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The Sound Of Musicals in China

The cast of Broadway Asia’s 2016 production of Jay Chou’s “The Secret.” (Photo by Wang Xiaojing)

In this latest Guest Blog, Laura MacDonald, an Arts & Humanities Research Council funded International Placement Scheme Fellow asks “Japan and Korea have embraced and nurtured Western-style musicals. Can China be far behind?”

The blog post originally appeared in American Theatre and our sincere thanks is given to them for their kind permission to republish.

After a brief out-of-town tryout near Shanghai, the cast, crew, and creative team of the new Chinese jukebox musical The Secret journeyed north to Beijing for opening night last Dec. 23. It was a bad time to travel, as “airpocalypse”—the worst air pollution of 2016—circled the capital city, grounding hundreds of flights. With restrictions on vehicles based on license plate numbers (to reduce road traffic), trucks carrying the physical production of The Secret had to be directed to the outskirts of Beijing, then unloaded and reloaded into vehicles with the right-numbered license plates for the day, before finally arriving at the Tianqiao Performing Arts Center.

Strolling through the Temple of Heaven park opposite the thea­tre the day before opening night, Marc Acito, the show’s librettist, recalled some of the challenges of bringing a new musical from a January table read to a December opening night in a country still in the early stages of adopting such Western musical theatre staples as workshops and previews.

Working initially with Google Translate for the lyrics, Acito wove Taiwanese singer/songwriter Jay Chou’s songs into the loosely adapted narrative of the 2007 film of the same name, which Chou co-wrote, directed, and starred in. Interpolating Chou’s hit song “Nunchucks,” Acito struggled to understand the lyric dong ya bing fu, a derogatory Japanese label for Chinese people that roughly translates as “sick man of East Asia.”

“We’ve already decided we’re going to use this martial-arts song as sort of a war cry during a rugby game,” Acito explained. Working with a translator to unpack the reference, he learned that it appears in the famous scene from the classic movie Fist of Fury in which Bruce Lee smashes a board with the insulting phrase on it; Acito realized that Chou was setting out to name and break this stereotype of national weakness. “So invoking this phrase invokes both the history of being perceived to be weak and the reclamation of strength,” Acito said, marvelling, “and it is one lyric.”

The Secret is a high school romance about gifted music students with a bit of time travel thrown in—Fame meets Back to the Future. At the table read in January at a studio in Shanghai, Acito and director John Rando agreed on Chou’s song “Dream Started” for the musical’s final graduation scene. It’s a song about seizing opportunities, smiling through setbacks, and persevering to achieve one’s dreams—in other words, themes and emotions familiar from Western musical theatre.

“This is very different from what the film was,” said Rando, who directs frequently on Broadway and at U.S. resident theatres. “One of our goals was to create a very uplifting and moving finale to the story that I thought would be much more appropriate for the musical theatre version of the romance.

“Spring Awakening” at Shanghai Culture Square in 2016. (Photo by Shadow Zheng and reproduced with kind permission)

Rando could be describing musical theatre in China in 2017. It’s a forward-looking industry, with a young—albeit not huge—audience that has fallen head over heels for the form. This enthusiasm went a long way when The Secret was work-shopped in April 2016 in Shanghai, in studios above the Daning Theatre, where an English-language tour of My Fair Lady was running. While Rando and choreographer Zach Woodlee, fresh from “Grease: Live!,” worked out the staging of a dramatic ensemble number, Acito quietly typed Chou’s lyrics in Pinyin (the romanization of Chinese characters) into his libretto, so he could understand, down to the last syllable, how Chou’s Chinese lyrics and his own dialogue (translated from English), were landing in rehearsal. With a Chinese counterpart for each Broadway veteran, conversations were flying back and forth in Mandarin and English. Wencong Chen, Rando’s assistant director, felt this doubling up helped “the musical to connect to the locals and also make it feel like it’s not a translated work.”

In promoting the musical to Chinese audiences, the show’s American producer, Marc Routh, said that they are trying “to explain to audiences that this is a unique opportunity to experience a homegrown musical with the craft and experience of a truly A-list Broadway creative team.” Conceiving, developing, and producing an original Chinese jukebox musical may have been the logical next step for Routh, co-executive producer (with Simone Genatt) of Broadway Asia. Routh has watched the progress of musical theatre in China for more than 20 years, while licensing American musicals in Asia and presenting English-language tours of titles such as The Sound of Music. In a long courtship process, he pitched treatments of Chou’s catalogue to the pop star’s manager before lining up a commitment to adapt The Secret. It was then that he recruited Acito.

