Inspiring Stories

On the drama and dance courses at York St John we often talk to our students about impact their work will have politically and socially. How theatre and the arts are a vehicle for social justice. We are consequently always really proud when our amazing students go on and work in areas of social justice.

Here we profile three amazing female students and the impact they have had on making the changes they would like to see in the world around them.

Holly Sloan – My Converge Story

“Converge is a unique, award-winning partnership between York St John University and mental health service providers, offering educational opportunities for people in the local community who access mental health services. I was first welcomed to Converge nearly 4 years ago when I joined the Introduction to Theatre Course as a Student Volunteer.

I still remember how it felt the first time I stepped into that group. I was terrified. Eighteen-year-old me was only a few months into University life, still feeling homesick, and didn’t truly understand what mental health was. Yet there I was, stood in a circle of people more diverse than I’d ever been in before, about to participate in a session on the one thing I did understand; theatre.

Two hours later, I went home feeling totally awestruck. We had shared, laughed, and worked together. Despite our mix in ages and life experiences, our combined love of theatre brought us together and quickly dissolved my nerves. Thursday evenings became my favourite night of the week.

Volunteering with Converge shaped my three years as a student, and I completed my Drama: Education and Community degree with a performance lecture disseminating research around why Converge Students engage with theatre. I adored the co-production in Converge. As a York St John Student, I formed close bonds with the Converge Students I worked with because, in the space, we were equals. We supported and learned from each other.

After I finished my degree, I was successful in applying for the Converge Graduate Intern role, which I began in October 2018. This led to a more permanent role as an Administrator and Volunteers Coordinator. I love how varied my work is, from looking after the social media pages to organising events, being a website contributor, supporting the office coordinator, administrating The Discovery Hub and recruiting York St John Student Volunteers to participate in our courses.

Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to do something that felt meaningful. For me, working for Converge goes beyond that. Every day, I am inspired by my colleagues, by the tutors, and by the students. One year after finishing University, I feel so lucky to be at the beginning of a career I love. For me, this will never be ‘just a job’.”

Lydia Crosland – Sparking New Opportunities

“I completed my Undergraduate degree at York St John in English Literature and History which I absolutely loved. By the third year I was spending more time devising plays, acting in productions and working as a Youth Theatre Assistant at York Theatre Royal. I knew then where my passion was moving forward.

In September 2018 I started a Graduate Internship coordinating Platform: YSJ Spark Community Theatre; a partnership between York St John’s School of Performance and Media Production and Spark:York.

Platform: YSJ Spark Community Theatre is driven by a desire to provide quality theatre and arts that are accessible for all. I’m so proud of the work we’ve been able to develop in collaboration and offer because of the rich resource of talent in the student, staff and graduate community at York St John.

Spark is a vibrant location in the city centre drawing social entrepreneurs and emerging northern artists together. We’ve hosted live performances, soirees, open mic nights, exhibitions and student and community events. All have brought different people and communities together – engaging in creativity for social change.

As a young northern woman, I have been supported and given the confidence by the Drama and Theatre Department to develop and platform my creativity beyond the campus walls, push forward my deep desire for the arts to be accessible for all and to make a contribution to YSJ’s social justice mission. My next step is to start the Applied Theatre Masters at YSJ and continue to be an advocate for socially conscious and politically engaged arts practice for YSJ and the city beyond.”

Jessica Robson – When Creativity Promotes Social Change

“For the past 5 years, I‘ve had the opportunity to work on an innovative YSJU social justice project, the York St John University Prison Partnership Project run by Rachel Conlon in the Drama and Dance department. The Project is a partnership between York St John University, HMP New Hall and HMP Askham Grange; it brings together female prisoners and students, two different communities coming together to inspire creativity and promote social change.

I started my journey as an undergraduate Theatre student on the project in my third year where I formed Through the Gap Theatre Company with four other female theatre students. We co-ran theatre and singing workshops on a weekly basis on the project in prison. This is where I began to shape what my professional theatre practice is today.

