Statement of Solidarity

We stand in solidarity with those at the University of Roehampton who are facing cuts in the Drama, Theatre & Performance, and Dance departments. 

Sixty per cent of Roehampton’s performing arts students are Black or from other minoritised ethnic backgrounds. Cutting these programmes that have been so successful in supporting Black British and other under-represented students is especially misjudged, at a time when HE institutions should be urgently decolonising and diversifying their spaces. We condemn the Vice Chancellor’s decision to cut funding in the very departments which support historically under-represented artists and cultural producers, and provide space for them to excel.  

As TaPRA and others have suggested, these cuts are also ideological in nature, in line with the UK government’s short-sighted bias against the arts and humanities and its instrumentalisation of HE to these ends. 

Please consider signing the petition to oppose the proposed £3.2 million cuts. 

Read Dr Kélina Gotman’s letter in response to the proposed cuts here.

Read about the Vision for Roehampton here.

Launch: Performance@ Postgraduate Reading Group

8 photographs signed ‘V Queniaus’ showing a woman reading and posing, including a double-exposed negative containing an unidentified subject, which the artist has erased.
André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, May–June 1860. Image source: The Met online archive.

We are excited to announce the launch of the Performance@ Postgraduate Reading Group.

Meeting online once a month, our aim is to read, discuss, and share our own and others’ work in an exploratory and supportive environment.

In each session the group will either read a combination of theoretical texts and performance studies works, talk through thorny research questions, or share our own works-in-progress. We hope that our diverse interests and the range of angles with which we approach performance research will encourage fertile points of discussion. As interdisciplinary humanities researchers, we are eager to investigate how our work intersects and diverges across the field of performance studies.

All meetings will be held online for the foreseeable future. While the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has necessitated this arrangement, we are motivated by the way that our geographical remoteness – and our desire to remain connected – has the potential to bring together scholars who would normally be unable to meet and engage in discussion. As such, we invite scholars from King’s, UCL, and beyond to participate.

The first session will take place on Tuesday 13 October, from 16:00-17:30. Please email beth.potter@kcl.ac.uk to receive both the recommended reading ahead of the session, and a Zoom link. 

Restaging the Past: Historical Pageants, Culture and Society in Modern Britain

by Paul Readman, Professor of Modern British History, King’s College London


Restaging the Past is a new book is from UCL Press, available for free open-access download here: https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/123496. Also available for £25 in paperback.

Restaging the Past is the first edited collection devoted to the study of historical pageants in Britain, ranging from their Edwardian origins to the present day. Across Britain in the twentieth century, people succumbed to ‘pageant fever’. Thousands dressed up in historical costumes and performed scenes from the history of the places where they lived, and hundreds of thousands more watched them. These pageants were one of the most significant aspects of popular engagement with the past between the 1900s and the 1970s: they took place in large cities, small towns and tiny villages, and engaged a whole range of different organised groups, including Women’s Institutes, political parties, schools, churches and youth organisations.

Pageants were community events, bringing large numbers of people together in a shared celebration and performance of the past; they also involved many prominent novelists, professional historians and other writers, as well as featuring repeatedly in popular and highbrow literature. Although the pageant tradition has largely died out, it deserves to be acknowledged as a key aspect of community history during a period of great social and political change. Indeed, as this book shows, some traces of ‘pageant fever’ remain in evidence today.

Find out more about Paul Readman’s Historical Pageants project here.


Paul Readman, Professor of Modern British History, Department of History, Vice-Dean (People and Planning) for Languages & Literatures, King’s College London. https://www.kcl.ac.uk/people/paul-readman; paul.readman@kcl.ac.uk

Burning Questions

by Corrie Tan, Ph.D. Candidate, Theatre Studies, King’s College London and National University of Singapore

Integrity and Intimacy Panel Discussion Zoom screenshot, ArtsEquator and HowlRound Theatre Commons. The panelists are, clockwise from top left: puppet artist Maria “Ria” Tri Sulistyani (Yogyakarta), cultural critic and activist Katrina Stuart Santiago (Manila), dance artist Bernice Lee (Singapore) and moderator Corrie Tan (Singapore).

Throughout July and August 2020, the Southeast Asian arts platform ArtsEquator organised a four-part series of online talks titled Burning Questions. COVID-19 has exposed the extreme precarity of the arts sector in the Southeast Asia region, and ArtsEquator hoped to offer a space for regional voices to dialogue and discuss some of the difficult questions facing the transnational arts community during the pandemic. This panel on July 28, “Is There Still Hope for Integrity and Intimacy in Online Performance?”, investigated the various possibilities around keeping intimacy alive between artists and their audiences against the backdrop of social distancing and restrictions on travel worldwide.