Many Chinese people keen to enter the musical theatre business acknowledge that the form is still relatively new here. Despite a supply of talented and well-trained performers, there is not yet a wealth of Chinese artists versed in writing, directing, or designing for Western-styled musical theatre. Assistant director Chen, who also worked on Sleep No More  in Shanghai, thinks that collaboration with foreigners is what Chinese musical theatre needs to become more commercially and artistically successful.

“Especially for the creative talents, it takes time to grow and mature,” said Chen. “There still needs to be some more international collaboration to find talents across the globe and then to train the Chinese counterpart, and hone their skills.”

To further that cross-cultural education, Richard Fei, programming director of Shanghai Culture Square —a 2,000-seat theatre on the site of a former greyhound racetrack popular with Westerners in the 1920s and 1930s—has been programming a musical theatre development symposium every spring since 2014. Inviting experts from Europe, North America, and more established musical theatre industries in nearby Japan and South Korea, Fei programs seminars on topics such as producing, casting, marketing, and ticketing musical theatre. He also programs showcases of new musical theatre, seeking to stimulate the industry’s progress as much as possible.

Fei started out in the business at Shanghai Grand Theatre , translating and operating the subtitles for tours of CatsPhantomThe Lion KingMamma Mia!HairsprayHigh School Musical, and The Sound of Music before taking on his current position. Those touring productions gradually enjoyed longer runs in Shanghai and had a major impact on developing the audience now attending foreign tours at Shanghai Culture Square, where upcoming productions include GhostWickedSister ActLegally BlondeWest Side Story, and The Producers. Fei also produces one local production per season.

“This theatre is for the young generation,” he explained. That may explain why, in 2016, Shanghai Culture Square produced Spring Awakening, already popular with amateur student musical theatre groups. In 2017, Shanghai Culture Square will produce the Mandarin-language premiere of a Korean musical, My Bucket List, adapted from the 2007 Rob Reiner film The Bucket List. The musical version, which recasts characters created by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as young men, was part of a road show of Korean musicals promoted last year during the Shanghai Performing Arts Fair.

Fei also brings in British, American, and French musical theatre stars in revue shows, and collaborates with foreign producers such as Austria’s Vereinigte Bühnen Wien to bring original productions of globally successful musicals including Elisabeth and Mozart! to China, where they are performed in German with Mandarin subtitles.

Decades after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms reoriented communist China as a market economy, musicals—with their typically aspirational narratives—may seem a natural fit for a society that has increasingly embraced capitalism. Though foreign brand names punctuate Chinese cityscapes, the screening of foreign films is highly limited by government quotas, perhaps giving live foreign musicals an edge for Chinese consumers seeking a foreign cultural experience. With ample examples of successfully imported foreign musicals being regularly (and profitably) performed in neighboring Japan and South Korea, it is no surprise that savvy Chinese producers would seek to establish a musical theatre market in China, home of the world’s largest middle class.

Since George C. White, founder of Connecticut’s Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, directed a Chinese cast in The Music Man in Beijing in 1987, the Western musical has been popularized in China through productions of classics such as Man of La Mancha (first in English, later translated into Mandarin), but also through productions of more contemporary shows, like a replica staging of Mamma Mia! in 2011 and a localized production of Avenue Q in 2013. While Chinese producers, actors, and fans regularly travel to sample the wares in nearby Japan and South Korea, original Korean musicals are also being presented in China. The long-running Korean musical Laundry, about working-class neighbors pursuing their dreams in Seoul, was presented in Beijing with Chinese subtitles in 2016, and will be produced in Mandarin this year. From its Shanghai office, the Korean producer CJ E&M is also testing out Korean production models in China. These range from producing Stephen Dolginoff’s edgy, small-scale 2005 Off-Broadway musical Thrill Me to bringing a large-scale, star-vehicle Jekyll & Hyde from Korea, translated into Mandarin and directed by David Swan, an American.

