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Research boost for Centre for International Development following academic’s double award win

6th June 2018

Jane Arnfield, Associate Professor, Subject Head for Drama at Northumbria, and a member of Northumbria’s Centre for International development, has recently been awarded two significant research grants.

Leverhulme Trust International Academic Fellowship - Towards an interdisciplinary conceptualisation of (auto)biographical theatre practice

(Six months August 28th 2018 to February 28th 2019)

The proposed Fellowship will enable Jane to spend time in, and influence the research agendas of, the Institute of Sociology, University of Lodz, Poland. The proposed project builds on her ongoing practice-based research into the aesthetic and affective power of Theatre of the Real.

The aims of this Fellowship are three-fold: firstly, to disrupt and push the boundaries of contemporary (auto)biographical theatre practice through an interdisciplinary questioning of its role and function; secondly, to explore and test out potential synergies between (auto)biographical theatre practice and ethnographic and archival study in the social sciences and humanities; and thirdly, to understand the contribution and role of witnessing and testimony in eliminating inequality and securing justice.


Arts Council England Award: £32,608 Individual Grants for the Arts - Project Name: Year of Wonders

(June 2018)

Year of Wonders is a book by Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks who has gifted Arnfield sole 30-year rights to the adaptation for stage. Set in 1666 the book is rooted in documentary fact although written as a novel.

An itinerant tailor brings the plague to a small Derbyshire village, fleas in a bolt of cloth. As the villagers die, one by one those who remain face a choice: do they flee in the hope of escaping the plague, or do they stay?

The novel explores love & learning, fear & fanaticism, and the struggles of 17th century science & religion to interpret the world at the cusp of the modern era. Themes of civic mindedness, women’s rights & independence are at the core.

There is an exploration around the ethics of quarantine and migration relevant to today’s fears around epidemics (such as Ebola) and their control. Ultimately, it is a story of ordinary people struggling to cope with extraordinary circumstances and making pragmatic decisions in the face of adversity.

This research will investigate the potential the novel and stage adaptation offers to explore how pandemic threats are managed and conceived – this is of course particularly relevant to the Ebola crisis. There are many directions that the project could follow in the future and great potential for cross disciplinary arts/science research situated in health and life sciences.

There will be a rigorous investigation on the impact of storytelling performance on an audience; examining how one biographical story can represent the many whilst serving as a document to raise interest in the authentic, historical narrative. Year of Wonders will be a continued exploration of solo performance (Practice as Research) for Arnfield whilst extending her relationship with The Lowry Salford where the play will premiere June 2018, before coming to the North East.


Northumbria's Centre for International Development brings together academics, practitioners and students to promote research, consultancy, teaching, training and public engagement on issues of global poverty and inequality, the communities and individuals who experience this, and the policies, practices and approaches that seek to address it. Find out more here


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