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The University of Southampton
Interdisciplinary Research Excellence

A novel way to create impact from research: ‘Fidel the musical’

Published: 7 October 2015

By project creator, Dr Denise Baden

Research inspired: ‘Fidel the musical’ was inspired by my research in Cuba. The image of Cuba as a country with little freedom of speech, no democracy and plagued by bureaucratic inefficiency, did not stand up to scrutiny. Despite its poverty, its biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector surpasses ours in terms of innovation, and the country’s level of well-being in terms of literacy, mortality, equality, and political and cultural literacy also equals or surpasses ours. Cuba was also rated by the WWF as the only sustainable country, and so there’s potentially a lot we could learn from it, but the demonization of Fidel Castro has meant that little accurate information gets through.

Countering misinformation: My impatience with the level of misinformation about Cuba inspired me to use the medium of a musical to counter some of the prejudice, and make people more aware of the tale of the Cuban revolution, and the values of solidarity that it stands for. But this is a musical by the people for the people as we are engaging music students across the UK in a competition to write the songs, and the winning songs get to be in the musical see  It has really taken off and I now have over 300 schools and colleges signed up and writing the songs. Apparently Fidel himself knows of it and I may even get to meet him! The project got a great write up in the Times Higher Education.

Raising money for a professional production: The original idea was for the schools themselves to have the right to put on the resulting musical, but there has also been demand for a professional production. The Mayflower Theatre has offered to workshop it for us and will bring in a professional musical director, choreographer, orchestra etc. They theatre has offered us a much-discounted price to reflect the community values and I am now trying to raise money for the workshop. All donations are welcome as this will be the test to see if it has ‘legs’! See  Also, please do pass on details to anyone who might be interested! I'm amazed how many people are secret musical lovers or Cubaphiles!

Research or spin-out? This has been a unique project bordering the lines between University research, public engagement, impact and spin out! Rather than be put off by this ambiguity, Diana Galpin and the R&IS team have welcomed the challenge and been very helpful in helping to decide how to manage this project both in the present and potentially in the future.

Impact case study for the REF: This also has potential to be an impact case study as I aim to demonstrate that participation in the project enables greater awareness on the part of the students of some of the key events, issues and characters, as well as about song-writing in general. I am looking for researchers from Music, Education or even History or Politics to collaborate with me on this impact study. Apparently an impact study is now worth seven academic papers in the REF, so it is a worthwhile investment of time. But we have to get started before the competition deadline on 6th Nov.



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