If many of these musicals are still directed by foreigners, producers are increasingly coming from local ranks. Ivy Yang, who learned about musical theatre at Peking University, was working as a venture capital analyst in Tokyo, and noticed that musical thea­tre tickets were on sale in convenience stores. Recognizing an opportunity to develop the market at home in China, she returned in 2011 and reconnected with a director she met at Peking University, Joseph Graves, eventually forming the production company Seven Ages with her own savings.

Their first show was to be Man of La Mancha, which had been a hit in Japan and Korea. But when Music Theatre International asked for a license fee Yang could not afford, she flew to New York to personally persuade the musical’s composer, Mitch Leigh, to give them the license at a much reduced rate. Yang went on to produce Man of La Mancha in 2012 in English with Mandarin subtitles, then in translation. Avenue Q followed, with many tweaks in the script helping young Chinese spectators relate to Princeton (renamed Tsinghua, after the Beijing university) as he struggles to find a job after graduation. Graves also directed Seven Ages’ productions of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and The Sound of Music.

Chinese musical theatre is dominated by women like Yang, educated at elite Chinese universities, often studying abroad for a period (in her case, at Harvard), and initially working in banking or finance. While Yang’s employees in Seven Ages’ Shanghai and Beijing offices are clearly inspired by their boss, she hesitates to call herself a role model.

“Women hold up half the sky,” she points out, citing a famous pronouncement of Chairman Mao, and suggesting that it’s simply in the nature of Chinese women to work hard. With little initial funding, Yang has relied heavily on social media platforms to market her musicals and sell tickets. Julia Yuan, the company’s marketing director, started her career as an attorney but eventually quit law to work for Seven Ages, running its new media platforms, including Douban, Weibo, and WeChat, as the company prepared the Chinese premiere of Avenue Q. Like many working in musical theatre in China, Yuan doesn’t come from a theatre background, but she’s long been a passionate fan. Her primary task: to educate potential  ticket buyers on what musicals are exactly, and how they’re different from traditional Chinese opera and spoken drama.

To achieve this marketing goal, Yuan posts synopses and production histories on social media platforms, generating enthusiasm among musical theatre fans, whose positive comments are crucial to buzz around Seven Ages musicals. Seeking to connect musicals with other pop culture entering the Chinese market, Yuan has written articles and produced lighthearted videos about stars of Marvel films who also appear in plays and musicals, and has begun to attend Comic Con gatherings in Shanghai and Beijing, hawking pins and T-shirts emblazoned with the Avenue Q song title “If You Were Gay.” Seven Ages also collaborated with a Chinese LGBTQ group, promoting Avenue Q on its WeChat and Weibo accounts. Given the musical’s central theme of post-college aimlessness, Seven Ages also reached out to Chinese college musical theatre clubs, offering lectures and previewing some of the work that went into Avenue Q. As a result, that show is now among the most popular with Chinese student musical clubs.

Social media isn’t just good for marketing—it’s also how actors find out about auditions, often via a group chat on WeChat. The small, close-knit Chinese musical thea­tre industry is divided between the capital Beijing and the cosmopolitan finance center, Shanghai, requiring actors to shuttle between the cities for auditions and rehearsals.

Jenny Ding graduated from the musical theatre program at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and was quickly cast in the Chinese company of Mamma Mia!. She went on to appear in Cats in Korea and Miss Saigon in London. Rather than waste time off between jobs, last year she opened a suburban dance studio in Shanghai, where she teaches ballet. Even on the Dragon Boat Festival public holiday, Ding was at work, in case anyone found her dance studio via reviews on the social networking site Douban and wanted to tour the facilities.

Ding starred as Wendla in Spring Awakening last fall at Shanghai Culture Square and was due to play Lucy in the upcoming Jekyll and Hyde, but left that production before rehearsals began to play Nala in The Lion King, now entering its second year at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre at Shanghai Disneyland. “Every time I audition for a European or American director, they choose me as the first leading female, but if I audition for an original Chinese musical, I never get the job,” Ding said of her casting fortunes. A charming actor who radiates joy in performance, it’s easy to see how Ding appeals to directors and audiences. But in a young industry still experimenting with longer, even open-ended runs, her experience performing eight shows a week in Korea and London sets her apart from performers with less stamina and experience.

