I am a mid-career Outdoor Community Arts Practitioner specialising in socially engaged ensemble performance using Mask, Puppetry, Object Theatre and Biomechanics. I was born in Sheffield, and grew up in South Africa, cutting my teeth as a performer at the Performing Arts Workshop and as a Stage Manager at Pieter Toerien Theatre, both in Johannesburg. I returned to the UK to take a BA (Hons) degree in Theatre Arts at Bretton Hall College of the University of Leeds and went on to study further at Middlesex University and Gitis Academy, Moscow. For the past 25 years, I have worked as the Artistic Director of Faceless Arts, an Outdoor Community Arts company I founded in Wakefield in 1990. I continue to perform, adapt and direct a range of outdoor performance and community productions for the company.
Why I chose Leeds?
The University of Leeds was the perfect practical choice for my part time MA. The close proximity of the Leeds City campus to Wakefield enabled me to juggle family life, study and work commitments with relative ease. As a Russell Group University, I knew that Leeds had a good reputation for research. Through my practice, I was striving to work at the leading edge of outdoor community arts with communities less well served and study at Leeds on the post graduate taught MA enabled me to explore the theoretical underpinnings of this work and consider, more widely, performance as social engagement in contemporary culture.
Areas of research
Having focussed my practice for years around creating outdoor arts experiences as nurture rather than instrument, I became particularly interested in the efficacy and impact of socially engaged arts practice in my research. During the research process I applied a number of my own and adapted found models to practically map creative arts experiences whilst referencing seminal socio-philosophical performance theories, such as Rancière (the Emancipated Spectator), Bourriaud (Relational Aesthetics), Jackson (Aesthetic Conviviality), Bishop (the Social Turn) and (LeFebvre (The Production of Space) to contemporary outdoor arts practice.
My experience so far…
The course provided a balanced mix of practical projects, theoretical research as well as group and individual work. The reading lists, seminars and workshops expanded my knowledge and skills exponentially. The tutors are all experts in their fields and jointly provided a board range of expertise to guide, encourage and support me to tailor my studies to my existing practice.
At the moment I’m working on…
Since graduating, I have returned to my full time work as Artistic Director of Faceless Arts. This year, I am researching and developing a new community engaged outdoor performance about migration, arranging a 25th birthday celebration and retrospective of my company’s work and planning a street arts training course for emergent street performers in Slovenia.
I now feel better informed and more equipped to theorise my practice and present my work in writing or presentation and have gained confidence by recently presenting my research at an International Conference in Participation and Engagement in the Arts in Utrecht and contributing, from an artist’s perspective, to The Farrell Review, a government commissioned report on Architecture and the Built Environment.
Whilst studying at Leeds, I was fortunate to be given an opportunity to teach on an undergraduate theatre module, which I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed working practically with my fellow postgraduate students and having access to the well stocked libraries and the university’s brilliant physical and digital resources.
In the years to come I hope to continue to develop my practice and begin to publish my theoretical work. I would like to nurture opportunities for further undergraduate teaching and, eventually, complete a doctorate.