Ms Siobhan O'Neill

Supervised by

Research interests

  • Applied Performance
  • Oral History
  • Place, practices of community and historical narrative
  • Authorship and shared authority
  • Somatic experience and practices of listening
  • Commons and commoning

My doctoral research is located at the interface of oral history and applied performance and investigates the interrelation between authority and authorship in the telling of individual and collective (hi)stories. My practice-based research focused on Tales from the Marsh (2016), a community-centred performance project that  explored lived experience  of an urban common in north-east London. Questioning the capacity of the discursive to fully give account to situated corporeal practices, the first research intervention explored ways to synthesise the oral history interview with an experiential walking practice. It investigated the potential to extend the oral-aural communication between narrator and artist-interviewer towards a deeper sensory attentiveness, in which non-verbal, embodied and symbolic memories of place could be articulated. The second intervention investigated the contribution arts-based experiential methods can make to the cultivation of a participatory listening, through which community participants could share, explore and re-interpret their memory stories. The research makes a case for listening as a haptic and embodied act. It suggests that listening to embodied knowledge can disrupt the narrative basis of lived experience recollection, and open possibilities for participants to subtlety challenge apparently stable personal and collective narratives.


My PhD research was funded by a Reid Scholarship from Royal Holloway University of London. 

Tales from the Marsh was set up by myself as a local performance artist, in partnership with the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and The Mill community centre, Walthamstow. It was funded by a London Borough of Waltham Forest Arts Development Award.

Personal profile

I am an artist, curator and producer who works in the field of applied performance. My practice centres on the exploration of lived experience through the generation of conversations and experiential arts-based encounters with various communities. My work is devised, typically site-specific and always collaborative; it emerges through performance, text, installation and film-making. As an artist-researcher, I am concerned with ideas of memory, the performance of place and pedagogy, with a particular interest in practices of listening.

I studied on the BA (Hons) History course at Manchester University, and then went on to complete a Diploma in Dance at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance. After graduating, I worked as a performer, choreographer and curator in the independent dance sector, alongside acting as artistic co-director of Chisenhale Dance Space (1992-1997) and the Taking Risks festival, Southern Arts (1997-1999).


In 1999, I worked as a collaborative artist with Mark Storor and Box Clever TIE Company on SHOUT: Voices from the Edge, a site-specific performance devised with young people living in the social care system. The experience became the impetus to shift my practice into applied and participatory theatre. After completing an MA in Contemporary Theatre Practice with Distinction, at Essex University, I went on to work with the National Theatre Education on the Art of Regeneration project at The Albany Theatre and to co-direct a site-specific performance devised with ex-offenders, which explored notions of property in the Royal Opera House. Further collaborations have included Clean Break Theatre Company, the Wellcome Trust, Colchester United FC, St. George’s Hospital and Creative Partnerships.


In recent years, my focus on lived experience has resonated more explicitly with the historical, leading to an engagement in oral history practice. Before starting my PhD, I led a community-based oral history project, which critically and creatively explored the history of the London St. Patrick's Day Parade and changing representations of Irish diasporic identity, from 1950 to the present day. As an artist-researcher and certified Skinner Releasing dance teacher, I also have an interest in the interrelations between somatic experience, embodied memory and corporeal traditions. In response, my work is concerned with the enmeshment of narrative and embodied modes of meaning making, which includes the creation of dramatic metaphors as a means to articulate something of the affective and relational dimensions of participants' past worlds.


Conference / Symposium Papers

Tales from the Marsh to ‘Walking Women’, Somerset House July 2016

“I Come From”: Diversifying Ethnic Oral Histories Through Creative Work with Young People to Oral History Society Annual Conference, University of Manchester July 2014
Let’s Talk: How the arts can support vulnerable families to ‘The Conversation’, Sadler’s Wells Feb 2013
On the Horizon: Lessons from a long-term Creative Partnership to Creative Partnerships Tendring - Partnership Forum and Creative Partnerships Kent - Artist Forum 2006


‘Theatre and the Idea of Time’ at  Royal Holloway University of London (2018 - 2019)
‘Presentation and Context’ at Central St Martin’s College of Art (2010 and 2007)
‘Text into Action’ and 'Devised Theatre' at University of Essex (2003 - 2004)
‘Performance Making’ at University of Surrey (2001 - 2002)
I completed a PGCE in Post Compulsory Education at Greenwich University (1997), while teaching Dance and Physical Theatre at North West Kent College.

Educational background

PhD (2014 - 2019), 'Listening In-between Oral History and Applied Performance' at Royal Holloway University of London. Funded by a Reid Scholarship.

Skinner Releasing Teacher Certificate (2010 - 2011), certified by the Skinner Releasing Institute, Seattle at University of Coventry. Funded by a Dancer's Career Development Scholarship and and Lisa Ullman Travelling Scholarship.

MA Contemporary Theatre Studies (2000 - 2001) at University of Essex, (Distinction).

PGCE in Post Compulsory Education (1997 - 1998) at University of Greenwich.

Post Graduate Diploma in Dance (1986 - 1987) at Laban Centre for Movement and Dance, Goldsmith’s College, University of London.

BA (Hons) History (1982 - 1985) at University of Manchester

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