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LAHRI Speculative Conversation: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Performer-Audience Relationship, 28 February

Wednesday 28 February 2024, 10am-11.30am
Conference Room, School of Music

Please note that this is an in-person event. If you are interested in being involved in future discussions but can’t attend the event, please contact Emily Payne (

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How do DJs ‘read the room’ during a set? How does crowd behaviour impact on sportspeople? What does it mean to be able to ‘hear a pin drop’ in a packed auditorium? How do comedians engage (or otherwise) with hecklers? The performer-audience relationship is a powerful aspect of live performance. Research has demonstrated the extent to which audiences are active participants in live performance, and has identified a range of strategies for enhancing and encouraging audience engagement. Yet despite the integral role of the audience across various domains, there has been little scholarly attention paid to its impact on performers, whether ‘inside the room’, through the co-present interactions in the moment of performance; or ‘outside the room’, through the less immediate exchanges with the people and practices beyond the performance space.

Hosted by Karen Burland (Music), Katie Gardner (Music/PCI), Joslin McKinney (PCI), Emily Payne (Music), and Ben Walmsley (PCI), this Speculative Conversation invites researchers and practitioners from across the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (and beyond) to explore the performer-audience relationship from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Participants will engage in three discussions reflecting the following thematic areas, in a carousel format, selecting the topics of most interest to them. Through this format we will uncover key insights, practices, and questions that will guide subsequent activities and funding applications:

  • Expectations and values: How might insights from practice challenge assumptions and mythologies surrounding the performer-audience relationship? What is the value of the live performance for practitioners working across different domains, and are there contexts in which the performer-audience relationship is more or less meaningful?
  • Empathy, identity, and belonging: What are the capacities of live performance to create a sense of empathy between performers and their audiences? Where might the potentially fruitful tensions and antagonisms lie? How might (imagined) audiences construct or obstruct a performer’s sense of identity and belonging?
  • Technologies and spaces: How do new forms of technology necessitate or make possible new spaces for performer-audience interaction, and what are their consequences (both positive and negative) for the performer-audience relationship?
  • Wellbeing, pedagogy, and practice: What aspects mediate the performer-audience relationship, and what barriers inhibit performers from engaging with their audiences? What are the impacts of these for performers’ wellbeing, and how might training be developed to address them?
  • Methodologies: How might sharing methodologies from different disciplines help to examine and understand the processes of live performance in an ecologically valid way? How might the insights gained be used to benefit performers (and their audiences)?