University of Strathclyde



MUSE (Models of University and Schools Engagement) (2013 –2017). This particular collaboration developed through open discussions with staff at Knightswood Secondary School and a member of staff at Strathclyde University, based on an ongoing research project first supported through Strathclyde’s ‘Bridging the Gap’ funding and led by Marion Sheridan (now to be known as Marion Marlow). The initial aims of the project were to form new partnerships with science, electrical engineering and the humanities using optical imaging and hyperspectral imaging to interpret and reinterpret the work of the visual artist, the late Steven Campbell. Engaging with interdisciplinary activities has been at the heart of this MUSE project involving staff (university and school) and young people mainly from 2nd year and 3rd year pupils but did involve, for part of the project, 6th year pupils, from the disciplines of Science, Drama, Art & Design, Music, Dance, Creative Writing, Photography and Film. The Head Teacher and Depute Head Teacher at Knightswood were keen to develop projects that promoted the spirit of A Curriculum for Excellence and having the Dance School of Scotland on their premises wished to have these highly skilled and talented young people integrated more with the general pupil population. Since the project began pupils and staff have worked on three interdisciplinary projects from within the school environment and with staff from Strathclyde’s School of Humanities and Research Staff from Electronic and Electrical Engineering.  The 3 - 4 year project ended in September 2016 with the report completed in June/July 2017.  This last piece of work was again an interdisciplinary project with a new group of 2nd and 3rd year pupils involving specialist school staff from Music (some university input), Art & Design, Dance, Science, Drama (university input) and Creative Writing.


Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Contact Details

Marion Marlow (




Campbell, demonstrated visionary intellect using references and motifs from literature, theatre, music, dance, psychology, sociology, archaeology, with his canvasses emerging from that interdisciplinary journey. Engaging with interdisciplinary activities has been at the heart of this MUSE project involving staff (university and school) and young people (2nd year and 3rd year pupils) from the disciplines of science, drama, art & design, music, dance, photography and film. The meaning of a work depends on what we bring to it, reading or seeing the work is open to interpretation so to begin the process of interpreting Campbell’s creative output we focused on two questions: Who or What has inspired us in our creative arts? What has inspired those artists we admire? These questions were explored through workshops using drama conventions, music, art & design and a range of online sources. The young people were co-investigators selecting, interpreting, summarising and presenting their findings. In the first instance they created a repository of information and ideas using the educational online website GLOW. Using this information they created a timeline through the art & design medium of collage that identified significant artists from theatre, music, dance, film and visual art who had an impact on the young people individually and as a group.  The collage became the stimulus for the creation of an original piece of music and in turn the music was used as the inspiration for a dance performance.  6th year pupils keen to be involved created the film used as the backdrop for the dance and music performance.

During the 2nd year of the project the young people, who were now in their 3rd year, took complete control of the subject matter, their research focusing entirely on the work of Steven Campbell. Their interest was such that they created a piece of contemporary dance highlighting Campbell’s artistic and personal journey and prepared a power point presentation and short lecture to those who attended Strathclyde’s Research Day (PhD and Masters students and other researchers). Included in the presentation were examples of creative writing from a younger group of pupils who were in their 2nd year. These pupils were introduced to the term Ekphrasis where they used the stimulus of one of Campbell’s large canvasses, T’was Once and Architect’s Office in Wee Nook, producing poetry and short stories, two of which were read to the audiences who attended the performances. These creative writing pieces have recently been approved by the board of directors of The Steven Campbell Trust and have been placed on the Trust website.

Due to the success of the past few years and the learning that took place during the life of the project, school staff proposed a further project for 2016, this time working on an area not generally covered by the curriculum, Aleatoric music. Aleatoric music has a primary basis but involves chance elements, leaving the final outcome in the hands of the performers. The project was undertaken by some of the pupils who created poetry and short stories through their response to Campbell’s work using Ekphrasis, and the other young people involved were 3rd year dancers and musicians new to MUSE but who had been aware of the project since its inception.


The young people have been co-investigators and co-presenters resulting in the following outputs:

Engage Strathclyde(2014) A poster presentation given by two of the young people

SUPI Spotlight Edition(2014) A young person prepared a 200 words article published on the front page of SUPI

Strathclyde University Research Day (2014 and 2015) – Performances presented entirely by all the young people where their research findings were staged through dance, music, video and oral commentary

National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) Conference, Bristol (Nov.2014) - Joint workshop presentation (Marion Sheridan, Strathclyde University and Steven Charters, Knightswood Secondary,  School Co-ordinator for MUSE), disseminating and informing a group of delegates on the creative approaches and outcomes of the MUSE project.

