Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications


The Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications combines creative and cultural disciplines within an interdisciplinary environment embracing arts, humanities, social sciences and technology. We promote research and student education in an environment of methodological innovation aiming for excellence in critical, historiographical, theoretical and practice-based modes of inquiry. We undertake research that is interdisciplinary and collaborative as well as supporting the work of the individual scholar.

Our five schools champion intellectual achievement in the fields of Design, Fine Art, Histories of Art and Cultural Studies, Media and Communication, Music, and Performance and the Cultural Industries, creating an environment that fosters intellectual and creative risk-taking. Current areas of research with cross-faculty participation include: digital humanities (especially in the fields of social media and archives); heritage and accessing the past; digital performance (across theatre, music and a range of live art contexts); citizenship and communication; critical humanities; cultural co-creation and user-centred design processes; medical humanities and, critical cultural policy studies. These are underpinned by a broad, deep and rich portfolio of individual and group research interests.

The Faculty enjoys an enviable reputation for innovation in engaging a range of communities (public, industry, community and policy) in research through a systematic programme of knowledge exchange supported by its dedicated Culture, Society and Innovation Hub and the Cultural and Creative Industries Exchange which it shares with its sister, the Faculty of Arts. We enjoy a wide range of partnerships with external organisations across the breadth of creative and cultural disciplines. Our extensive range of creative exhibition and performance spaces provide important sites for the development and exhibition of research, student education and knowledge exchange.

School of Media and Communication

The School of Media and Communication is a leading centre for media and communications research. Our research is multidisciplinary, theoretically innovative and socially relevant. Researchers at the School are involved in extensive networks of collaboration with academic institutions, the public sector and media industries both within the UK and across the globe.

A vibrant and growing community of PhD students is an essential part of our research culture. We are also committed to research-led teaching, which is reflected in the portfolio of our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Research at the Institute is clustered around five major research themes:

Two research centres currently operate in the School:

School of Design

The School of Design’s research portfolio encompasses both creative and technical aspects of design, led by experienced research academics.

The research interests of staff include technical textile and nonwoven fabric technology, textile design, colour technology, dyeing and finishing, textile chemistry, sustainable design and green chemistry, design technology, fashion design, graphic design, sculpture and painting, design management, multi-media and animation and other areas of visual communication.

The School’s approach can be described using a compass model whereby the research groups form the cardinal points. Needs/opportunities for design intervention may lie directly within the remit of the cardinal points or may be in the intermediate point directions and thus teams/centres can be formed from members of the main groups to address these societal needs/opportunities. The compass magnet can thus be used to push or pull us towards these directions. Three research project examples are shown below.


School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

The School regards Fine Art, History of Art, Cultural Studies, and the study of Museums, Galleries and Heritage as inherently and characteristically of an interdisciplinary nature. We are committed to working across the constituent disciplinary specificities while critically examining the methods and historiographies of the disciplines upon which we draw. In structure and ethos, research across the School lies at the nexus of practice and theory and pays careful attention to the synergies and tensions therein. The School has sought to consolidate and strengthen philosophical work in the Critical Humanities, and further historical excellence in the critical and social histories of art, as well as feminism and gender studies. We have developed a distinctive profile in Critical Museum and Heritage Studies and diversified research strengths in postcolonial critique. Research on non-Western contexts as well as globalisation is underpinned across the School by sustained questioning of Eurocentric categories and models.

The School of Fine Art, History of Art, and Cultural Studies offers expert-led specialisms in Fine Art, Cultural Studies, Museum/Heritage Studies. A full range of Western Art History – by chronology, periodization and subject – is further augmented by expertise in the art of Southeast Asia, Japan, and Africa. Within these areas our research groupings offer a divers but interdisciplinary range of specific research strengths.

Research Groups

The School boasts seven Research Groups. Each Group is informed by a strong theoretical core and a diversity of deep historical knowledge, and is designed to foster creative encounters at the nexus of the School’s four programme divisions in Fine Art, History of Art, Cultural Studies, and Museum and Heritage Studies.

  • Feminism and Gender studies
  • Postcolonialities
  • Materialities
  • Cultural Politics
  • Heritage and Museums
  • Social Histories of Art
  • Curation as Practice


School of Music

Music and Science, Music as Culture and Making Music are umbrella terms that we use to identify research activity within the School of Music. Under these general headings a number of areas of research expertise can be seen to interact in the production of an exciting and innovative research culture. Staff pursue research and provide PhD supervision in the following areas: composition, performance, film music, music technology (history and development, computing, multimedia, musical instruments), music psychology, historical and critical musicology, ethnomusicology, popular music and culture, music and literature, music journalism, music business, music education, and music and wellbeing (health, environment, sustainability).