For now, even many Chinese musical theatre fans remain skeptical of homegrown efforts. Said Yuan, “Some Chinese artists, they think they can do musicals, and they try…” she trailed off. Wencong Chen concurred, explaining, “I think a lot of musicals right now in China—they write the script and write the music all separately, then create the choreography, then bring the actors together at the end, when all is created.” This can lead to storytelling redundancy, as each element may end up repeating points that have already been made, rather than integrating elements into a forward-moving whole. But while Broadway-style integrated musical theatre storytelling takes time, in China, Routh pointed out, relatively quick fundraising means projects also move quickly. The Secret has been completed in about a year.

Michael Rubinoff, producer of the Canadian Music Theatre Project that incubated Broadway’s Come From Away, is also contributing to the development of a new musical in China called Bethune. He’s recruited Canadian writers Neil Bartram, who will write music and English lyrics, and Brian Hill, who will pen the English book and direct, as well as Chinese playwright Nick Rongjun Yu, who will write the Mandarin lyrics and book. The musical is inspired by the life of Norman Bethune, a Canadian physician who helped bring Western medicine to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s. “The team is collaborating to create a more Mandarin version to be presented in Shanghai, and a more English version to be presented in Canada,” Rubinoff explains. The first workshop will take place at the Canadian Music Theatre Project in September, followed by a workshop at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts ­Centre in May 2018, and a Chinese premiere in Shanghai in 2019.

Back in Shanghai in December, university students wrapped up amateur mountings of Mamma Mia! and Legally Blonde. The Leopold-and-Loeb-inspired Thrill Me was in its second run, having enjoyed a successful premiere in the summer of 2016. Across town, The Sound of Music was struggling to fill the 1,000-seat People’s Theatre, and there were technical glitches: The venue’s limited technical facilities and slow cuing meant drops representing the Alps or Nonnberg Abbey had to be raised and lowered mid-song to ensure they were in place in time for subsequent scenes. Bracing for another touring season, the production also had a banner prominently displayed in the lobby to recruit additional von Trapp children. Stage moms are few and far between in family-focused, academically minded China, making for an added challenge in casting and maintaining a full complement of von Trapp types. For their part, Chinese children and their parents have shown more interest in another Austrian import, as they’ve flocked to the musical Mozart!, performed in German with Mandarin subtitles at Shanghai Culture Square.

Despite these challenges—from air pollution to imperfect venues, from linguistic and casting hurdles to inconsistent audiences—Chinese musical theatre producers, performers, and spectators remain bullish on this popular Western form’s future in China. The potential is there: Institutions such as the Beijing Dance Academy and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music are training triple-threat performers, and new venues are under construction, such as the five-theatre Dream Center in Shanghai. The private equity fund China Media Capital is backing this building project, as well as producers like Seven Ages, and they’re also investing in Broadway imports like Something Rotten! through Kevin McCollum’s Broadway Global Ventures. And this spring AC Orange International, a Chinese entertainment company that has also invested in such Broadway musicals as Waitress and Sunset Boulevard, will present 85 performances throughout China of a touring production of Wicked.

These Western tours, of course, only raise audience expectations for the quality of Chinese-authored musicals. But Wencong Chen seems confident that with enough time, Chinese producers and artists can unlock this form in a new way. “There’s a lot of hot money coming to the market,” he said. “I think we just need to have some more patience to create small-scale, medium-scale, and large-scale musicals.”

Laura MacDonald is a senior lecturer in musical theatre at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K.  Information on the AHRC International Placement Scheme for 2018 is available on the website , which also contains details of regional events.  This years scheme closes for applications on 25th January 2018.

A version of this story appears in the May/June 2017 issue of American Theatre.

The Seven Ages staging of “Avenue Q,” which opened in 2013 and continues to tour. (Photo by Sun Yuqian)

 

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The Sounds of Strange Phenomena: An IPS Fellowship at the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

In this latest Guest Blog, Hannah Bayley, International Placement Scheme Fellow, reflects on her experiences of the IPS Scheme and time at the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, (part of the wider NIHU (National Institutions for Humanities) in Kyoto, Japan.

