Simon Bayly

Research activity per year

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Personal profile


Reader in Drama, Theatre & Performance at Roehampton, Head of Engagement for the School of Arts and artistic director of the former London-based arts organisation PUR (1991-2016)

Before starting my academic career in 2003, I worked as an assistant director and international development manager at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh and then as an independent theatre maker and producer for over 15 years, based primarily in London. After a 3-year AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts at Roehampton, I joined the Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance full-time in 2006.

My research and teaching explores the overlap between the practices of the making of performance and those of other (non)disciplines, including philosophy, psychoanalysis, and the arts of organisation; contemporary curatorial practice engaged with participatory, relational and 'socially-engaged' art; the aesthetic dimensions of political activism and ecology; the relationship between artistic practice and informal, DIY or radical education activity; exploring questions raised by 'research' considered as a strategy for artistic production - and vice versa.

I am currently active in the community-led housing movement in the UK as a founder-member of Copper Lane Cohousing, one of the first cohousing projects completed in London, about which I give regular presentations and tours to architecture and planning students, international housing design researchers and emerging community-led housing groups. I am also a director of the UK Cohousing Network, the national organization for cohousing in the UK where I advise on strategy and communications.

My book A Pathognomy of Performance was published by Palgrave in 2011. This is a study of performance that weaves together analyses of a wide range of phenomena - from the celebrity on stage to revolutionary thought - with the work of contemporary philosophy. It elaborates the themes of interruption and undoing that have perpetually shadowed the uneasy relationship between philosophy and theatricality in particular - and which continue to form the basis of many claims for the political potency of art in general.

You can find PDF draft versions of most of my books, articles and talks here.

Since October 2020, I have taken on a new role as Head of Engagement for the School of Arts, developing new collaborations with external partners across the range of disicplines in the School.


PhD, University of Surrey, 2002.
MA in Theatre Studies, Royal Holloway & Bedford New College, University of London, 1990.
MA in English Literature & Drama, University of Edinburgh, 1984-1988.

Professional affiliations

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Research projects

Communiversity. 2022-23. 

Our vision is for a new ‘communiversity’ for the people of Roehampton. Working with local organizations and mutual aid initiatives, we want to construct a sustainable, networked eco-system of resident-led cultural micro-projects using the resources and people of the University of Roehampton. It’s this multi-organizational, systems approach that’s our chief innovation.

Our first phase activities are ‘strange attractors’ - co-designed, mobile, street-level, R&D offerings, inviting engagement in the Roehampton's underused outdoor and community spaces. We will start conversations and initiate activities with hundreds of people who live and work locally. We’ll then create rolling programmes of peer-to-peer, practical and creative arts projects where people can learn and teach new things, gain confidence, improve their physical and mental health, build social and professional networks, create new services, products, works of art and forms of celebration. We want to co-create the greatest possible variety of activities with local people, as often as possible, and as close to their homes as possible.

Project led by Roehampton staff members Simon Bayly, Glenn Odom and Leslie Hill.


Acts of Assembly. 2017-present. My current project, exploring the face-to-face meeting as a genre of social action and its manifestations in corporate, activist and artistic contexts. Outcomes include academic publications, collaborative performance work with young people and public engagement within community-led housing contexts. Supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

Story Innovation Programme. 2013. A collaboration funded by Creativeworks London with cultural producer Stellar Network. 15 artists and producers from film, theatre, scriptwriting, visual arts, creative technology, game design and coding participated in a 4-month long professional development programme with a range of guest lectures and workshop leaders, including Blast Theory, David Varela and Adrian Hon. The main focus of the programme was the design and prototyping of four projects in response to briefs provided by cultural sector organisations: the National Trust (a new audio-driven solution for guiding visitors around NT property Sutton House in east London); London International Festival of Theatre (an innovative, participatory platform for establishing a core identity for the festival); publisher Visual Editions (a game for public spaces to stimulate engagement with the themes of their forthcoming edition of Cervantes' Don Quixote) and publisher 4th Estate (an online text adventure platform to accompany a series of new science fiction novels by American writer Jeff Vandermeer). 

The Pathognomy of Performance: Rehearsing the Rhetoric of Expert Knowledge. 2004-2007. Three year research project supported by an AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts investigating the practices of academic research and the figure of the expert through an engagement with the practices of experimental theatre, psychoanalysis and philosophical inquiry.

Presentations and papers since 2005:

‘Flat Batteries in the Fog of Becoming’, paper for Performance Philosophy 2nd international conference, Chicago, April 2015.

'Unworking Dramaturgy', guest presentation for the seminar Dramaturgy at Work (organized by Konstantina Georgelou, Efrosini Protopapa & Danae Theodoridou), Feb 2015, Universtiy of Roehampton, London.

 ‘Art, Performance and Social Practice’, invited presentation and practical workshop session for Qualitative Longitudinal Research and Practice Traditions, Birkbeck College, June 2013.

'Carry on Camping?: an aesthetics of tents in contemporary urban occupations', invited guest presentation for the conference There is no more poetry than action, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, April 2013.

