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Keynote Speakers

Urvashi Sahni

Dr Urvashi Sahni is a social entrepreneur, women’s rights activist, and educationist, who has been active in the field for more than three decades. She is a leading expert in school governance, curriculum reform, and teacher training with a special focus on girls’ education and gender equality. She founded Suraksha (a women’s rights organisation), DiDi's (a social enterprise for sustainable livelihoods for women), and the Study Hall Educational Foundation(SHEF). Currently, she is the founder president and CEO of SHEF. Over the last 3 decades, Dr. Sahni’s work, through SHEF and its schools and outreach initiatives, has impacted more than 100,000 teachers and 5 million children, most of whom are girls from disadvantaged communities.

Jonothan Neelands

Prof. Jonothan Neelands is a National Teaching Fellow, Academic Director for Cultural Partnerships University of Warwick and Professor of Creative Education Warwick Business School (WBS). Jonothan was Director of Study for the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value and Director of Research Projects for the Creative Industries Federation. He has recently developed Joint Cultural Needs Assessment Guidelines for Arts Council England. He was the lead writer of the Coventry Cultural Strategy 2017-2027, contributed to Coventry’s successful bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 and is now the Academic Lead for Research and Evaluation Coventry City of Culture Trust.

Jenny Hughes

Jenny Hughes is Professor and Head of Drama at the University of Manchester. She has published on theatre and performance as responses to crisis, socio-economic inequality and emergency, including a monograph, Performance in a time of terror (MUP, 2011) and co-authored book, Performance in place of war (Seagull/Chicago, 2009). She has edited and contributed to essay collections on applied and social theatre (Critical Perspectives on Applied Theatre, Cambridge 2016 - with Helen Nicholson), precarity, performance and welfare (RIDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 22:1, 2017), and activist performance (Contemporary Theatre Review, 25:3, 2015, with Simon Parry). At the time of writing, she is working as part of a research team (led by Helen Nicholson), to explore the civic value of theatre and performance in towns, focusing particularly on post-industrial towns in the North of England (‘Civic Theatres: A Place for Towns’/@creativetowns).

Michael Finneran

Dr Michael Finneran is Head of the Department of Drama and Theatre Studies at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland. His teaching interests lie across drama, from applied theatre to drama education and theatre practice. Research interests include social justice, creativity and arts education. He is author (with Kelly Freebody) of Critical Themes in Drama: Social-Cultural and Political Analysis in Drama Education & Applied Theatre (Routledge, 2021) and co-editor of several volumes. He is currently Principal Investigator on an Irish Research Council study examining creativity and wellbeing. Michael is a Gilbert Fellow at the University of Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Institute and was added to the DCU Alumni Wall in 2020. He remains actively involved in theatre practice as a director and lighting designer as well as sitting on several arts boards.

Daniel Harris

Professor Daniel Harris (previously published as Anne Harris) is Associate Dean, Research & Innovation in the School of Education, RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia). They are an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, and Co-Director of Creative Agency research lab: . Harris is editor of the book series Creativity, Education and the Arts (Palgrave), and has authored over 100 articles/book chapters, 19 books, as well as plays, films and spoken word performances. Their research focuses on creativity studies, cultural, sexual and gender diversities, and on performance and activism. They are committed to the power of collaborative creative practice and social justice research to inform social change.

Dirk Rodricks

Dr. Dirk J. Rodricks, Ph.D. (he/him) is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Arts, Health, and Social Wellness and Associate Director of The FLOURISH Collective – a designated Cluster of Scholarly Prominence at the University of Toronto Scarborough (Toronto, Canada). A Queer/Khush, racialized (Desi/South Asian) settler with ancestors from the southern part of India, Dr. Rodricks earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Pedagogy from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto under the direction of Professor Kathleen Gallagher. Committed critical, creative, anti-racist, and de/colonial pedagogies, his research interests include multiply marginalized young adult identity formations and negotiations of social wellness in formal and nonformal sites of learning, intergenerational ethnoracial and queer inheritances across transnational contexts, and de/colonizing qualitative methodologies anchored by applied drama.

With special guest: Prof. John O'Toole

John O’Toole was the Foundation Chair of Arts Education at the University of Melbourne, and previously Professor of Drama and Applied Theatre at Griffith University, Queensland. After twelve years as a schoolteacher, he has spent over thirty in teacher education and research in drama, and taught at every age level and on every continent. He has written and co-written many standard research and practical text books, and is also a playwright and director in young people’s and community theatre. From 2009-2013 he was Lead Writer for the Arts and for Drama in the new Australian Curriculum. In 2001 he was given the American Alliance for Theatre and Education Lifetime Research Award, and in 2014 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to Drama Education.