Seeking Perfection – Young People Exploring Enhancement with Researchers

by | Feb 3, 2022

Teenagers developed drama and music performances after working creatively with biomedical researchers.

The ‘Seeking Perfection’ project explored human enhancement – tackling issues such as boosting athletic performance and using plastic surgery. The project was led by The University of Manchester, Nowgen, Contact Theatre and the Manchester Science Festival and this unique collaboration was successful in sparking the curiosity of young minds around research.

The project brought together an unusual mix of people. There were fifteen participants (aged 16 – 25) and most of them were from disadvantaged backgrounds. They worked with creative professionals and researchers from different disciplines to co-create performances and perform during Manchester Science Festival.

“I thought when I finished school I would never have to think about science again, and I’ve learnt it’s around us all the time and I should maybe pay more attention. I might blink and the world could be a completely different place.”
Teenage project participant

The team met regularly over six weeks to explore the scientific, social and ethical issues associated with human enhancement. Each session encouraged the participants to discuss their ideas and improvise their responses through music, theatre and dance. The project culminated in a performance that involved all the participants and was delivered in two unusual settings; at Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre and embedded within a public debate about enhancement at a local arts centre. The performance received an excellent response and the team all reported learning a lot from one another.

This project was funded by a People Award from the Wellcome Trust.

Top Tips

  • Be brave and try working with people from different disciplines and in new venues – the rewards are worth it!
  • It takes time to bring new teams together successfully. We jumped immediately into exploring science in the first workshop when we should have spent more time allowing people to get to know one another.
  • It is vital to listen to everyone’s perspective. The young participants needed some encouragement to express their views about science, as many had never spoken to researchers before, but they had intriguing insights and questions to contribute.