March 7, 2018 | Simon Jenkins
“Doing a PhD has given me time to think, reflect and act,” says Matthew Elliott, whose research builds on passions stirred as an undergraduate, when a work placement in Chile enabled him to use drama to engage with prisoners.
Later he returned to South America to attend a huge festival, featuring artists from across Latin America: “It changed my life. I was mesmerised by the power of theatre as a vehicle for social change. It gave me a thirst for learning.”
Matthew’s PhD is examining how theatre can engage young people in politics – both in Leeds, where he volunteers at a youth group in a deprived suburb, and in Chile, where he works with children as young as 12 living in a former military camp.
“For me, putting on a play is never enough. It’s about beauty and enjoyment, but it’s also about finding a way for young people whose future looks bleak to express themselves politically.”
Matthew’s PhD is made possible thanks to a scholarship funded by a Leeds graduate, and he says this generosity is a real source of confidence: “It’s as though someone is saying: ‘We believe in what you do and would like to give you the space in which to do it.’
“What more could you ask?”