Samuel McKay, Applied Theatre PhD student

Samuel McKay

My PhD is in Applied Theatre, which involves politically or socially-driven theatre activities, usually engaged with specific communities. My research looks at how practice in this field is changing in a period of austerity, and specifically at the work being done with refugees being done by theatre companies, practitioners, and researchers.

My undergraduate degree was a very ‘hands on’ drama degree, whilst my Masters examined cultural theory from a theoretical and philosophical perspective. I feel my research brings these two approaches together. I’m originally from Leeds, but I’d lived away for several years. Choosing to do my PhD here was about the supervisor and the School – I think that’s often the case with a research degree. The School of Performance and Cultural Industries has a strong research profile in applied theatre and I identified a supervisor whose research interests matched mine.

There are amazing theatre facilities here – better than some drama schools – and the School blends academia and industry in a way that most other universities don’t. In my research, I work with different theatre companies and researchers around the county. The University’s reputation has helped enormously in making those connections.

Location is the other great plus for me. The arts scene in Leeds is thriving, with emerging theatre companies and community arts initiatives. There’s also so much going on in the wider region – Huddersfield, Bradford, Sheffield, Manchester, York – and it’s so easy to access this.

It’s also a great place to live with a real range of options. I live about 15 miles outside Leeds. Some of the other researchers in my School live with their families, in more rural places; others live right in the city, close to the University. In our field, this often affects the kind of research we do and the communities we work with. That variety means our discussions are really broad.

There’s so much going on around campus – societies, events and sports facilities. It’s all there for you, as much or as little as you want. My School also has a strong research community, with regular social events.

The University offers a huge amount of training for researchers. I’ve attended training on writing papers for publication and ethical authorship, and this has helped my publishing. I’ve attended several conferences and get a real buzz from swapping ideas with other academics.

I have two supervisors – my secondary supervisor (with a complementary research specialism) is in the School of Fine Art. This has brought different perspectives and pushed my research to keep up with the latest thinking in the area.