Tessa Buddle

Tessa Buddle
Photo credit: Jazamin Sinclair

PhD 2020

HEI: University of Glasgow

Funding: AHRC DTP

Title: Utopia on Tour: exploring a generative relationship between dramaturgy, devising, touring, and utopia 

Supervisors: Professor Deirdre Heddon and Dr Michael Bachmann 


What was your research about?

Via practice, I investigated the relationship between theatre-making and utopia, considering the two predominantly as methods and asking what the intersections between them might teach us about making a better world. 

What made you apply for the SGSAH AHRC DTP?

I wanted to interrogate my theatre practice and make better work, situating it within a philosophical and political framework 

Which aspects of your PhD did you enjoy the most?

Making the connections, coming to understand the conceptual framework and forming conclusions. The collaborative elements of the practical research were enjoyably indeterminate and required me to open myself up to the unexpected and challenge my preconceptions, which I found enriching. But for me the final writing-up stages, when these messy findings started to form into conclusions, were the most satisfying. 

How has your PhD helped you to decide on a career path?

At times I found the research process very slow, and I missed the immediacy of theatre-making, but I also valued being part of a community of researchers and having regular opportunities to discuss ideas and practice. Since completing the PhD I have largely returned to theatre-making, and I am pleased to be working in an environment where research and reflective practice is encouraged and supported.  

A big thing I gained from the PhD was to value myself and my work a lot more. It helped me raise my expectations in terms of the kinds of roles I could go for, the pay I should expect, and I’ve become more active in my trade union to fight for better conditions in the cultural sector in general.  

And now?

I work for Collective Encounters – a professional arts organisation in Liverpool who specialise in Theatre for Social Change. I am the Lead Artist and Project Manager on the company’s Women in Action programme, as well as supporting other aspects of their work. 

In addition, I do occasional teaching and supervision in HE, some freelance creative work, and I am an elected organiser in the Designers and Cultural Workers sector group of United Voices of the World (trade union).

One piece of advice you would give an incoming PhD researcher?

Make a manageable plan for your PhD and it’s ok to scale it back as you go! You might only achieve a fraction of what you set out to do, but the new insights will be more than you ever imagined. 

Where can people find you?

Twitter: @tessabuddle 

Collective Encounters: https://collective-encounters.org.uk/ 

Designers and Cultural Workers: https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/en/sectors/designers-cultural-workers/ 

This article was published on 11 April, 2022