As a student, I was intrigued by this world of theatre in prisons – a new and unknown creative territory to me. I was drawn to making work with women as collaborators in prison where they were the experts of their own powerful and hard-hitting stories and we were emerging as experts in theatre-making. Together we united to form two performances, one for a mainstream theatre audience that challenged the misconceptions and stigmas surrounding women in the criminal justice system and a performance where we performed alongside the women we had worked with, where they were granted ‘release on temporary license’ to leave the prison which enabled them to perform on campus to a university audience. This moment was powerful and life-affirming, it solidified the journey I would undertake as a theatre maker and drama facilitator. The ability to enable women to be creative and make discoveries and re-imagine new identities and talents beyond prison release in a creative process together. This felt empowering for both me as a student and for the women.

Upon completing my undergraduate course, I immediately started a master’s in Applied Theatre to enable me to further my work on the York St John University Prison Partnership Project. This created many real-world, professional opportunities for me where I was able to experience on the ground workings of a prison context and work alongside world-leading creative industry professionals. Upon completing my master’s programme I was successful in being appointed to the graduate internship for the project, which led to me being employed as a practitioner.

I am now employed as a drama practitioner by the York St John University Prison Partnership Project where I run weekly drama groups in prison and in the community. Here, I share my theatre skills and learning of the criminal justice system with new YSJU students who come onto the project as part of their work placement on the degree course. It is fantastic to feel that I can now impart my learning and knowledge to other students as they embark on their degrees here at YSJU.

The journey I have undergone with the women, prison and theatre staff has been life changing and opened my mind to wider possibilities which has exceeded the initial expectations I had when I first started as a student at university. I am clear about my career moving forward, excited by the possibilities ahead and social justice will be forevermore at the heart of my theatre-making.”

The Pink Ladies and our Sanitary Streamer!

According to BBC’s tampon tax calculator, being 21 and having started my period at around 12, I have so far spent approximately £387.39 on tampons of which £18.45 is Value Added Tax (VAT). A first glance perhaps this doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you remember that this tax is the result of sanitary products being classed as a ‘luxury’ then it starts to feel very different. As Natasha Preskey writes in the Independent:

The average woman buys, uses and throws away 11,000 tampons during her lifetime. In my local Tesco, a box of 20 regular Tampax costs £3.14. This means that someone earning minimum wage must work approximately 38 full working days to pay for her lifetime’s supply.

Across my own lifetime the BBC calculate estimates I’ll spend £1,510.81 on tampons; £71.94 of which will be taxed as a ‘luxury’.

These were the two big issues The Pink Ladies (myself, along with Jo-Jo Hall, Maisie Hayward, Marcia Sanderson, Rebecca Sheard, Lorna McCullough and Courtney Uddoh Mitchell) wanted to investigate and perhaps even tackle through our arts activist project as part of the second year Politically Engaged Practice module. We wanted to raise awareness of the tax which is placed upon sanitary items because the government have deemed them a luxury. You might be interested to know that helicopters, for example, aren’t taxed in the same way because they, of course, aren’t a luxury and are a daily necessity in people’s lives. In contrast children’s car seats are taxed…

We also wanted to emphasise the fact that whilst the luxury tax on top of the already ridiculous price of tampons was clearly absurd, we were fortunate enough to be able to afford them but know that there are thousands of women who cannot and who have to make choices between feeding their family, paying the rent and purchasing sanitary products. This is what sparked our group into action.

We launched our own arts activist project in the form of a tampon/pad making workshop. We were situated in the student’s union and invited people who passed through to come and have a go at making these sanitary products from cost effective craft items – items which would cost less than a box of tampons. We did this to show that if students could find a way to make a tampon for less than 2p (albeit not entirely safe to use, this was art not science) then why couldn’t the Government try to find a solution too? We also wanted an intriguing project to attract people’s attention and open a conversation about period poverty.

Overall the event felt like a success, with feedback being positive and our bunting full with sanitary products. However it did feel a little odd to just stop once the module had finished: we’d all chosen this project because it was something we felt strongly about, it was more than or bigger than simply something we did for assessment. So we were delighted when we were approached by Anne-Marie Evans (Senior Lecturer in English Literature at YSJ) asking if we would like to restage the event as part of a period poverty workshop in Beyond the Vote – a festival celebrating the centenary of women gaining the vote in 1918.