Writing a doctoral thesis often triggers moments of reflection. Sat in a dedicated creative writing session at Keele on a particularly grey foggy Thursday morning I found myself looking out of the window and thinking how the weather and the damp atmosphere provided the perfect conditions in which one might expect to meet a yūrei (The most common Japanese term for ghost, roughly translated as dim spirit). This kind of meeting was something I half expected to experience while sitting in the library of the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies during my AHRC International placement, head bent over publications strewn with images of Japanese spirits and descriptions of ghostly sounds.

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

I never met a spirit in that library. However, I did leave my five-month fellowship with a wealth of ideas focused on distinctly Japanese representations of sonic haunting that have fruitfully shaped the course of my doctoral thesis. I am currently in the writing up stage of my PhD which offers a reconceptualization of the roles of sound and music in Japanese ‘ghost’ film, and how that differs from other traditions elsewhere in the world, especially considering the number of American J-horror remakes that have emerged.

I can recall two months into my PhD at Keele University receiving an email from the Music postgraduate mailing list and my efforts to carefully assess which of the six inter-university institutes that make up the National Institutes for the Humanities in Japan would be right for me. As an institute with an emphasis on comparative studies and cultural exchange the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, or Nichibunken (日文研) was well suited to my project. Further research on the host website confirmed this, as I would have direct contact with a wealth of relevant resources on filmic, literary and theatrical traditions. Pre-fellowship I had read and accessed some of their special digital databases online. Once at Nichibunken the library staff were incredibly helpful, providing guidance on how to access a number of items in print form. I was able to view unique visual materials from the collections of Paintings of Strange Phenomena and Yōkai (Ghosts, Monsters, Spirits) and the Database for Folktales of Strange Phenomena and Yōkai (Ghosts, Monsters, Spirits). The library also had a number of microfiche collections and I retrieved cuttings from the Prange collection, publications (books, periodicals, pamphlets, newspapers), documents, posters, etc. that were censored during the Allied occupation of Japan between 1945 and 1952. Articles retrieved were all reports on cinema and film music, mainly screen guides from this period of restriction in journalism. Most of the documents were in Japanese but I was granted permission to take away photocopies for future translation work.

Admittedly, I had one concern when I applied to the fellowship and that was the Japanese language level requirement. As someone who has obtained a certificate of Japanese language competency it still did not inspire a lot of confidence in me, but there was no Japanese language skills requirement for Nichibunken, and it never posed that big an obstacle as there was always help on hand and a large proportion of the library resources are in English. Support was provided by the Research Centre’s staff, visiting researchers, and students, and especially by my host supervisor, Professor Hosokawa Shuhei, who introduced me to a number of research contacts. I was encouraged to develop both my research and language skills by attending monthly seminars in English and Japanese, as well as the International Research Symposium hosted at Nichibunken, and the Sokendai (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Osaka) Cultural 2014 Forum. I presented an early version of my analysis of transnational adaptation in the music and sound design of Ju-on: The Grudge and its remake The Grudge at the Kyoto-Nara EU Association English club.

Yutate Kagura ritual dance and purification ceremony, Jōnangū shrine, Kyoto.

Yutate Kagura ritual dance and purification ceremony, Jōnangū shrine, Kyoto.                             Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

My first-hand experiences of several Japanese performing art forms from ancient court music and dance (Gagaku) to traditional puppet theatre (Bunraku), and traditional theatre forms such as Noh and Kabuki, would not have been possible without being awarded my fellowship. One of the most illuminating moments was actually being able to take part in a workshop on butoh, an avant-garde dance form that originated after World War II. The class was led by acclaimed choreographer and dancer Ima Tenko, whose performances I had attended earlier in my placement. Never underestimate the power of networking, anywhere! I began attending services at St. Agnes church in Kyoto, where I played the organ for a few services. There, I met a conservator of Japanese paintings who introduced me directly to a research contact at the International Noh Institute (INI). I was advised on performances and arranged to sit in on a rehearsal led by the Kongō School Master-Actor Udaka Michishige, leader of the INI.

 

These immersive opportunities have transformed my understanding of the unique sonic practice of Japanese performing arts. To be able to examine culturally specific traditions of supernatural and horrific representations in the Japanese arts and how they have shaped examples of sonic practice in Japanese film within the ‘field’ has enriched my understanding beyond the scope of anything I expected. My time at Nichibunken has equipped me with the original scholarly foundations required for my doctoral thesis and helped me to shape the various cultural, social and artistic contexts for a research paper I had begun working on, which will be published in 2018. Thanks to the support of staff at Nichibunken I was also able to contact figures in the Japanese film industry ‘in country’ and travelled to interview three prominent film and video game composers; Shimizu Hiromi, Kawai Kenji (pictured) and Ashiya Gary.

