Challenging Concepts of 'Liquid' Place | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Challenging Concepts of 'Liquid' Place through Performing Practices in Community Contexts


'Challenging concepts of “liquid” place through performance practices in community contexts’ was a research project, 2011-2014, led by Professor Sally Mackey at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, with co-investigators Professor Mike Pearson and Margaret Ames from Aberystwyth University.

They worked with three partner arts organisations:

  • Half Moon Young People's Theatre, London
  • Oldham Theatre Workshop (OTW)
  • Cyrff Ystwyth, Aberystwyth

Using a range of drama and performance activities with each organisation, the research asked:

  • What can practical intervention tell us about how abstract concepts such as place, community, dislocation and belonging, as theorised by contemporary scholars, map onto the 'real life' experiences of vulnerable social groups?
  • Can one or more models of performance practices help ease feelings of ‘dislocation’ among community participants, where such feelings exist?
  • How might such models be evaluated, disseminated and made fully accessible to community theatre organisations?

The projects stimulated conceptual frameworks together with models of practice for further dissemination. This was summarised on the Performing Places website which was launched at the Performing Places Symposium on 9 October 2014.

The Performing Places website also provided an ‘Outline of Place Practices’ as ‘facilitation’ material for other community arts organisations.

The Performing Places website was introduced and explained to an audience of more than 75 people during the Performing Places Symposium held on 9 October 2014 at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

The website is a comprehensive representation of the research project and its activities, clearly illustrated with the help of video clips and annotated comments for external use.

Practitioners who attended the Performing Places symposium found this website very useful and some have directed practitioner colleagues and students towards it. The Performing Places website, and its speakers, have been cited in, for example, blogs towards A New Direction’s work on Place (Judge 2014), and ongoing PhD Research for the Understanding Everyday Participation - Articulating Cultural Values (UEP) project’ (Webber 2014a, Webber 2014b).

Speakers at Performing Places have also:

  1. recommended the Performing Places website to postgraduate students, urban performance artists and early career researchers interested in architecture, urban planning and literature about 'the city'.
  2. used exercises from Performing Places website in work with recovering substance abusers, to open up reflection, aid situational awareness in recovery and encourage mindfulness.
  3. cited Performing Places website practices in peer-reviewed articles for Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance (20th Anniversary issue in 2015 and a forthcoming article in April 2016).


Professor Sally Mackey, BA, PGCE, MA, PhD, FRSA

Principal Investigator
Professor of Applied Theatre, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
Read profile

Ms Margaret Ames, BA (London), MA (Wales)

Lecturer Theatre and Performance and Senior Tutor, Aberystwyth University
Read profile

Professor Mike Pearson, BA (Archaeology, Wales), MA (Education, Wales), PhD (Wales)

Professor of Performance Studies

Outputs & Outcomes

Unless stated, these are authored by Mackey.
Several of these outputs are available to read here.

2016 (in press)

‘Performing Location: Place and Applied Theatre:’ in Hughes, J. and Nicholson, H. (eds.) Critical Perspectives on Applied Theatre, Cambridge University Press.

February 2016

Invited speaker at Border Stories – From there to here. How innovative research into personal experiences can help the EU address intra mobility and third country migration, London Higher (Europe), Brussels, Belgium.

January 2016

‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Researcher’, provocation for Theatre Applied: Centre for Research in Performance and Social Practice, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.

July 2015

Ames, M. (2015) ‘Dancing Place/Disability’, Theatre Research International, Vol. 40, No. 2: 170-185.

November 2014

Invited keynote speaker, ‘Creative practice for change: a micro-example of people and places’, Cultural Engagement, Policy, and Practice Research, University of Leeds, symposium.

October 2014

Performing Places website launch

Performing Places symposium

A symposium for arts industry professionals sharing place practices and the launch of the Performing Places website.

September 2014

Plenary speaker (with Sarah Cole), ‘A Home fit for Heroes?: Performing Carer Landscapes’, Theatre and Performance Research Association Conference, Royal Holloway, University of London.

April 2014

'Challenging Liquid Place Through Two Urban Performances', paper for Ludus Symposium - Performance, Place, Possibility, University of Leeds
Mackey delivered a paper for this symposium, chaired a panel and contributed to the plenary where documentation of and reflection on two parts of the project were shared.

October 2013

Challenging Place Half Moon Website

This website, evidencing and articulating the particular part of the research project conducted at Half Moon Theatre, was submitted as an outcome for the REF (Research Excellence Framework) in October 2013.