It was perfect! We’d found with the first event that though we’d had conversations with the students about period poverty and the ridiculousness of the tax, it hadn’t been as in-depth as we’d have hoped. The Beyond the Vote workshop allowed us to do this, as well as show that conversations around periods and the things we use for them didn’t need to be taboo subjects anymore. Every woman should be able to talk about it, and every woman should be entitled to the products they need for it. We had an older lady present at the workshop who was relieved that conversations were finally happening around periods and the prices of sanitary products. Later a male student approached, initially wary about taking part because of the stereotype of women blaming men for their struggles; by the end of the workshop he said he realised we weren’t looking to blame but instead just wanted things to change.

By Anne-Marie Chave

University launches community theatre at SPARK York

By Rachel Conlon and Jules Dorey-Richmond

York St John University’s new city centre community theatre based at SPARK York will offer and promote inspirational, community arts engagement & performance for all in the city that will challenge prejudice, promote social justice and foster creative relationships through accessible, arts participation and performance making.

The York St John University has been contributing to the global theatre industry for over 50 years and the 2 year project in partnership with SparkYork will enable sustainable community arts practice to take place alongside inspiring teaching and learning and impactful research for all involved. The synergy with SparkYork concentrates on a shared ethos of social purpose, activating meaningful & relational arts engagement and acting as a catalyst for change.

 Professor Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor of York St John University emphasised the University’s commitment to community arts, saying: “We’re very pleased to be part of this social innovation project set in SPARK York’s exciting and innovative new space.

 “For York St John students, the new theatre will provide relevant, real world experience and an understanding of the impact of theatre within a community city setting. We hope to inspire and merge communities so that participants can come together in an arts process that emphasises collaboration, dialogue and social justice and provide great art for all”.

 The longevity of the project will aim to develop and nurture community networks, forge and sustain meaningful relationships between communities and give insight to the landscape of community arts practice in York. It will also aim to facilitate reflection & understanding in order to find out what the people of the city of York desire for now and for the future in respect to current & emerging community arts practice and performance.


Notes to Editors

  • York St John University has nine new academic Schools and an increase in the range of demand-led courses has seen a record rise in student numbers.
  • Around 100 degree course options are now available, including Games Design, Criminology, Policing Studies and Biomedical Science.
  • The University was founded on 17 May 1841, achieved University status in 2006 and Research Degree Awarding Powers for PhD and doctoral programmes in 2015.
  • The award winning campus in the heart of York has undergone a £110m transformation over the past 10 years, including new library and IT facilities, student accommodation, biomedical labs, a 57 acre sports park on Haxby Road and a new Students’ Union building.

For further information please contact Amy Lansdown-Nasson, PR & Communications Officer onT: 01904 876466 or E: or go to

Success for York St John University play commissioned by NSPCC ‘It’s Not OK’ campaign

By Rachel Conlon and Jules Dorey-Richmond

A play and workshop developed by York St John University’s Theatre department raising awareness about child sexual abuse and exploitation, has received praise for the positive impact it has had in schools and with young people and parents in Sheffield, as part of the NSPCC ‘It’s Not OK’ campaign.



The national campaign by the NSPCC highlights the dangers surrounding online grooming, gaming and sexting, and explores the landscape of healthy and unhealthy relationships. The campaign toured the York St John University play and workshop in schools in Sheffield, reaching thousands of year 7 pupils in the city. A closing event for the year-long campaign in Sheffield took place on Wednesday 23 May.

The ‘It’s Not OK’ play offers young people a reflective and participatory opportunity to follow the lives of four characters through their experience of the potential risks associated with child sexual abuse and exploitation. Through a drama workshop, pupils explore the issues raised in the play, giving the characters ‘advice’ and finding strategies to seek support against sexual abuse.

The play was written and created in 2015 by Rachel Conlon and Jules Dorey Richmond, Senior Lecturers in the School of Performance, Media & Production at York St John University. York St John Theatre students and alumni play a key role in the delivery of the play and workshop, through performance and facilitation in close collaboration with the NSPCC and school safeguarding professionals.

The ‘It’s Not Ok’ play was initially commissioned by the City of York Safeguarding Children Board and the NSPCC and delivered to all year 7 pupils in secondary schools within the City of York as part of a citywide ‘It’s Not Ok’ campaign. Following the success of this, the play was performed at the NSPCC’s national conference in London and has been commissioned every year since to deliver the tour and training in South East Wales, Nottingham, Thames Valley and Sheffield. It will continue to be toured in the next academic year throughout the UK.

To date the ‘It’s Not OK’ play has been seen by over 25,000 young people across the country. Rachel Conlon and Jules Dorey Richmond explain the significance of the play and the impact it has had on both the students performing it and the young people who have seen it.

