Dani Abulhawa | داني ابوالهوى

Dani Abulhawa | داني ابوالهوى


I joined the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds in September 2021. Prior to this I worked for 9 years at Sheffield Hallam University, and 4 years at the University of Chester.

I obtained my Practice-as-Research PhD in 2015 from the University of Plymouth. My research explored the social conditions that inhibit women’s use of public urban space through the activity of public urban playing. This enquiry developed from my decades long skateboarding practice and the experiences I had as a woman playing on a skateboard in public urban spaces. Findings from my research have attracted interest from companies and organisations working on play and urban space design, and those looking to encourage women’s and girls’ use of public play facilities.

Research interests

Play and spatial politics in Palestine: SkatePal

In 2015 I began working with SkatePal, a charity who build skateparks and support practitioners’ skateboarding practice in the Occupied West Bank. I helped to build SkatePal’s second skatepark in Asira Al-Shamalyia, in the north of the West Bank, and began conducting a research project in collaboration with the charity. This was initially about exploring how the charity operate in relation to conventional applied sports and performance initiatives. In the years that followed I have made annual return visits to the skatepark to conduct ongoing fieldwork, exploring how the practice and social forum of the skatepark has impacted local people as well as SkatePal volunteers.

Skateboarding is a physically demanding and highly creative activity, it is practised by a diverse range of participants, and it often engages children and adults who do not feel drawn to traditional or competitive sports. In this way, skateboarding can play an important role in helping to get as many people as possible to be more physically active. Skateboarding is also a form of accessible expressive practice – akin to dance – which raises its potential to function beyond the scope of exercise, as a form of community-based somatic practice.

Physical culture of skateboarding: Skate Manchester

Closer to home, I am the co-director of community interest company, Skate Manchester. Our aims are to:

  • Advance the practice, culture, and heritage of skateboarding in Manchester and Greater Manchester through building a supportive and inclusive skateboarding community; and campaigning for the creation, restoration and maintenance of new and old free and open-to-all skate spots in the city.
  • Educating the wider public of Manchester about the health, social and community benefits of skateboarding in and around Manchester.
  • Promoting the democratic planning of public space in Manchester through dialogues with the local authority.

Expressive Movement Practice: Accumulations

Aside from skateboarding, my training is broadly located within contemporary performance, somatic practice and community-centred facilitation. I have completed training in the Creative Articulations Process, Laban Efforts, human-centred design for community working, and Six Viewpoints.

I am one of four co-founders of Accumulations, a community of dance and movement artists based in the North of England. We support movement artists to test and develop somatic and choreographic practice through access to our shared studio space in Manchester, or through peer-to-peer professional development activity. The four of us who founded Accumulations also collaborate on curatorial and choreographic projects together.

Coastal communities and seaweed cultivation: PEBL CIC (Plant Ecology Beyond Land)

In response to biodiversity breakdown within the climate crisis, In 2019 I co-founded a community interest company called PEBL – Plant Ecology Beyond Land, in collaboration with Materials Scientist, Dr Christian Berger. PEBL is contributing to the development of a renewed aquaculture sector in Wales focused around the conservation and farming of seaweeds. I am passionate about interdisciplinary working and became involved in PEBL partly through my involvement in the performance activities of surfing and skateboarding, which have an intrinsic link with the sea.

Increased attention is being paid to seaweed aquaculture to reduce land-use for the production of protein, to increase biodiversity, and to provide new jobs within coastal communities. So far we have received three grants from Innovate UK to develop a hatchery, water quality and seafarm monitoring equipment, and to determine community engagement and social licensing needs for the sector. We built a facility at Penmon Point in Anglesey, which is powered entirely by solar energy. We have an open area between the two containers that we are offering to community groups to initiate and run performance and arts activities with a view that our ‘hatchery’ becomes a conceptual cultivation space, as much as it is a literal one.

The sector would benefit from greater public awareness of seaweed farming for food. Social licensing can be a barrier for seafarmers looking to create seafarms within coastal communities, and to gain licenses. The sector would also benefit from clearer pathways into seaweed farming that might encourage entry and democratise access for more diverse and local seafarmers. These are the aspect of PEBL’s work that I bring my skills and experience to as a creative practitioner

<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, University of Plymouth, 2015
  • PGCert Learning & Teaching in HE, 2007
  • MA, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2006
  • BA (Hons), University of Northampton, 2005

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Student education

I teach primarily within the Applied Theatre and Intervention masters programme, as well as on the undergraduate Theatre and Performance programme.

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>