Staff profiles

Photo of Dr Katie Beswick

Dr Katie Beswick



01392 724222

I am interested in thinking about how performance practices and other artistic and cultural products (visual art, literature, television, film) shape our experiences of the world. My work often focuses theatre and structural inequalities, particularly in relation to class. I have organized numerous conferences and events exploring housing, art and activism, and am currently editing an issue of the journal Studies in Theatre and Performance on the intersections between these subjects. I have also published widely on theatre and council estates in journals including Research in Drama Education, Performance Research and New Theatre Quarterly. My monograph Social Housing in Performance: The English Council Estate on and off Stage (Bloomsbury 2019) explores the representation of council etsates in news media, film, televison, music video and theatre practices.

Other academic publications include a co-edited special issue of the journal Interventions, exploring cultural production in the postcolonial city, and an article for Theatre, Dance and Performance Training exploring notions of industry in outreach actor training programmes. My latest project is a study of street culture in London and New York, for which I spend time mooching around interviewing artists and street performers and trying to understand city politics from the perspective of the street.

I joined the University of Exeter as a Lecturer in Drama in September 2015. I have also held positions at the University of Leeds and at Queen Mary University of London. Before I was an academic I worked in lots of different professions — as a performer, facilitator of theatre in various community settings, as a waitress, barmaid, shop assistant, as an in-school mentor, finance administrator and social housing officer. I regularly write features, reviews and interviews for a general readership; these have been published both online and in print for outlets including InStyle, Loud and Quiet and E1ife. My comic blog, Reasons to be Single, won a Cosmopolitan blog award in 2013. I blog about arts, culture and education on my website

I am the book reviews editor for Studies in Theatre and Performance and the Communications Officer on the Executive Committee of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA). I am a member of the Board of Humanities Researchers and the Board of Advisors for the organisation COMMON, which exists to support the arts industry in achieving greater socio-econmic diversity and to help make theatre more accessible to the working class.

Research interests

◦    Space and Place

◦    Social Housing

◦     Class 

◦    Applied and Socially Engaged Theatre

◦    Postcolonialism

◦    Race and Racism

◦    Street Performance


Recent and On-Going Research

I am interested in understanding how arts practices create, sustain and challenge our perecptions of the world.

To date, the majority of my work has focussed on the realtionship beween British council estates, or 'social housing estates', and theatre and performance practices.My monograph, Social Housing in Performance, explores the ways that ideas about council estates and their residents are produced through popular culture, and how performance practices have responded to this wider discourse. 

My current project explores street performances cultures, particularly in London and New York City.

Research collaborations

I have collaborated with the theatre company Phakama to analyse the outcomes of our project, 'Ten in a Bed' - where we worked with under 5s and their families in Tower Hamlets, London, using arts-based workshops to enhance literacy. 

I worked with academics from the University of Leeds, the Open University and Freie Universität Berlin on the 'Postcolonial Cities' project, resulting in an international conference held at the University of Leeds (2012) and a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal 'Interventions' (2015).

I have worked with numerous instiutions to develop and deliever performance projects with students, including National Coal Mining Museum England, Thackray Medical Museum and the Montgomery School, Exeter.

Research supervision

I am interested in hearing from students wanting to develop projects on issues of space and class, class and representation, race and racism, and street performance culture. 

If you have an idea for a research project and would like to work with me please send a 500 word proposal to

Research students

Supervisor to:

James Woodhams, 'Site-based theatre and disadvantaged young people'


Second Supervisor to:

Elaine Faull, 'Theatre Alibi'

Thomas Nicholls, 'Representations of regional English cities in contemporary drama'

External impact and engagement

I am interested in working with communities and sharing my research with the wider public. I am a member of the Board of Humanities Researchers and the Board of Advisors for the organisation COMMON, which exists to support the arts industry in achieving greater socio-econmic diversity and to help make theatre more accessible to the working class.