“The positive response from the pupils, teachers and professionals we have worked with has been overwhelming. Young people are learning that sexual abuse is not ok and are finding new ways of speaking out about it.

“For our York St John University students, it has offered an invaluable real world learning opportunity, to deliver high quality professional arts practice nationally within the charity and education sector.”

Helen Westerman, NSPCC Campaigns Manager, adds:

“The team from York St John University, supported by NSPCC practitioners, have delivered the ‘It’s not OK’ play and workshop to just under 20 secondary schools in Sheffield and the impact has been phenomenal.

“Young people have welcomed the alternative way in which these subject areas have been explored and teachers have talked about how it’s supported their school in tackling difficult issues in a way that’s engaging and powerful. Rachel and Jules’ understanding of safeguarding issues and their ability to marry this with an exceptional creative performance agenda has made it an absolute pleasure to work with them.”

On the back of the success of the play and workshop, York St John University has been commissioned by the NSPCC to translate the play into a national online digital film learning resource. This will be made available to every school in the country via the NSPCC website.


Notes to Editors

  • The National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) ‘It’s Not OK’ national campaign aims to ensure that parents, children and young people, professionals and the general public know what sexual abuse and exploitation is, the importance of disclosure and where help can be sought.
  • York St John University has nine new academic Schools and an increase in the range of demand-led courses has seen a record rise in student numbers.
  • Around 100 degree course options are now available, including Games Design, Criminology, Policing Studies and Biomedical Science.
  • The University was founded on 17 May 1841, achieved University status in 2006 and Research Degree Awarding Powers for PhD and doctoral programmes in 2015.
  • The award winning campus in the heart of York has undergone a £110m transformation over the past 10 years, including new library and IT facilities, student accommodation, biomedical labs, a 57 acre sports park on Haxby Road and a new Students’ Union building.

For further information please contact Amy Lansdown-Nasson, Communications Manager onT: 01904 876466 or E: or go to

Intimacy, Consent, Sexual Harassment in the Art Industry: 3 Reflections by 3 Drama Students

Our third year Drama & Theatre students reflect on and pose questions about theatre intimacy, work environments, and women’s rights in the current art industry. Listen up!


Sexual Harassment in the Arts

by Holly Sloan

I recently took part in a Theatrical Intimacy workshop, which explored the topic of sexual harassment in theatre, and the understanding that everyone involved in a production has the right to offer or decline their consent to intimacy – be it technicians or stage managers who may see intimate scenes, to actors who have the right to decide what parts of their body they are comfortable being touched; if at all. This workshop came at a time when sexual harassment in the arts is the hot topic of conversation across news and social media platforms, so I feel that it is important to reflect upon this experience by contextualising sexual harassment in the arts today.

I find it astonishing, yet not surprising, that in a world so technologically advanced and progressive, instances of sexual harassment and abuse is still prominent – and often covered up – in the arts. The element of shock or surprise at such cases, in my view, is replaced by a somewhat nonchalant sense of normalisation. I doubt that I would be the only person to find myself mildly unfazed by such repetitive reports of yet another sexual abuse case in this industry, as these reports have become so regular that they neither shock nor surprise me. In many ways, it saddens me to realise that there have been so many accounts of sexual abuse, that I have become unintentionally passive to these reports. The journal article Normalising Sexual Violence argues that ‘Young people are socialised into a patriarchal culture that normalises and often encourages male power and aggression’ (Hlavka, 2014: 339). Placed in the context of the theatre industry, I can understand where this argument is valid. A study by the League of Professional Theatre Women found that theatre companies were ‘highly gendered’, and ‘just 33 percent of directors were female’ (Goodwin, 2016). Without wishing to come across as blaming all males in a position of authority in theatres of sexual harassment, and while acknowledging that men can also be victims, it is easy to see how this patriarchal culture within the theatre industries’ hierarchy could leave those working under such individuals, vulnerable to sexual harassment. This is particularly considered in the Theatrical Intimacy workshop, which unearthed how often performers don’t feel they can deny their consent to performing intimate scenes. If this so called ‘normalisation’ of sexual abuse is so embedded within the theatre industry, and within the public reactions to consistent reports, then recent campaigns such as the #MeToo movement, have never been more relevant – and desperately needed.

