Dr Sarah Bartley

Dr Sarah Bartley


I have been a community arts practitioner for ten years developing performance in a variety of different social contexts including: health, employment, education, and the criminal justice sector. My practice is now predominently based in prison settings and I have worked with a number of prison arts organisations including Rideout, Create Arts, and Unlock Drama. Between 2012-2014 I was Co-Artistic Director of Shifting Point, a Big Lottery funded theatre project for people released from prison to support the reintergration and representation of these individuals through performance interventions. 

My research is examines the intersections of work, participation, and performance at play within socially engaged and applied theatre practices. It considers how social and activist dimensions of applied theatre operate in relation to the political and economic priorities of austerity. Previously I have examined representations of work, labour, and unemployment onstage. My current research expands on this to more broadly consider economies of participation in the UK. Further, I am developing my research to encompass my work as an arts practitioner in criminal justice settings, interrogating the specific social, economic, and cultural tensions at play when delivering arts projects in prisons.

Research interests

  • Performance and the Welfare State
  • Austerity, Activism, and Community Theatre Practices
  • Participation and Labour
  • Intersections of Social and Cultural Policy
  • Applied Theatre and Socially Engaged Performance
  • Activist and Interventionist Performance
  • Verbatim, Documentary, and Testimonial Performance
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD
  • Performing Welfare:
  • Discourse, Image, and Embodiment in Representations of Unemployment in Participatory Performance
  • Supervised by Professor Jen Harvie and Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey
  • Dr Jenny Hughes and Dr Louise Owen

Student education

In session 2018-2019 I am teaching:

  • Performance Project 2: Collaborative Performance (Performance and Cultural Industries: Year 2)
  • Researching Theatre and Performance (Performance and Cultural Industries: Year 2)
  • Performance Project 3: Public Performance (Performance and Cultural Industries: Year 3)
  • Contemporary Performance Makers (Performance and Cultural Industries: Year 3)
  • Critical Concepts in Applied Theatre (Performance and Cultural Industries: MA)


  • Approaches to Theatre and Performance (School of English: Year 1)
  • Drama: Reading and Interpretation ((School of English: Year 1)