The panel was facilitated by Corrie Tan, contributing editor at ArtsEquator and a third-year doctoral candidate on the joint PhD programme between King’s College London and the National University of Singapore. This panel featured three practitioners from the region: dance artist Bernice Lee (Singapore), cultural critic and activist Katrina Stuart Santiago (Manila) and puppet artist Maria “Ria” Tri Sulistyani (Yogyakarta). Questions that surfaced included: What does it mean to maintain the structural and foundational integrities (ethics, credibility, honesty) of artistic practices and cultural labour, even if the way practices now unfold may take different shapes or forms? What new intimacies of care and reciprocity might be formed?

Ria talked about her company Papermoon Puppet Theatre’s recent show A Bucket of Beetles (premiered August 2020), which incorporated barter exchanges into its ticketing framework for local Indonesian audiences who might otherwise have struggled with the financial investment of a theatre ticket. Ria also highlighted a series of Instagram Live conversations she hosted with puppeteers from around the world in a gesture of cross-border solidarity. Katrina talked about the advocacy work and food distribution she’s doing with her non-profit organisation PAGASA (People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action), and how her intermediary role as a cultural critic helped build a culture of trust and support in the thick of the Duterte regime. Bernice shared about her work with children as various workshops transitioned to the digital sphere, but also her long-time practice of #ghosting and how she’s been playing with the female gaze online. She also introduced her experiments with touch and the intimacy of being in domestic spaces with various branches of a collaborative long-term project called Tactility Studies (for which Corrie is dramaturg).

Through discussions of their work and current practices, the panel mapped out a sense of how intimacy and spectatorship has transformed across the cultural capitals of Manila, Yogyakarta and Singapore, and the possibilities of building expanded transnational relationships.


Corrie TAN (she/her) 陳霖靈; Ph.D. Candidate, Theatre Studies; Department of English Language & Literature; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; National University of Singapore; Block AS5, 7 Arts Link, Singapore 117570; corrie.tan@u.nus.eduwww.corrie-tan.com

COVID-19 letter of solidarity from Performance@

To whom this may concern,

We are writing to let you know that we are still here. On Wednesday 6th May, the Performance@ administrators met with Kélina Gotman to talk about how to launch Performance@ in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was invigorating to hear each other’s voices and to see each other’s faces on our screens at home.

A conversation.
Our topic of conversation was seemingly simple: What does the scheduled launch of this performance network look like now? This simple question provoked a series of deeper meditations: Who is involved, now that we are not, per se, geographically restricted? How do we demarcate the boundaries of this network at a time when borders and divisions are changing, moving, devolving, and inevitably, re-appearing in new forms, more tangible than ever? And how should we launch? On whose terms, where, when, with what technological affordances? What would be an adequate event, a sufficient gathering, an apt happening? By which we really mean to say, what is performance now?

Solidarity.
We find ourselves in a time of deep questioning, of social and economic upheaval, of lifestyle and habitual change, and of loss. Through the collective trauma of COVID-19, many of us have lost physical contact. We have lost contact with loved ones, with the elderly, with the rhythms of our day, with ourselves even. We have lost contact with our sense of normal, whatever that may be. This loss of contact almost feels like a unifying experience, perhaps allowing solidarity in a time of extreme solitude. Our bereavement for contact feels inimitably bound to matters of corporeality, liveness, presence, embodiment,– that is, bound to long-established frameworks for understanding performance. And so perhaps this, more than even, is the best time to be launching Performance@?

Solace.
Everyone decides to walk. Or at least, it feels like a decision. People smile as you pass them, it’s quiet and across the street a sheet of newspaper drifts naturally on the breeze. There is no traffic. Your phone buzzes in your pocket. Two different people who have never met instantaneous send you the same Snoop Dogg meme. You smile. A bird sings in a tree. You have walked for 45 minutes. This is a new route for you. You remember to side-step around the couple with a pushchair. It’s easier for you. They thank you with a nod. Their child is wearing a mask. It is 245pm. You cannot remember what you did this morning. Tomorrow you will Facetime your Nan on her carer’s iPad. She is hallucinating, with COVID-19 they later realise. You teach her how to close her eyes and count her breaths, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, … She seems almost to fall asleep, almost.

Security vs. Morality.
Someone remarked on Instagram the other day that this is the first time their tendency toward rebelliousness had conflicted with their moral compass. The securitisation of social distancing via the police-enforced state of “lockdown” re-articulates behaviours we might otherwise see as respectful, thoughtful, sensible, through a legal framework. What does performance studies look like in a time when the command of law over how bodies may co-exist in space has so radically shifted? That my body may not legally come into the same 2-metre sphere as yours is a remarkable event in the history of global biopolitics, demanding swift critical reflection. Performance studies is poised to commence this interrogation, whenever we are recovered and ready to do so.

A letter.
It seemed like the best thing to write this letter. The internet is amass with COVID-19 statements, policies, regulations, restrictions, people reduced to figures of precarity, mobility and mortality. A letter is first and foremost an address. Maybe the letter says something of note. Maybe you lift a phrase from the letter, pin it to your wall, to remind you to respond. But if nothing else, a letter is a point of contact. It says: we are still here. It says: you are still here. It says: we are here together.