#MeToo was originally launched in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence (, n.d.), but it catapulted into the world of Hollywood in October 2017 following the emergence 82 women who came forward with cases of sexual assault against movie producer, Harvey Weinstein (Scott, 2017). This triggered countless people, world-wide, to speak out about their experiences of sexual assault. It raised the very real issue that there have been so many accounts of abuse for decades, both in the arts industry and out, that happen every single day, yet those victims have never had the courage to speak out against perpetrators. Until now.

Having participated in the Theatrical Intimacy workshop, and following instances of sexual harassment in the arts, I feel that this workshop is training which could help decline the number of people, men and women, who are affected by sexual abuse in this industry. It astounded me how true the fact is that performers won’t speak up to the director if they are uncomfortable with intimacy, for fear of being inadequate for the role. I know it myself as a performer, I would have struggled to speak up about consent had I not participated in this workshop. Workshops such as this, are a simple way to enforce that sexual harassment in the arts, or in any other capacity, is never OK.


Goodwin, J. (2016) There’s A Big Gender Gap In Key Theater Jobs — Can Boston Change The Story? [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 15th April 2018]

Hlavka, H. (2014) Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse. Sage Journals, vol. 28, issue 3. (n.d.) You are not alone. [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 15th April 2018]

Scott, D. (2017) Harvey Weinstein’s victims release list of 82 women who say they were sexually abused. [Internet] Available from [Accessed 15th April 2018]



Intimacy in the Arts: The Weinstein Effect

by Rachael Sampson

Oprah (as always) said it best: 

I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again. (Read the full transcript of her 2018 Golden Globes speech here).

Before we can bask in the future, we must understand our past. It is 2018 and (predominantly) white older men continue to abuse their positions of power through sexual misconduct within the arts. Surprise. It is astonishing to see how a world moving so far forward in complex developments such as life-changing science and technology, continues to freeze or retort backward when it comes down to blatantly obvious and easy rules of conduct, for example –  don’t sexually harass people. In recent times, the Weinstein effect has led to the birth of movements such as Time’s Up and the #MeToo Campaign, meaning that we no longer feel as if we are wading through mud, however– the fact that this is an ongoing issue which STILL needs addressing in today’s society emphasises the severity of its importance.

It is easy for someone such as Oprah Winfrey (a powerful woman with immense status and privilege) to stand on stage in a room full of elitist filmmakers and express these obvious sentiments as she accepts her Cecil B. DeMille Award. She has the power to demand equal opportunities, demand equal pay and demand that the cameraman with the creepy hand is fired.  People do, and will listen to her. 

But what about the rest of us? It isn’t that simple.

Looking back on our history at the lack of women within the arts (and in this instance, women working in film), this imbalance has subsequently allowed for a male hierarchy to grow and loom over us, which not only controls our opportunities to work for the art, but emits narrow, male ideologies into society which are absorbed by the audience. 52% of that audience is made up of us women, yet on average, we make up just over 10% of the industry (2017 statistics available here.) 

Harvey Weinstein, James Franco, Casey Affleck and Louis C.K. are prime examples of men who exploit the disadvantage that women are forced to suffer within the industry. Now that they are being named and shamed, there is a distant light at the end of this very long and dingy tunnel. The actions and consequences of the elite are being listened to and understood by the rest of us. They help shift the climate towards a brighter future, and this recent exposure has provided those who live in fear and do not have the advantage of status and privilege, to come forward and speak up.

The tectonic plates are shifting, and hopefully when the light at the end of the tunnel is in reach, we too, like Oprah, can stand tall and proclaim our imperative and invaluable worth in the world of art, without being trapped under the wrinkly white thumb of patriarchy.

Buckle up ladies, and get ready to take the power.


Intimacy in Work Environments

by India Butler

I always believed that once an individual reached a high level within their workplace that they are somewhat elite and therefore untouchable. I now realise that this ideal is completely naïve and that anyone can become victim to injustice not only within their workplace but in everyday life. It’s disheartening to think that some of those that are admired and lucky enough to be successful within the film, television and art industry have faced sexual harassment at work, and that it hasn’t been spoken about sooner due to fear of losing future career prospects. My naïve thoughts believe it is the abuser that should suffer due to their actions, not the victim. I have seen and heard multiple accounts of sexual harassment allegations towards highly regarded and respectable men in the creative industry. And yet I haven’t seen or heard their careers being tarnished and them facing any consequences for their disgusting and inhumane actions; until January 2018, where the Time’s Up campaign began.