Public engagement work includes:

- 'Art and Loss of Social Housing': I concevied and organised this event, at Exeter's Phoenix Arts Centre. It was an exhibition, film screening and panel discussion, which explored how art serves as a means for social housing residents to engage with the loss of their homes. This was part of the Being Human festival of the humanities.

- 'A Box Park to Live In' Hoxton Private Housing/Public Home: I devised and performed this site-specific public engagement piece along with Cecilie Sachs Olsen, as part of the Home in the Housing Crisis symposium held at the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton, London. This interactive performance offered the audience a proposal for a development in Hoxton and asked participants to explore the area to appraise the development's feasibility.

- 'What Can Art Do for Housing Activism? A Long table discussion': I conceived and organised this panel a the London School of Economics as part of the Resist Festvival of ideas and actions.

- Estate: A Reverie: I was a panel speaker at the discussion session for the screening of Fugitive Images film Estate: A Reverie, at Queen Mary University of London, a Centre for Studies of Home event. 

- 'The Resident Artist: Making Performance in Your Council Estate Home': I gave this public lecture at Senate House, London as an invited speaker for the Institute of Historical Research 'Studies of Home' series. 

- Reach: I delivered workshops to students in secondary schools in Tower Hamlets as part of an outreach initiative run by the Drama Department at Queen Mary University of London, encouraging year 9 pupils to consider studying Drama at university level.

- Look at the (E)state We're In: a two-day symposium, which took place in public venues across Peckham in May 2015. This initiative, funded by University of the Arts London, explored arts practices on and about council estates and included public talks, workshops, an exhibition and a publication.

- Ten in a Bed: an eight week series of arts workshops, which introduced under 5s and their families to new and popular stories in order to enhance literacy. This project took place in Tower Hamlets from January to April 2015, and was designed and delivered by myself and students at Queen Mary University in partnership with applied theatre company Phakama. It was funded by Queen Mary's Centre for Public Engagement and Big Lottery Awards.

- Thackray Medical Museum: in this project I facilitated a site-specific performance festival where students from the University of Leeds developed a series of performances designed to communicate aspects of medical history.

- National Coal Mining Museum England: Between 2009 and 2012 I facilitated an annual, three-way project between students at the University of Leeds, local secondary school students and the NCME. This project culminated in an annual performance festival exploring aspects of coal mining in the Yorkshire region.

Contribution to discipline

I am book reviews editor for the journal Studies in Theatre and Performance. I am a member of the Society of Authors and of TaPRA (Theatre and Performance Research Association), and will take up the position of Communications Officer on the Executive Committee in September 2018.


I write arts criticism and opinion. My work has been published in online and in print publications, including Loud and Quiet Magazine, Culture Vulture and the Huffington Post.

Some examples of my work include:

'New Misery' review of Cullen Omori's debut album for Loud and Quiet Magazine, available at

'The Story of Whitney' interview in Loud and Quiet Magazine, available at

'Artists are Doing it for Themselves' interview with film maker Tom Connolly on Huffington Post blog, available at

'Council Estate Creativity' at my own website,

'Immersive Theatre: The Weather Machine' a preview of artist David Shearing's 2015 installation for Huffington Post blog, available at

'Electroknit/Men With Ties' an interview and review of artist Elizabeth Chadwick's exhibition at the Culture Vulture, availlable at

'Hole, Northern Lines, Bradford' a theatre review for the Culture Vulture, available at

I was the featured guest, discussing my blogging work, on the Ladies What Brunch radio show, for Hoxton Radio. You can listen to that show at




I am committed to working with students to confront issues of social justice; I encourage the students I work with to develop as reflexive practitioners able to understand the social, cultural and political implications of their work. 

Prior to working at Exeter I taught at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Leeds, where I worked with a number of partner institutions to deliver teaching that offered experience of working in professional contexts. These included, Phakama, the Thackray Medical Museum and the National Coal Mining Museum England.

Modules taught