Dr Siobhan O'Neill
I am an artist-researcher who works with and in response to individuals and communities, creating participatory performances and encounters as a collaborative investigation into lived experience. My practice research explores the territories of public and personal memory, pedagogy and place, with an attentiveness to models of co-creation. As a certified Skinner Releasing Dance teacher, I am also interested in the interrelations between somatic experience, corporeal memory and the enmeshment of narrative and embodied modes of theatre-making.
I am a Research Fellow with the Portsmouth School of Architecture, working on a three-year AHRC-funded interdisciplinary research project, 'Wastes and Strays: the past, present and future of English urban commons'. My research involves generating participatory events with public users to explore alternative futures for four urban commons, with an emphasis on community, creativity, health and ecology.
My doctoral research, located at the interface of oral history and applied performance, considered shared ethical questions around who has the authority to tell a community’s narrative. In response, her practice-based research aimed to articulate how a shift in emphasis from authorship to listening as a creative practice might cultivate ways to redistribute authority. The research project, ‘Tales from the Marsh’ (2016), incorporated situated fieldwork, undertaking walking conversations with environmental activists, conservationists and public users of an urban common, and performance-making as a means to explore, challenge and re-interpret conflicting narratives of place. The research made 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, opening out possibilities for participants to subtlety challenge apparently stable or received narratives of the common.
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 independent dance practice into applied and participatory theatre. I went on to work with the Royal 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.