Anna Woolf (nee Bosworth) | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Anna Woolf, MA


2018 The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Research Degree (MPhil - PhD)
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, MA Applied Theatre
University of Winchester, BA Hons Drama Studies

Project Title

Efficacy of participatory practices with non-presenting disabled young people affected by Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.


Dr Kate Elswit and Dr Kat Low


I am a PhD candidate at Central. My research examines socially engaged and participatory art, health and applied theatre in relation to teenagers suffering from the very complex autoimmune disease Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

Prior to beginning my PhD studies I freelanced for a range of companies, and engaged in a number of research and teaching projects both at Central and Goldsmith’s University of London. My specialisms include working with young people from primary through to University age, and digital practices in particular. At Central I run a module on BA Date titled ‘Filmtext’ which explores participatory film practices and I regularly lecture on the MA Applied Theatre on digital pedagogy. I am also a trained and accredited Speech Bubbles Practitioner having worked extensively in relation with Half Moon Young People’s Theatre with Year 1 and 2 in East London. I work for C&T Theatre as a digital producer which includes working on funding applications, facilitating projects and consulting on their developing ‘Prospero’ technology. My primary practice spans the interdisciplinary practices of applied theatre and digital such as social media, online communities, filmmaking and digital facilitation. In addition, I am also interested in the tension between being a mother and a practitioner/academic. To this end, I was recently funded for is an original project I envisaged called Poems for New Mums, which is a poetry anthology curated myself, and is designed to support new mums through the first year of motherhood. Distributed exclusively for launch within the maternity ward, this project was fully supported by the Arts and Heritage team at UCLH Hospital, London. Poets included Wendy French, Hollie McNish and Claire Pollard.


This practice led research PhD will focus on my work as a digital theatre practitioner coupled with my own very personal interest in the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis. I wish to explore ways of working with teenage sufferers who, in particular are vulnerable to negative pressures during transition in their move to active self-management. Arts in Health and wellbeing is a reflexive, dynamic and wide ranging set of practices that has in some ways, existed for millennia, and in others, is radical and emerging. Performing Health and Wellbeing (Baxter, Low: 2016) is a recent text that represents the forefront of these developments, with essays on wide ranging topics from performing diseases, exploring stigmatism around sexual health and the (often) very hidden effects of mental health and how participants may explore and express what is in, and on their minds. Another scholar who has written extensively on Arts in Health is Mike White, who says that arts in health practice can act to ‘inform and motivate both the community and individuals’ (White 2009: 19). However, there is surprisingly no known literary or scholarly output specifically relating to Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and participatory (namely Applied Theatre) practices. I would posit that this area is therefore ripe for development, particularly focusing on factors such as emotional resilience and wellbeing, puberty and transition from paediatric to adult care pathways. As a carer of my own mother who has suffered with Rheumatoid Arthritis since before I was born, I believe that I am able to hold a reflexively unique position in relation to what a patient may go through – a feeling of fragility and continuous management of the ‘self’. As White states ‘historically health promotion has worked on a deficit model’ (White 2009: 48) i.e. to focus a communities’ limitations and the problems that arise from ill health. An alternative he expresses, is to move to an ‘asset model’ (ibid) that looks at ‘capacity to identify problems and activate their own solutions…building resilience and self-esteem’ (ibid). This active movement towards an asset model therefore in relation to a teenage Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis sufferer could be a turning point for shifting attitudes to self-management, particularly in the newly diagnosed. Anne Gilbert, the Youth and Family Services Manager at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) states ‘there is some resistance from teenagers in self-management, particularly if they don’t get on with their doctor. They can become disorganised with medication and then frustrated if their pain resurfaces’ (Phone call with Anne Gilbert: 21.1.2017).

Key Research Questions 

The main question I will engage within the research is: Can Applied Theatre practices, particularly those that engage with digital and online community and identity building, help to give young people who have JIA greater control during transition? 

This can be broken into three possible subsets: 

• Can Applied Theatre practices contribute positively to identity and emotional resilience building in young people with invisible, autoimmune-based disabilities such as JIA? 

• Can Applied Theatre practices facilitate patient-doctor relationships during transition? 

• Can this research be potentially applied to wider groups of young people suffering from other long-term illnesses who are on their own journeys of transition?

Key Publications

2014.  Filmmaker/Researcher, Talawa and EEA in conjunction with Goldsmiths University, London, ‘Creating Routes’. This conjunction of MA and participatory practitioners culminated in a research conference and my original research film being shown at Goldsmiths, University of London.

2012.  ‘The Emergence of ‘Digital Negotiators’: Incorporating Technology into Applied Theatre Practice,’ Performing Research – annual conference of performance research for MA students, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.


2018.  Assistant Researcher, Project Embrace; Central and Little Fish Theatre.
2018.  Lead Artist, Poems for New Mums; UCLH, London.
2017.  Visiting Lecturer, Northampton University, Applied Theatre module in conjunction with C&T.
2017.  Facilitator ‘Stratar Maps Project’, C&T Theatre with Swiss Cottage School, North London. 
2016-2018.  Facilitator, Speech Bubbles, Ben Johnson School and Half Moon Young People’s Theatre.
2016-2018.  Theatre Reviewer, Curious Mum,
2014-2015.  Facilitator and Film-maker, Half Moon Young People’s Theatre, Transitions projects working with year 6-7 in schools in East London.
2014.  Assistant Facilitator, Magic Me ‘Outspoken’ project exploring the power of women’s voices and speaking out.
2014.  Research Assistant, Clean Break, ‘Celebrating Success’ online resources and questionnaires, qual and quant data extrapolation.  
2013-2017.  Filmmaker, Frankenstein, Box Clever 20, The Chaucer Tales Project, Box Clever Theatre.
2012.  Facilitator/Director, Company 3. I co-devised a play in 24 hours with a group of young people from Company 3.

Teaching Areas

  • Digital Arts and wider participatory arts practices
  • Applied Theatre
  • Arts in Health
  • Participatory filmmaking
  • Digital Pedagogies