Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Performance and Cultural Industries


Laura Callahan

MA Applied Theatre and Intervention

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background, where and what you studied previously etc?

After graduating from English Literature and Theatre Studies in Glasgow, I gained my PGDE (Postgraduate Diploma in Education) and worked as a teacher in secondary schools across Glasgow before leaving in 2014 to pursue a career change, having become a little disillusioned with modern mainstream education.

What made you want to apply to your MA course and to Leeds?

Having spent a year volunteering with a community arts organisation in South Yorkshire, I knew I wanted to learn more about applied theatre as a field of practice. I was drawn to this course because of the balance of practical and theoretical study and the freedom to tailor my studies to my own interests and professional development needs. I also knew that the University had excellent links with leading practitioners in the field and would give me the opportunity to learn from these.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Applied theatre is a fascinating area of study. Until I began this course, I had no idea of the range of practice that comes under this umbrella or of the complexity of ideological, ethical and practical considerations that have to be balanced and weighed in each project. As someone who has always been on the hunt for ways to make the world a slightly better place, applied theatre provides me with endless inspiration – I now have an ever-expanding list of things I want to try.

What aspects of the course do/did you enjoy the most?

One thing I have particularly enjoyed is the opportunity to learn from leading practitioners in this field, such as Blah Blah Blah Theatre Company, Purple Patch Arts and TiPP, as well as having the opportunity to develop and deliver my own workshops. My individual project was a particular highlight for me, as it gave me the opportunity to design my own project, set my own outcomes and expand my practice by working in unfamiliar contexts.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is a much more interesting city than I previously thought. The University has highlighted a real range of interesting cultural events and opportunities happening in and around the city. I live in Sheffield and commute to attend lectures and tutorials but I frequently quite wish I lived here! The most surprising thing about studying in Leeds has been meeting the other people on the course. We all come from such different backgrounds, with such varied experiences, and it has been fascinating hearing the different perspectives people are able to bring to the work.

 What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The facilities at the University are excellent. I’m a little bit in love with the library although I always seem to take home far more books than I end up having time to read. I’ve been very impressed by how many resources can be accessed via the internet, especially as I am based away from the University campus. The Skills@Library support has been really helpful too. For me, returning to education after quite a significant break, I found that so much had changed or I had simply forgotten how to do things, but the support available was really helpful, particularly during assignments.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

There are so many opportunities to take part in outside the course, from theatre groups to sporting events. Last year, for example, I attended a workshop with Theatre of Debate, who disseminate cutting edge scientific research through theatre, something that I probably wouldn’t have thought would work if I hadn’t seen it in action. I’m also an Education Outreach Fellow for my School and am really looking forward to seeing what opportunities this will bring.

 What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

This course has genuinely changed my life. This course has opened up so many different routes for me and I feel that the new understanding I have will allow me to develop a practice that is both personally and professionally fulfilling but may also manage to change other people’s lives and make the world that little bit more joyful.

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