Skip to main content
Astrid Breel – Bath Spa University

Personal statement

Astrid Breel is a researcher, maker and educator, whose interdisciplinary work explores participation, agency and impact within an interdisciplinary context. She is interested in the reasons people have for taking part in events and projects (from theatre to research), how their experiences become meaningful for them, and how we can capture these meaningful experiences in a way that does justice to them. Astrid is an Associate of Coney (who make play to spark change) and a member of artist-led organisation Residence in Bristol, UK.

Astrid’s research explores meaning-making processes, through which an audience member or participant interprets their experience of a work or project and creates the meaning that this has for them, in a variety of contexts. Her practice focuses on developing situations that enable two-way engagement between audiences/participants and artists or researchers to create meaningful experiences of participation.

Within her work, she takes an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods approach; drawing on performance studies, cognitive philosophy and psychology, and combining theoretical, practice-based and audience research methodologies to enable an understanding of participation that incorporates multiple perspectives. Such an approach enables a contextual perspective on questions such as how participants make sense of participatory offers to make choices and how audiences find value in engaging with Arts and Humanities research.

Agency in experiential performance

Astrid’s research on participatory and experiential performance forms focuses on agency and aesthetic experience. Her research argues the fundamental interconnectedness of ethics and aesthetics in participatory performance. It sets out four aesthetic elements of participatory performance and explores how agency becomes meaningful in participation.

She has developed an empirical audience research method for analysing the aesthetic experience of participatory performance practices (published in Vol.12:1 special issue of Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies) and collaborated with internationally renowned practitioners in applying this method. She has also developed a contextual approach to agency that highlights that agency needs to be experienced to be meaningful.

Current projects

  • Create to Collaborate: This project explores the potential of creative activities and facilitation to improve inclusivity in public involvement in health research. The project will bring different people, community groups and health and social care staff together with researchers to see whether a shared creative experience – like an art workshop, in which no one is an ‘expert’ – can benefit the formation of working relationships, and begin to set up trust. We want to see whether creative activities can be an opportunity for individuals to meet on common ground – and whether this might inspire them to want to work together on co-produced health research projects in the future. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust and a collaboration with the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute and NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West at the University of Bristol.
  • Playing Audience’s Guide: This project explores how audience expectations impact on participants’ experiences, meaning-making and actions within experiential performance. Using audience research the project will develop a ‘key’ for audience that communicates key aspects of the performance experience (such as immersion and participation levels as well as the types of technology involved). In addition, the project has developed a digital tool and strategy for capturing audience expectations pre-performance and experience post-performance in a way that extends the conversation with the work. This project is AHRC funded through a NET fellowship, as part of the Bristol and Bath Creative R&D project
  • The Magic Trick: This project explores how we can facilitate meaningful change for participants through a playful intervention and build an impact strategy capable of capturing individual and emergent impacts. This pilot study tested a facilitation of a process of change for a participant without determining for them what meaningful change will (or should) look like. The project is providing insight into how an evaluation strategy impacts on the participant’s overall experience and is developing new ways to capture the context around quantitative impact data.
  • Pudding: Facilitating Audience Interpretation: Audience meaning-making is a complex process that is difficult to capture. Pudding, a post-event forum for audiences to digest what they’ve seen on stage, creates a space where audiences continue their interpretation processes; one which is judgement-free. This pilot project, in collaboration with MAYK, explores how best to capture audience experiences and develop equitable and embedded audience development strategies.
  • Arts and Humanities research impact: An interdisciplinary research project examining the different types of value and meaning audiences and participants find in engaging with Arts and Humanities research at Bath Spa University. The project focuses on the ‘intangible’ and emergent nature of engagement with research and is developing new methods for capturing such experiences.

Academic qualifications

  • PhD in Performance Studies - University of Kent.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education - University of Kent.
  • MA - University of Chester.
  • BA (Hons) - University College Chester.

External roles

  • Associate of Coney
  • Member of artist-led organisation Residence in Bristol, UK.

Areas of expertise

  • Performance studies (particularly participatory and experiential performance forms, digital performance and interactive dramaturgy)
  • Audience research (with a focus on mixed-methods)
  • Agency (in an interdisciplinary context)
  • Impact and evaluation (in relation to arts and cultural experiences and from Arts and Humanities research).

Contact me about

  • How to engage people meaningfully in your research
  • How best to capture research engagement and impact.

Edit profile | Website feedback to