August 2013

Oldham Theatre Workshop Intensive

The first phase of work with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants at Oldham Theatre workshop culminated in an intensive 4 day workshop with the participants. The process was fully documented and interviews with participants conducted.

13th–15th June 2013

Capel: the Lights are On, performance at Capel Bronant, Aberystwyth

June 2013

Oldham Theatre Workshop Funding for Continuation of Project

Oldham Theatre Workshop  applied for, and received, funding for a continuation of the migrant, refugee and asylum seeker workshops beyond the research project. This research project was the first time Oldham Theatre Workshop worked with this client group and the funding bid built on this new initiative.

21st February 2013

'Challenging Concepts of Liquid Place' talk as part of 'Porous Dramaturgy' network, University of Kent

Mackey was invited to speak as part of the AHRC-funded ‘Porous Dramaturgy’ network between Kent and Exeter Universities on 'Challenging concepts of ‘liquid’ place'.

20th February 2013

Talk as part of 'Pour/Ous Place' research seminar at University of Manchester

Mackey spoke about the research project at staff/student seminar at the University of Manchester.

1st February 2013

Keynote, 'The Arts Faring Well', STEP Conference 2013, Canada Water Culture Space.

January 2013 to August 2013

Workshops at Oldham Theatre Workshop with Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Workshops with refugees and asylum seekers have taken place as initial stages of the practice as research project at Oldham Theatre Workshop.

January 2013 to January 2014

'Our Town' - Oldham Theatre Workshop Social Media Opera

Oldham Theatre Workshop are utilising their social media soap opera, ‘Our Town’ in relation to the research project. A ‘storyline’ was commissioned about a refugee family moving into ‘Millwood’ and emplacing themselves.

January 2013

'It's A Ghost: The Uncanny in Rural Welsh Identity' by Margaret Ames

Article in Studies in Theatre and Performance Vol.33, reflecting upon material experiences of life in rural Wales and the introduction of 'ghost' within the performance processes of Capel: The Lights are On.

27th June 2012

Paper, 'Two Aberystwyths', PSI Conference University of Leeds

Mackey delivered a short paper reflecting on the project work done in Aberystwyth as part of a panel with Gerry Harris and Roberta Mock entitled: ‘Dis-connected communities? Relational performances and cultural inarticulations’.

4th and 5th July 2012

Place, performance at Half Moon Young People’s Theatre, Limehouse, London What is place? How do we think about place?

13th June 2012

'Challenging Place' talk for Exchange for Change symposium, Half Moon Theatre 

Research Assistant, Jo Scott, gave a presentation detailing the project to date as part of the Exchange for Change symposium at Half Moon Theatre, London.

March 2012

Invited speaker at Universities of British Columbia and Victoria, Canada

At the end of March, 2012 Professor Sally Mackey was invited to give two guest lectures to staff and graduate students at these universities about the Place project.

28th February 2012

'Challenging Places: Performance and Discomforts', talk at University of Cape Town

A talk and seminar about the Challenging Place research project, delivered to staff, research and MA students at the University of Cape Town.

January 2012

'Challenging Place' - Guest speaker at Place, University of West of England

Mackey was invited to be the guest speaker at the PLaCE research centre at UWE in January 2012.

7th September 2011

Challenging Place 'Live Poster' at Tapra Conference

Mackey gave a ‘live poster’ on the first Stage/Outcome of the two-day research project planning intensive. This focused on ‘collaborative methodology: a resource for research’ and articulated some of the opportunities available in a joint process of this nature and how the group endeavoured to share knowledges.

News & Events

Performing Landscapes: Home, London, Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming 2019-20)

Mackey, S. & Heddon, D. (eds.) (2015) Performing Landscapes, a new book series offering a critical study of generic and complex sites for performance including forests, ruins, home, fields, islands and mountains. (forthcoming)



'It's A Ghost: The Uncanny in Rural Welsh Indentity' by Margaret Ames, January 2013 - This article reflects upon material experiences of life in rural Wales and the introduction of 'ghost' within the performance processes of Capel: The Lights are On

Further Information

This current project was preceded by Performing Place also funded by the AHRC

Social Media

Follow Sally Mackey on Twitter


The following video is also available from the Performing Places homepage. It has been used for dissemination to local councils, for example.


In addition, the websites identified above contain several videos.