The Dance School of Scotland’s Annual Showcase (2015) – The staff in the dance school were inspired by the outcome of the work on the Campbell project and using the idea of taking a work of art and responding to it became the basis for a series of contemporary choreographed pieces. Visual artists were invited to the school and asked if they would agree to a piece of their artwork being responded to i.e using Ekphrasis. The artists collaborated with the dance school the result was a series of 5 new pieces of choreography performed by pupils in the dance school, involving 1st – 6th year pupils. This performance took place, over 5 nights and 2 matinees, in June 2015 at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow.

Strathclyde University’s Electrical Engineering Dept. –Staff from electrical engineering and staff member MM involved the young people from Knightswood in a two hour workshop applying hyperspectral imaging to original artwork by Steven Campbell (provided by Campbell’s widow, Carol Campbell). The young people were impressed by the workshop space at Strathclyde and, combined with the technology of hyperspectral imaging, were motivated, carefully scrutinising the images and discovering details missed by the Strathclyde staff during the initial preparations for the workshop. This discovery contributed to the creative inspiration for the dance piece and the short lecture the young people presented to delegates at Strathclyde University Research Day (2015).

Aleatoric Music (2016) – One of the music staff took the lead on this project with pupils exploring the work of such composers as John Cage. The lead staff member in the Dance School of Scotland incorporated the work of the choreographer Michael Clarke with the art & design staff, supported by MM from the university, explored the performative visual art work of Allan Kaprow.

Performance, Presentation and Q & A to and with PGDE (P) & PGDE (S) Students in Strathclyde University - September 2016. Students were impressed by what could be achieved working on interdisciplinary projects and the 2nd & 3rd year young people answered their questions confidently, intelligently and with complete ownership of their project.

Principle School Co-ordinator – Steven Charters, Biology Teacher, Knightswood Secondary

As a result of this collaboration a ‘community of practice’ has developed amongst the young people and the staff.  In particular it is worth noting the developmental journey of the school co-ordinator a young member of the science staff at Knightswood. During this project the school co-ordinator has learned to negotiate, co-teach, organise, support and lead staff from across disciplines and work alongside senior management from within his school environment. Working closely with the principle research investigator from Strathclyde (MM) has introduced him to new methods of research and teaching approaches which he has been applying to his teaching and with the opportunity to contribute to conferences he has developed a network of contacts beneficial to his professional development and widened the school’s reputation nationally. Being one of the key personnel in this project he has been active in promoting the interdisciplinary nature of MUSE highlighting and showcasing the project as a concrete example of employing the values of A Curriculum for Excellence. Future progress may include co-authorship of a journal article with a member of the university staff.


As would be expected, time and scheduling are always a challenge with funding an ongoing problem.  Without the co-operation of staff across disciplines in the school, rescheduling some classes and giving of their time to address new material and teaching and learning approaches the project would not have succeeded. It was often difficult to match school staff, pupil and university staff availability but with everyone’s strong commitment to the project accommodations were made by all. Funding was an issue with the school staff using much of their precious allocation to meet the demands of the project. As far as possible buying of materials was restricted giving rise to inventiveness with the limited resources available. Where the young people had to be transported the school used their one allocation given by Glasgow City Council and, with some strong canvassing by the University Co-ordinator for the whole MUSE project, funds were made available to pay for transport of the young people and musical instruments allowing the group to perform at Strathclyde’s Research Day. No funds were available to pay for university staff travel.

Lessons Learnt

Have the tenacity to continue with a project knowing its worth and not be daunted by lack of funding or lack of commitment from those not directly involved with the project

Find as many opportunities as possible to promote the value of the project within and out with the university – look for support, financial and otherwise, from those with influence


Pupils – 38 across the three years of the project

School Teaching Staff – 6

University Staff – 1 Lecturer, School of Humanities, 1 Research Staff Member, Electronic and Electrical Engineering and 2 Ph.D students from Electronic and Electrical Engineering

This is was essentially a V.I.P. project that could be adopted by undergraduate and post graduate students wishing to explore the potential of public engagement. The model could be used on an AHRC project working with professional artists and other professional groups where performance is the medium through which information and understanding of a concept is explored and presented. At the moment there is a V.I.P. project of this nature which needs to be supported by staff and students across the university if it is to develop.

Suggestions for Transferability

The model of practice has the potential to promote interdisciplinary projects :-

* within and across the university faculties

* university departments working with schools

*university departments working with outside agencies, companies and organisations


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Microsoft Word Document SPELT February 2018 images.docx May 14, 2018 by Alex Buckley