Meeting Kawai Kenji at his studio in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Meeting Kawai Kenji at his studio in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

During my placement, I liked the fact that I had the option to live alongside other researchers at the centre in a self-contained apartment in Nichibunken House. A nearby supermarket, post office, bank and on-site restaurant at the institute were all conveniently located. A short walk away was what quickly became one of my favourite ramen restaurants. Transportation was very reliable and frequent, especially the bus services, as Kyoto city itself is roughly a 30-minute drive away from the western edge of the city, where Nichibunken is situated. Arashiyama, Osaka and Nara are also easy to reach and of course the famous shinkansen (bullet train) was convenient for travel to places such as Nagoya and Tokyo, especially with a Japan rail pass. Being a big foodie, I was more than happy to sample some of the famous Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets), Yatsuhashi (red bean paste confectionary), and of course experience the Japanese tea ceremony, which I attended frequently. I was even trained in the Way of Tea (Chadō, Sadō or Chanoyu, literally “Hot Water for Tea”).

Aspects of Japanese culture: match tea ceremony lesson, Tō-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda- the tallest wooden tower in Japan, and the Noh theatre stage. Photos Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Aspects of Japanese culture: Match tea ceremony lesson, Tō-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda- Tallest wooden tower in Japan, and the Noh theatre stage.                                                                                                                      Photos Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Kyoto inspired me with its wealth of beautifully preserved temples, shrines, rock gardens, the former imperial palace grounds, and I didn’t miss any chances to attend the city’s festivals and illumination events. I will treasure my many walks around Kyoto reflecting on the connections of nature, animism and the supernatural in film music, whilst appreciating the beauty of viewing both the colourful maple leaves of autumn (koyo/momiji) and the first buds of the cherry blossom (sakura) season, which were often accompanied by the telling of a tale from Japanese folkore.

I am so thankful that I spied an opportunity in an AHRC email, and applied for the IPS. The fellowship has enhanced my knowledge of Japanese ghost and horror traditions through the ages in ways that have enabled me to develop fresh approaches to the criticism of films, scores and soundtracks. The impact of my placement has allowed me to develop the leading-edge expertise that I hope will open many doors as I seek post-PhD academic employment.

And who knows? Maybe I will return to Nichibunken one day and encounter a spirit or two.

 

 


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A Flurry of AHRC International Opportunities

International Placement Scheme (IPS)

The IPS call is open – as well as continuing with opportunities to visit some fantastic organisations in the USA and Japan, this year we have an exciting new host – the Shanghai Theatre Academy. The IPS scheme enables doctoral students, doctoral level researchers and Early Career Researchers to undertake a fellowship of 2-6 months. More information is available on the AHRC website and the deadline is 15th January 2015.

If you want to know what being a IPS fellow is like, we have several blog posts from previous award holders about their experiences, just click on the International Placement Scheme Tag to read more . We are always open to new suggestions of hosts, if you have a suggestion of somewhere that should be a part of this scheme, please do comment. One our current hosts, Harry Ransom center was previously suggested via a comment so it can work!

Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation Workshop in India

The AHRC, Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) and the British Library are organising a workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India’. Funding is available for 20 UK based researchers to attend. Expression of Interest must be submitted by 4pm 30th January 2015. For more information please see the AHRC website.

International Co-Investigator continues

The AHRC pilot for International Co-investigator (Co-I) has been extended until 31st December 2016. We are very pleased with how this is progressing and have extended this to allow us to fully review all aspects of international Co-I on a grant through both application and award. International Co-Investigators are eligible on research grants, research networking and follow on fund applications (other schemes may also allow this but this is decided on a case by case basis so please consult call guidance).

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Opportunities for Japanese Collaboration

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) has issued a call for a variety of Invitation Fellowships, for both short-term and long-term collaborations.

The JSPS is the leading research funding agency in Japan, established by the Japanese Government for the purpose of contributing to the advancement of science. Despite the name of the organisation, it covers all research areas, including the humanities and social sciences. 

