (Traverse Theatre), Roxana (Paisley Book Festival/Renfrewshire Leisure).

If you are interested in sharing your work in an Exchange Talk, please email Ben Redman, Research Development Officer.