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Research Clusters

The shared interests of the School’s researchers has, in some instances, led to the formation of research clusters, demonstrating interaction between staff who, primarily, make music, study music as culture, or investigate thescience of music. The Research Clusters provide a creative academic context for PhD student supervision, collaborative research and impact building, and they also identify key themes within our research portfolio:

Composition (Cooper, Iddon, McLaughlin, Mooney, Sapiro, Scott, Spencer, Stefani)

Music and Cultural Difference: Parts of Europe, Africa, Asia and North America (Cooper, Dawe, Iddon, Muir, Scott)

Music Technology: History, Application and Design (Cooper, McLaughlin, McLean, Mooney, Ng, Schampaert, Stefani)

Music and Wellbeing: Health, Environment and Society (Burland, Dawe, Greasley)

Popular Music: History, Industry and Performance (Allis, Burland, Dawe, Greasley, Iddon, McLaughlin, Sapiro, Schampaert, Scott, Spencer, Warner)

The following long-standing research clusters provide for two further centres of excellence:

English Music (Allis, McClelland, White) (LUCEM)

Historically-Informed Performance (Brown, Muir, White) (LUCHIP)

Research Centres

The School of Music is host to the following Centres:

Centre for Scientific Research in Music (Burland, Cooper, Greasley, McLean, Mooney, Ng, Windsor)http://www.leeds.ac.uk/icsrim/

Centre for Practice-Led Research in the Arts (Iddon, McLaughlin, Mooney, Spencer, Stefani)

School of Performance and Cultural Industries

Research in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries is organised through three interacting research groups covering the domain of Performance and Cultural Industries.  These groups are hubs for early career researchers, mid-career academics and senior research leaders and all postgraduate research students are identified with at least one group.


We pride ourselves on a vibrant research-led approach to teaching which informs all our programmes from Undergraduate to Postgraduate. We have a lively and expanding postgraduate research community and have been particularly successful in recent years in securing postgraduate scholarships from funding bodies, with a hundred per cent record of success in the Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme run by the AHRC.

More information on the individual missions and membership of the research groups in the School is available below. Click on one of the group names for details.

Cultural Engagement, Policy, and Practice
Practitioner Processes
Performance Technologies

The fundamental interrelationship of these groups is a key feature of our distinctive identity. The research ethos of the School is based on the development of specialisms within each group, combined with the active pursuit of collaborations across them and with other researchers in the Faculty and University.

Graduate School

The Graduate School hosts Postgraduate Researchers involved in a range multidisciplinary research areas across the Faculty’s five schools.

Its aim is to ensure Postgraduate Researchers have the best possible experience whilst applying to and studying within the Faculty, and is here to offer continued support and guidance in all areas such as applying, registering, induction, training, progress and examination. The Graduate School’s website provides all the information needed throughout the journey of a Postgraduate Researcher, and our dedicated Graduate School team are also hear to offer support.

The Graduate School has a number of important functions:

  • Help recruit the best Postgraduate Researchers from around the world and match them to appropriate academic supervisors
  • Provide information on registration
  • Signpost to support services available to Postgraduate Researchers.
  • Provide induction information so that Postgraduate Researchers know what the Faculty and Leeds has to offer
  • Provide ongoing support and resources to help Postgraduate Researchers succeed in their research and have an excellent experience whilst at Leeds.
  • Facilitate training opportunities to allow postgraduates from different disciplines and Schools/Institutes to meet each other and share ideas
  • Provide a variety of resources to help our postgraduates travel to, deliver papers at conferences and organise their own training activities and events
  • Oversee the quality of supervision and training, ensuring that you are receiving the best possible academic support whilst at Leeds.

Culture, Society and Innovation Hub

The Culture, Society & Innovation (CSI) Hub will pool key strengths in cultural and creative industries research at the University. It will be characterised by interdisciplinarity and seek to build and maintain connections with organisations of all scales, across business, community, and policy-making.

“The CSI Hub aims to establish an infrastructure similar to that of a STEM research centre. This will enable us to deliver sustainable, high-quality research that will have impacts both internationally and regionally,” says Mick Wallis, Pro-Dean for Research in the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications.

The four areas of the Hub are closely linked to the Faculty’s academic areas:

Culture: Experience: Engagement
Based in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, and led by Professor Calvin Taylor, this area will explore how and to what extent changing socio-political, cultural, economic, organisational and technological contexts influence the development of, participation in, and interaction with the performance and cultural industries.

Transforming cultural heritage: Based in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, and led by Professor Catherine Karkov, this area will develop new technologies with the heritage industries and explore their cultural impact -transforming the way heritage is understood, preserved and experienced in galleries, museums and heritage sites.

Design, performance and technology: There are two strands to this area, which bring together the Schools of Design, Music, and Performance and Cultural Industries. Professor Stephen Westland will lead the first, Communication and Affective Design, examining how different facets of design – such as texture, colour and sound – help communicate information or sell products through emotional appeal.

The second strand, Human/Technology Interface led by Dr Kia Ng, will develop interactive multimedia systems – for example, sensory rooms and spaces – through collaboration between science, arts and technology, to enrich both everyday life and creative environments.

Transformations in broadcasting: Based in the Institute of Communications Studies and led by Professor David Hesmondhalgh, this area will provide a historical examination of journalism and popular culture as the prime means for public engagement in modern societies. Why are some periods of popular cultural production marked by intense innovation and others by relative stagnation? How do economic, technological and organisational changes affect media content? The project will examine these questions through a historical examination of radio and television in Europe and North America. A particular interest will be the massive changes currently being brought about by digitalisation.

Leeds has one of the largest academic research librari­es in the UK with collections gathered throughout its 100 year history. The full catalogue also provides access to an extensive range of electronic journals available online. Read more about the libraries

The Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications’ research is also supported by the Leeds Social Sciences Institute, a cross-faculty institute that fosters interdisciplinary research in the social sciences and promotes the collaboration of University research centres with external partners in the public, private and third sectors. LSSI also provides training and research opportunities for our students – the next generation of research leaders.

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