The Fellowships provide the opportunity for researchers based outside of Japan to conduct collaborative research activities with leading research groups at Japanese Universities and Research Institutions for single visits of between 7 days and ten months. 

To be eligible, you must be an established researcher with an excellent record of research achievements. Fellowships can be awarded to the same researcher multiple times.

Further details are available from the JSPS website.

    


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Daiwa Foundation seeks to build UK-Japan links

Daiwa Foundation Awards of up to £7000 – £15,000 are available for collaborative projects that enable British and Japanese Partners to work together, preferably in the context of an institutional relationship.

These awards seek to encourage the development and sustainability of UK-Japan Partnerships between such organisations as museums and art galleries, theatres and performing arts groups, schools and universities. The Daiwa Foundation Awards can cover projects in academic, professional, arts, cultural and educational fields so long as it involved a significant level of collaboration between British and Japanese partners.

The awarding funds are restricted for use and cannot be used for certain means such as capital expenditure. A full list of eligibility criteria and restrictions are available on the awards website.

There are two application deadlines a year, which are on the 31st of March (reaching a decision by 31st May) and the 30th September (reaching a decision by 30 November). However, applicants are encouraged to submit all applications as early as possible and are available to provide advice on possible applications at grants@dajf.org.uk.

For more information visit the awards site: Daiwa Foundation Awards.

All applicants will be notified by letter from the Foundation and the decisions cannot be appealed or discussed.


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International Placement Scheme – awards announced

The AHRC run an International Placement Scheme  for AHRC-funded PhD students and early career researchers to spend time at an overseas organisation with dedicated access to their world-class research facilities, expertise and networking opportunities.

Successful Library of Congress Award Holders from Univesity of Lincoln (© University of Lincoln)

 We’ve just announced the awarded placements from the last call – 65 in total, going to one of four hosts:

  •  Library of Congress – USA
  •  National Institutes for the Humanities  (NIHU) – Japan
  •  Huntington Library – USA
  •  SARAI-CSDS  – India

Andrew and Adam, as featured in the post photo are two University of Lincoln students who are about to head off to the Library of Congress for their research on popular attitudes and comics during the second world war. The funding for the next round of the scheme isn’t confirmed yet, but we are hoping to run it in a similar way.  Please note the timetable may be brought forward  so expect an announcement later in the autumn. If you’re an early career researcher, it’s well-worth considering applying as this scheme is open to more than just PhD students: previous award holders are extremely positive about the value these awards have on their research. You can hear one of them speak here.

 We are always looking for ways to expand the scheme:  if you have any ideas of other places which might make great future hosts please let us know (either post in comments or contact Pippa Craggs – see ‘about’ link above).  Note that these partnerships require a level of support from the host institution and can take a while for the AHRC to set up.


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Do you have research links with Japan?

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) has issued calls for two ‘programs’ (short- and long-term) under its ‘Invitation Fellowship Programs’ scheme.

Funded by a subsidy from the Japanese government, these fellowships enable international cooperation and mutual understanding through scientific research. Put simply, they enable researchers in Japan to invite fellow researchers from other countries to participate in ‘cooperative activities’ such as exchanging information, giving lectures, undertaking research.  So you will need a Japanese researcher to agree to be your ‘host’. 

The guidance makes it clear that all fields of humanities are included under these ‘programs’. Costs typically covered include round-trip airfare and domestic travel, per diem/monthly subsistence allowance and, in the case of the long-term fellowship, a contribution towards research expenses.

For FY 2013 (2013/14) there are short- and long-term opportunities. The period when an application can be submitted is only very short (5 days!) so be sure to plan early to avoid missing out.

Application deadline (for host institution)*:

Long Term:     3 – 7 September 2012  

Short Term:   3 – 7 September 2012 (first round of recruitment)
                       2 – 10 May 2013 (second round of recruitment)

*Be aware that the above deadlines are for the host institutions (who submit the applications) – i.e. you will need to liaise with the host to get relevant information to them well in advance of these dates. 

Further details on how to apply are available here:  http://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-inv/index.html (refer to the links for ‘FY2013 Short Term’ or ‘FY2013 Long Term’ from the left hand menu for current application material).