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Participatory arts for advocacy, activism and transformational justice with young people living in Direct Provision


Participatory arts for advocacy, activism and transformational justice with young people living in Direct Provision

University College Cork and Cork Migrant Centre

Maggie O’Neill, Jools Gilson, Amin Sharifi Isaloo, Jaqui O’Riordan, Fionn Woodhouse, Mike Fitzgibbon, Naomi Masheti, Fionnuala O’Connell and Chrizsine Backhouse.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted and challenged all aspects of society. The crisis has been particularly severe for young asylum seekers living in Direct Provision, as social isolation and marginalisation associated with being an asylum seeker have been further exacerbated by the crisis. This project aims to forge greater links between academia, advocacy, and activism by focussing on the needs and voices of young people. Using participatory action research through the medium of theatre  (Prof. Jools Gilson) and walking methods (Prof.Maggie O’Neill) the project explores the ways in which young people negotiate their experiences in Direct Provision while constructing and creating a sense of belonging to their communities.

The participatory action research project  emerged from a seminar organised by Dr Amin Sharifi Isaloo (Dept Sociology & Criminology) that focused upon migrant experiences and celebrated the publication of O’Riordan and FitzGibbon’s  (2020) book Direct Provision: Asylum, The Academy and Activism. Subsequent conversations with Dr Naomi Masheti discussed  the possibility of working with young people in Direct provision  through creative methods and tapping into the long history of research, practice and advocacy on issues of asylum and migration.   

The project took shape following a series of well received drama workshops by Jools Gilson and Fionn Woodhouse and connecting with previous and current work by Maggie O’Neill and colleagues  that combined walking and forum/playback theatre; we successfully bid for a New Foundations grant to take the work forward.

The research project is supported by the expertise and experience of Fionnuala O’Connell (community co-researcher) and Dr Naomi Masheti at Cork Migrant Centre, Dr Jacqui O’Riordan and Mike Fitzgibbon, Dr Amin Sharifi Isaloo, Fionn Woodhouse at UCC,  Dr Egle Gusciute, UCD, and Chriszine Backhouse (MTU/Crawford Art Gallery), Professor Jools Gilson (Dept Theatre, UCC)  and Professor Maggie O’Neill (Sociology&Criminology, UCC).  

Combining theatre and walking methods as a creative research in practice, the project will work with the young people and the Cork migrant centre as co-producers of knowledge. The project will generate new knowledge  and understanding in the area of migration and refugee studies while also addressing social inclusion within Irish society through innovative participatory and interdisciplinary methods.

The duration of this project is 9 months from January 2022.  The project seeks to:

  • Improve the lives of young asylum seekers by conducting arts based (theatre and walking) participatory research to explore their experiences of direct provision and senses of belonging in partnership with the Cork Migrant Centre;
  • generate and disseminate better knowledge, understanding and interventions using participatory research methods;
  • promote social justice through improved public health and wellbeing, and  environmental sustainability using walking research and theatre practices.
  • facilitate an inclusive, open space for young people’s stories and voices and evidence the benefits of such practices;
  • provide an innovative resource and toolkit as a legacy of the project.


The partnership with the Cork Migrant Centre, UCC, UCD and MTU will facilitate the development of a connected network of academia and civic society on these pressing issues.





College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

Coláiste na nEalaíon, an Léinn Cheiltigh agus na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta

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