Invited panel speaker, 'The Author as Provocateur - playing the space of politics in the age of dissensus', Authoring Theatre conference, Central School of Speech & Drama, London, 14-15 July 2011.

'Practice-as-Research', keynote presentation and workshop at the conference Theatre, Science, Power: The Making of a Theory, Free University, Berlin Feb 2010.

'The Art of Research', keynote presentation at Central School of Speech and Drama Research Methods event, London, Jan 13th 2009.

'Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast', keynote presentation at Iceland Academy of the Arts, Reykjavik, 3- 4th October 2008.

'Trouble with Seeing', paper for Performance Studies International, New York City, 8-11 Nov, 2007.

'What is a university?', philosophical enquiry session facilitated for inaugural conference of the British-Irish Theatre and Performance Research Association, 8-10 September 2005.

'Group Analysis and the Dynamics of Dialogue', paper presentation at The Challenge of Dialogue, International Conference, 25-29th July, 2005, Berlin.

'Free Associations', series of philosophical enquiry sessions facilitated at Towards Tomorrow?, International Gathering 2005, Centre for Performance Research, Cardiff, 7-10th April 2005.

Convener and chair of 'Inhumanities: Animals, the Stage and the Anthropological Machine', panel presentation for the 11th Performance Studies International conference, Brown University, USA, March 30-April 5, 2005 and for Towards Tomorrow, International Gathering 2005, Centre for Performance Research, Cardiff, 7-10th April 2005.

'When is Philosophy Any Use?', facilitated session for Quorum, Queen Mary Drama and Performance Research Forum, Jan 12, 2005.

Performance work since 2000:
Babel of Tower: A Report to the Academy (2007), a comedic autocritque about failure, stupidity and free association, taking the form of a staged dialogue with computer projection, functioning as an alternative 'project report' for an AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts. Performed by invitation at the LSE, University of Cambridge and Birkbeck College, London.

Dear All (2006), performance for any formal meeting room involving 99 index cards, 30 people, 30 chairs, a large table, and a collection of emails, both real and possibly fictional, harvested from the 'all users' email service of a large public service organisation over a period of 15 years. An encounter with institutional life in all its mundanity, triviality and beauty - and with the peculiar rituals and efforts at communication through which any collective body tries to get a grip on itself. First performed at Birkbeck College, University of London, June 2006.

'Zero', commissioned text for Forced Entertainment's 12 hour durational performance Marathon Lexicon, performed at Mousunturm, Frankfurt, Nov 2003 and Riverside Studios, London, Nov 2004.

Take Cover! (2003), commissioned performance for Civic Centre: Reclaiming the Right to Performance conference held in London 9-16th April 2003. A contemporary, minimalist 'pastoral' set in a series of small tents in a large open space, featuring extensive use of performance mediated via headphone playback of pre-recorded dialogue as well as a complex audio score using a range of 'on-site' sound equipment.

Running Time (1998/2000). Performance based on the impossible task of a live recreation of the classic John Cassavettes' film Faces. Performed at Young Vic Studio in 1997, and at The Brady Centre, east London in 2000.


I teach across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance and was co-director and convenor for the MA in Performance and Creative Research from 2009-2015.

Research Supervision

Current or recent PhD projects I'm supervising include:

Hosting the Monster: Politics and Performance in the Age of Impropriety. Helena Botto. 

Resurrecting the artist’s archives. Tara Fatehi Irani. Awarded Feb 2020.

Recreo-labour: work and not-work in professional choreography with non-professional performers. Gillie Kleiman. Awarded June 2019.

Turning the spotlight on artistic practices during a social crisis: the case of choreographers in Greece. Betina Panagiotara. Awarded Sept 2017.

Horticultural Aesthetics: The Politics of Performance in the Garden. Jennie Flader

Improv(is)ed Dwellings: the Performance of Worldliness with 'Alien' Animals. Mariel Supka

A Poetics of Ethics: Negotiating Relationships in Performance Practice. Camilla Eeg. Awarded Feb 2016.

In Place of a Show. (An investigation into the legacies and histories of abandoned, empty or re-purposed theatre architectures and environments). Augusto Corrieri. Awarded December 2013.

Short (Research) Stories: Dramaturgy and Drama in Contemporary Theatre and Dance Practices. Danae Theodoridou. Awarded December 2012.

The Performance of Wit(h)nessing', a study of traumatic experience and performance: Branislava Kuborovic. Awarded July 2011.

The Event of Laughter, a practice-as-research project exploring philosophies and phenomenologies of laughter in relation to performance: Charlie Fox. Awarded Nov 2010.

I am interested in supervising PhD projects in any of the following areas: performance practice as research; curatorial and artistic approaches to participatory, relational and socially-engaged art practice; the artist and corporate culture; performance, ecology and enviromental change; philosophies of theatre and performance; psychoanalytic theory and practice in relation to performance; psychogeography & everyday life; the history and contemporary application of Situationist and autonomist ideas in art practice; pedagogies of performance and informal/alternative education.

External positions

Director, UK Cohousing Network

12 Feb 2020 → …