Arts and Social Justice: Introducing 3 new PhD researchers at the Institute for Social Justice

To mark the launch of the Institute for Social Justice we are delighted to welcome three postgraduate researchers, Ruth Lambley, Nicola McAteer and Natalie Quatermass, to ISJ at YSJ.

Their PhD research projects will engage with themes that will be central to the development of the Institute – including mental health, ecological justice and the role of the arts in social justice – and we look forward to working with them over the coming years.


Ruth Lambley: Co-production, Arts and Mental Health

Ruth is the co-ordinator of the Converge Evaluation and Research Team, a group of researchers based in Converge at York St John University with lived experience of mental health difficulties. She believes passionately that for moral and ethical reasons people with lived experience of mental health difficulties should be involved in the whole research process, and that such research and evaluation should be used as a tool to improve people’s lives.

Supervised by Dr Nick Rowe, her PhD research will explore co-production, mental health and the arts. It will focus particularly on the process of co-production with people with mental health difficulties who might find it difficult to engage in traditional research methodologies. It will also explore the experiences of the Converge researchers as they carry out their research and evaluation activities.


Nicola McAteer: Community Music, Covid-19 and the Digital Environment

Photo credit: Ken Harrison

Nicola is undertaking a PhD in partnership between ISJ and the International Centre for Community Music with supervision by Professor Lee Higgins exploring community music’s journey through a global pandemic, specifically within the realm of mental health and wellbeing. Covid-19 has shed new light on the gross injustice of public health inequality and Nicola’s action research intends to challenge this through exploring the role of digital environments within community music practice.

Nicola previously completed a MSc in Music in the Community in 2009 at the University of Edinburgh with supervision from Professor Nigel Osborne on her exploratory research study into the use of music as a self-advocacy tool for people with learning disabilities including those with profound and multiple learning disabilities.  Nicola has been a community musician for over 15 years working with vulnerable people within communities including those with disabilities, poor mental health and wellbeing, trauma, dementia, families of early years and SEN and also those who are newly arrived to the UK and asylum seekers.  Nicola is a passionate advocate for using music as a catalyst for social purpose and change.



Natalie Quatermass: Theatre, Young People and Environmental Justice

Natalie is a theatre director and creative practitioner, whose work is often inspired by socio-political issues. She is currently the Youth Theatre Director at Freedom Studios, Bradford and Co-Artistic Director at Vandal Factory, through which she collaborates with a diverse range of artists and young people. Supervised by Professor Matthew Reason and Dr Catherine Heinemeyer, her PhD proposal considers how can theatre be used as a tool to amplify the voices of young and marginalised communities within the Environmental Justice movement.

She will begin her research by assembling a group of Bradford based young people and asking them how they would wish to use resources at Freedom Studios and Vandal Factory to tackle environment injustice in their local community. She wishes to investigate how theatre can strengthen this movement and make a tangible impact on the level of engagement, advocacy and leadership from marginalised communities with the environment.  


Starting 1 October 2020, Ruth, Nicola and Natalie’s research projects are supported by PhD fee bursaries from ISJ.