Not only is there the Time’s Up campaign that was created by people working in the film and television industry that have faced sexual abuse and harassment by those in higher positions and abusing their power in the workplace; there is also the “Me Too” movement that is aimed for victims of sexual harassment to open up and speak out about their experience with abuse, to make it known that it is ok to talk about. The end goal will eventually lead to more people talking openly about their experience of being sexually harassed, for them not to be shamed to spread awareness on abuse, and for them begin to heal because of it.

Artists naturally have a platform of communication through their work and the attention they receive because of it. It is a great position to be in to spread awareness and out social, cultural and political issues for people to be inspired to rise up against sexual exploitation. But what does this mean for the creative industry in terms of abusing power and will the stars that have been accused of sexual abuse truly face the consequences? There needs to be a heightened sense of professionalism within the industry; where all meetings are in an office at a suitable time of day, not in hotel rooms late at night, no one-on-one meeting should be held without having a representative for each individuals ensuring a suitable exchange is being made and it is appropriate to the work. As some of Weinstein’s employees have spoken out about knowing what he is capable of and have still allowed him to be left alone with younger women.

With all of the uproar and incidents involving Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Casey Affleck, Woody Allen, will hopefully lead to an effective change in the future. There needs to be a change in how the world views women that have been victim to sexual harassment not only in Hollywood, but in the world. The women that are brave enough to stand up and fight against it, to speak openly about their own experience may have an ongoing effect outside of Hollywood. As one person spoke out against Weinstein, there were multiple accounts against him that followed; in this case, all it took was for one person to speak out, and that gave other women the strength to follow suit. It very well may encourage women sat at home watching these celebrities speak out to feel empowered and strong enough to stand and speak out themselves. Now I can’t finish this post without exalting Oprah’s moving speech at the Oscars, on the note that their time is up, not just in Hollywood, but on a global scale.

For more information on these movements and campaigns please click on the links below to visit each of their sites:


Arts Activism

Political Engaged Practice is a year-long strand within level two of the Drama and Theatre programme, delivered for the first time this academic year. In semester 1 students are introduced to concepts and examples of political art and performance; after Christmas they form groups to work on their own politically engaged action.

‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.’ Bertolt Brecht.

The module is interested in how art can use aesthetic and dialogical qualities to intervene into political debates, to encourage people to pause and take notice, to make us view the world differently.

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For the module students initiated and carried out activist projects looking at themes such as lad culture on the university campus; body image; nuclear disarmament; homelessness; and equality of educational opportunities. Their projects included offering free cakes in the main university reception area; drawing people’s nuclear shadows; posing as mannequins in shop windows.

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Students prompted their projects through social media, with the Be Your Own Mannequin project being picked up by Yahoo, who ran a story about project on the news section of their website.

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All the project involved staging interventions in public places, removing both art and politics from specialist or detached environment such as theatre, galleries or parliament and bringing them closer to everyday life. A number of the projects were framed as ‘dialogical’, in that they sought to construct opportunities for conversation about political issues. As one participant commented on the Nuclear Shadows project: ‘I think this piece has started a conversation that needs to be carried on’.

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As one student observed, the module highlighted the particular strengths of theatre at York St John, which include a focus on creativity and a socially engaged ethos:

‘The first thing that springs to mind when thinking about arts activism is being actively involved with something that I care about whilst being as creative as possible, which is pretty much why I’m doing this degree. It is about thinking of ways that we can make a difference by using the strength of a social movement.’

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Level 2 Students Perform, Write and Devise Playground Politics

Playground Politics, a performance produced by level 2 students on the Writing after Beckett module was a feature of the Drama Showcase at York St John University 2017.
A delightfully refreshing performance consisting of 32 scripted vignettes; fleeting moments, comedy shorts, tiny sketches, dramaticules.  Written by the group as a scripted piece, all the little plays established a world of their own, varying in lengths and driven by different content as tiny little episodes.
The general theme across all vignettes commented upon the ridiculousness and the failures encountered in current politics, in love, in competition and to some degree, it played upon and stretched, with absurdity, the mundane aspects of our lives.  Played through the performativity of the absurd, not too far away from Samuel Beckett’s Dramaticule Come and Go and close enough to Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, the performers applied a touch of wit created through a series of visual interruptions – custard pie goofs, Kaylee dance routines and farcical noises. Whilst the writing and the concepts were drawn from the work of Samuel Beckett and Caryl Churchill, the material in some vignettes was highly influenced by the conceptual dramaturgy of the TV series Inside Number 9, a dark comedy with each episode featuring an entirely new story in a conceptual space – behind a number ‘9’.
Text and Photos by Claire Hind 

