Ashley Barnes

Ashley Barnes

Principal Lecturer


I am a practitioner and academic with a background in Applied Theatre, touring theatre, scriptwriting and directing. I was the Artistic Director of Dead Earnest Theatre, an applied theatre company, for eighteen years and worked extensively in the fields of Arts and Health and Creative learning. My research focuses on the use of Performance in applied and community contexts and I have written about the use of Performance in criminal justice settings, with medical professionals and as a way of dealing with difficult issues, such as bereavement.


I am the Head of Stage and Screen leading a team of fourteen academics teaching and researching in the field of Film Studies, Screenwriting and Performance. I am also a member of the HEA, am published in the field of Theatre and Health and have also acted an External Examiner for Teeside University and the University of South Wales. I have taught at SHU since 2007 in the field of Performance (in 2014 I directed a production that celebrated Hallam's link to the Tour de France entitled be|spoke) and prior to that worked as a professional theatre practitioner.

 I was the founder and Artistic Director of Dead Earnest Theatre (specialists in Applied Theatre) for eighteen years and also worked extensively for Creative Partnerships. Whilst at Dead Earnest, the Company had a turn-over of well over a million pounds, performed 150 touring and over 200 forum theatre shows, delivered 1,000 workshops and employed over 1,000 actors. I have also directed 26 professional theatre productions, am the author of five full length plays and have worked as a professional actor. Whilst in charge of Dead Earnest, the Company was commissioned to work for many prestigious national organisations such as The General Medical Council, The Royal College of GPs, Cafcass and numerous Local Authorities and Universities and was featured in The Department of Health and Arts Council publication A Prospectus for Arts and Health.

Applied Theatre



Performance for Stage & Screen / Performance & Professional Practice


'Dying on Stage' - Performance in Palliative Care


Journal articles

Albertson, K., Pateman, M., Albertson, K., Barnes, A., & Peplow, D. (2016). The role of the arts, humanities and social sciences in forming and informing responses to contemporary social change. The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Civic and Political Studies, 11 (2), 29-46.


Tan, M., & Barnes, A. (2022). Dying Matters - a participatory performance to explore the complexities and consequences arising from our struggles to talk openly about issues such as dying, and highlighting the importance of such exchanges. Lab4Living, Dying Dialogue Symposium (Toronto, Canada), Dying Matter Week 2023 (Sheffield- Lab4Living)

Other activities

External Examiner
- Kirklees College (Teeside University) FdA Performing Arts
- University of South Wales. MRes Theatre


Ashley joined the University after 18 years as artistic director of Dead Earnest - Applied Theatre Specialists. He has been commissioned by organisations to use performance techniques to engage, consult and train people.

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