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Staff profiles

Photo of Dr Kate Holmes

Dr Kate Holmes

Postdoctoral Research Associate

I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the AHRC funded Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century research project (collaboratively run with the University of Warwick). I joined the department as a staff member in 2018 after being awarded my PhD from the University in 2017.

My historical research explores popular performance forms such as international circus, American vaudeville and British variety - focusing particularly on the celebrity of aerialists. I am interested in the embodied experience of being an audience member and have considered how spatial practices, kinaesthetic theory and female physical culture movements contributed to the meaning made by performance.

As part of this research project I am extending my interest in audiences and spectacle, looking at entertainments such as pleasure gardens and exploring the celebrity of the nineteenth century aerialist Jules Leotard. My historical research and research-led teaching is driven by my interest in current practice and experience. It has led me to consider how incorporating analogous digital technologies into an exhibition could provide exhibition audiences with insights into the increased visuality of nineteenth century popular entertainments. This approach has also led me to teach on Britain's Got Talent, contemporary circus and outdoor festivals. The connection between pleasure gardens and outdoor festivals as multi-use leisure sites is leading a developing interest in the cultural significance of green leisure spaces.

External impact and engagement

I have been involved in various activities related to impact and public engagement as part of my own and other people’s projects.

Recent research-led activities related to the current AHRC project I am working on, my own research and circus history more generally include:

Theatre & Visual Culture in the Long Ninteenth Century

  • July 2019: ‘Exhibition White Space’, Different Stages Bristol Showcase, organised by Central School of Speech and Drama

Aerial & Circus research

  • Oct 2017: ‘The Risk in Showmanship’ & ‘Timeless Circus?’, both: Circus City Festival, Bristol.

Circus History


I graduated with a BA in Drama from Exeter in 2000 and spent 10 years working in marketing whilst pursuing my amateur aerial practice. My interest in the relationship between theory and practice led me to undertake an MA in Performance Research at the University of Bristol, before completing an AHRC funded PhD in Drama at Exeter in 2017. In October 2018 I returned to the Drama department as a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the AHRC funded Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century collaborative project with Warwick University.