23 July 2021 / News

PhD Studentship – Black Performance Practice in the West Midlands 1900-1950

The University of Wolverhampton is making available one fully-funded studentship for September 2021 entry for a Black researcher, to explore, document, and communicate the history of Black Performance Practice in the West Midlands: 1900-1950.

This studentship responds to concerns about the lack of representation of Black students at doctoral level in performing arts, and the broader lack of doctoral funding awarded to Black students. Nationally, Leading Routes’ ‘The Broken Pipeline’ reported that over a three-year period, only 1.2% of 19,868 studentships awarded by all UKRI research councils went to Black or Black Mixed Students.

The Black History of British Musical Theatre (BHBMT) project led by Sean Mayes and Dr Sarah Whitfield (Senior Lecturer in Musical Theatre at the University of Wolverhampton) has explored the substantial presence of Black practitioners across variety, musical theatre and dance across the UK during this period, and drawn attention to the West Midlands. The West Midlands saw repeated performances by practitioners as well known as Paul Robeson, Johnny Nit, Mabel Mercer and Louis Armstrong, as well as hundreds of as yet under-explored Black performers and creatives.

The BHBMT project works at the intersection of digital humanities and archival research, creating datasets tracing and revealing the work of Black practitioners and creative practice. Many of these performances and practices have underexplored archival traces in theatre and performance archives, and local and regional archives. The PhD project will explore this work, drawing on the strong heritage of this performance practice within the West Midlands region. The PhD student will use tools from digital humanities to communicate and reveal the extent of Black performance and creative practices and disseminate this information.

What your project might include:

Potential projects and approaches to this work might include : 

  • Visualising social networks of Black performers and practitioners in the West Midlands, visualising connections between touring companies, producers and choreographers.
  • Investigating the role and importance of Black choreographers during this period in reshaping dance practices. Establish an online presence for this knowledge to disseminate information.
  • Creating specific datasets for theatres in the region that respond to regional archives, use tools to process, analyse and visualise the data.

What is offered? 

  • The studentship is available for full-time or part-time doctoral research for commencement in 2021.
  • An annual stipend of £15,609 tenable for years 1, 2, and 3 of a full-time PhD, or fractionally for years 1-6 of a part time project, subject to annual review and renewal.
  • The university will also pay full-time tuition fees for years 1-3 (or part time equivalent).
  • A travel fund for archival research.
  • Training and skills development through the Doctoral College.
  • Mentorship by a senior University of Wolverhampton Black academic.

If you have any further questions please email Dr Sarah Whitfield, Senior Lecturer in Musical Theatre and Dr Desmond Case, Senior Lecturer in Computing

For full details about the post, essential criteria and next steps, please download the pdf.

To apply, submit a 250-300 word proposal for a doctoral project that responds to the project as part of a cover letter. Submit this alongside your CV, with links to any relevant work or projects. 

Send to by 23rd August 2021. Arrange for your referees to email their references to by the 23rd August 2021.