An example of our Third Year Contemporary Theatre Practice company projects

BARE by Cutting Clouds Company (James Harris, Alex Kaniewski, Imogen Sutherland). Cutting Clouds investigates the dynamics of landscape, including the manipulation of its effects and its limits as well as its impact on our experience.
Photo by Cutting Clouds
BARE  sweeps through nature, and aims to cut up the landscape by layering the life, death and work of the writer Virginia Woolf. On 28th March 1941 Virginia Woolf filled her overcoat with stones and entered the River Ouse, Sussex. She bared all to nature and it took her life. As part of our process for BARE we travelled to Horton-in-Ribblesdale in order to respond to its surrounding landscape– a landscape that is dominated by steep fells, and bubbling streams that feed the river Ribble.
Photo by Cutting Clouds
For our performance we took our audience on a journey through Fulford Ings, a small patch of wild on the edge of York. BARE explored this environment in relation to walking, waiting and wading. Our endeavour was to better understand what it is to bare all to the environment we are in. BARE invites the audience to reconsider their relationship with the outside world, the public and the non-privately owned space. Throughout the day our environment changed affecting us personally as performers and the atmosphere of the experience. The performance aimed to connect to the environment on a very human level, giving the audience time to reflect and on their individual lives as they shared nature with a group.
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Photo by Jen Todman
Text by James Harris and Alex Kaniewski

Storyknowing Festival and Symposium

“Storyknowing’ was a two-day event hosted in April 2016 by York St John University and York Theatre Royal that brought together practitioners, researcher and young people to explore, through performances, workshops and talks, the artform of storytelling with adolescents. Organised by Cath Heinemeyer (YSJU/York Theatre Royal), Matthew Reason (YSJU), Juliet Forster (York Theatre Royal) it incorporated rich and diverse perspectives from arts practice, mental health, education and youth work, as well as from young people themselves, and from socially engaged researchers.

We have made a 13-minute documentary film that tells the story and shares some of the learning of ‘Storyknowing’.

For further information about ‘Storyknowing’ visit

York St John University / York Theatre Royal Graduate Prize

York St John University and York Theatre Royal are excited to announce the winners of the 2016 York Theatre Royal Graduate Prize:

Phoenix Theatre for Through the Gap

Phoenix Theatre Company / York St John Create Festival 2016

Phoenix Theatre Company / York St John Create Festival 2016

Phoenix are: Georgie Fishkin, Casey Fox, Jodie Glover, Kate Higgins and Jessica Robson.

The prize is awarded each year to a final year student or group of students studying theatre at York St John University. As well as recognising the excellence of work produced by YSJU theatre students, the prize also represents both organisations commitment to assisting creative individual in the post-graduation transition to professional arts practice.

The Prize is judged by a panel including the Artistic and Associate Directors of the Theatre Royal. The prize winners will receive a period of artistic mentoring at the York Theatre Royal and the opportunity to present work at a platform event hosted by the theatre in autumn 2016.

Through the Gap was a performance developed by the students following a year long process of accumulating resources and insights surrounding the experience of women within the criminal justice system. The performance drew on this material to show audiences what it means to be a woman in prison, from losing their identity to looking towards the future.

Juliet Forster, Associate Director of YTR, said of the award:

“The company demonstrated an extraordinary level of performance skill and sensitivity in adapting real women’s stories for the stage, creating an exciting, memorable and moving piece. We are delighted to be working with such a dynamic and passionate young company.”

Jessica Robson, said on behalf of all five students:

“We are so grateful for winning the prize and feel very humbled and overwhelmed with the great feedback. We are very excited to be working with the York Theatre Royal over the next year and to be given a chance to perform our show again at the theatre! Thank you to York St John and York Theatre Royal for selecting us for the prize and providing us with this opportunity.”