School of English and Drama

Professor Paul Heritage, BA English and Drama (Manchester)


Professor of Drama and Performance



I am Professor of Drama and Performance and Director of People’s Palace Projects, a Research Centre in the School of English and Drama and national portfolio organization of Arts Council England.  Since 1991, I have been creating arts and cultural projects between the UK and Brazil including 13 years of performance-based human rights projects with prisoners, guards and their families from São Paulo through to the Amazon region. From 1995, I led a bi-annual exchange programme known as Shakespeare Forum  which over the last two decades has brought theatre directors, designers, actors, composers, playwrights and scholars to Brazil from the UK, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and beyond to work with Brazilian artists, academics and audiences.  I have directed Shakespeare projects with celebrated casts in some of Brazil’s most distinguished theatres as well as in prisons, juvenile detention centres and on the borderlands of conflict in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. In addition to directing plays for Gay Sweatshop (Britain’s first professional LGBTQ+ theatre company) and the Young Vic (where I was International Associate), I was Associate Producer at the Barbican Centre from 2006-9 where I created a partnership with the favela-based arts company Grupo Cultural AfroReggae. On behalf of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, Arts Council England, British Council and DCMS, I created Points of Contact, a four-year cultural exchange programme for policy makers and artists focusing on transformative arts practices (2009-12). As part of London’s 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad, I produced Rio Occupation London, bringing 30 emerging artists to create a cultural occupation of London during 30 days. The project created 250 new works of art and performance and was seen by over 37,000 people.  Since 2015, I have curated a residency and performance space for artists and academics in Rio de Janeiro known as Casa Rio on behalf of the State Secretary for Culture and with support from QMUL. 

My current research include practice-based projects on arts and mental health in Brazil, Colombia and Argentina. With the Brazilian cultural economist Leandro Valiati, I have devised and continue to develop a tool-kit to be used by arts organizations to measure the socio-economic impact of their work in peripheral communities which has been tested in London, Manchester, Rio de Janeiro and five regions across Brazil.  In collaboration with AIKAX (the Kuikuro Indigenous Association of the Upper Xingu),   Factum Arte (Madrid) and the Horniman Museum (London), I have led a series of research projects on cultural exchange with Brazilian indigenous communities.  Since 2013, I have coordinated a choir project with people who experience homelessness in Rio de Janeiro in association with the nternational arts initiative With One Voice (which was launched by People’s Palace Projects and Streetwise Opera at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics in 2016).  In 2004, I was made a Knight of the Order of the Rio Branco by the Brazilian government and have had a studio theatre named after me by the prisoners and guards in the maximum-security prison of Brasília.  For further information and a publications list see or  or


Research Interests:

  • Brazilian Culture and Performance (including indigenous practices)
  • Socially-engaged arts
  • Cultural Policy
  • Theatre and performance in the criminal justice system

Recent and On-Going Research:

  • The Art of Cultural Exchange: a bi-national project funded by the AHRC and British Council, undertaken in collaboration with Professor Ilana Strozenberg/Federal University of Rio de Janeiro which proposes an investigation into cultural exchange as an act of translation (2004-16)
  • SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME: Newton Advanced Fellowship in collaboration with Dr Eliana Silva (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) on cultural strategies for improving police and community relations in territories exposed to high levels of social violence.
  • The AGENCY: practice-based research on youth cultural entrepreneurship in peripheral communities: UK/Brazil.  Undertaken in partnership with Contact Theatre Manchester, Battersea Arts Centre, Agency of Youth Networks Rio de Janeiro. Funded by The Gulbenkian Foundation
  • LONDON AS A VILLAGE: practice-based research on UK cultural exchange with Brazilian indigenous communities (funded by Brazilian Ministry of Culture, British Council and AHRC). In collaboration with Takumã Kuikuro, filmmaker from the Xingu territories of Brazil.
  • SHAKESPEARE FORUM: Brazil.  Bi-annual programme of workshops, performances, exhibitions, publications, public debates in association with Global Shakespeare.   Funded by Bank of Brazil and British Council. Next edition in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo: April-July 2016
  • Brazil: art and progress. Research on the role of arts and cultural policy in achieving social progress in Brazil. Funded by the Leverhulme Foundation: 2014-16.
  • Amazônia: Performance/workshops/publications exploring strategies for creating international cultural interventions in issues of climate change and environmental deprivation 2007/8
  • Favela to the World: 6-year programme of performance/workshops/trainings/publications related to the social technologies of arts-based initiatives in favelas and peripheral communities in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Programme included: Together Apart [2009/10]; Cultural Warriors [2009-12], AfroReggae Residencies at Southbank Centre  and  Liverpool/Everyman Theatres [2010].
  • Points of Contact: Research programme on cultural knowledge-transfer between UK/Brazil related to artists' responses to contemporary issues of social transformation/human development/urban regeneration 2009-12.
  • Transforming Lives: Creation of live site-specific digital interactive installations building on knowledge and experience of young people as they seek to transform their worlds through the arts (2009-11)


“Dear Nise: Method, madness and artistic occupation at a psychiatric hospital in Rio de Janeiro” (with Dr Silvia Ramos). chapter for Critical Perspectives on Applied Theatre eds. Jenny Hughes and Helen Nicholson (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2016)

“Dear Carmen”, chapter for The Only Way Home Is Through the Show: The Performance Work of Lois Weaver ed. Jen Harvie (Intellect: London, 2015).

“Talking about a revolution: Arts, Health and Wellbeing on Avenida Brasil” (with Dr Silvia Ramos). Chapter for Oxford Textbook on Creative Arts, Health and Wellbeing eds. Stephen Clift and Paul Camic (OUP: Oxford 2015)

‘The Game Is Violent!: Opening Gambits at the Ministry of Culture’, Critical Sociology: Special Edition on Brazil, 38 (2012), 877-887. doi:10.1177/0896920512440584

Intense Dreams: Reflections on Brazilian Culture and Performance (People's Palace Projects, 2009)

with G. Stewart, P. Spowage, L. Soares, L. Sovik, E. Cunha, C. Berry, and others, Encounters Beyond Text: Art Transforming Lives (Queen Mary University of London, 2011)

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


I would welcome enquiries from prospective doctoral students interested in any aspect of my work.

I have supervised the following successful PhD projects:

  • David Harradine, ‘Chronographies: Performance, Death and the Writing of Time’ (2005)
  • Caoimhe McAvinchey, ‘Possible Ficitions: The Testimony of Applied Performance with Women in Prisons in England and Brazil’, co-supervised with Maria Delgado (2006)
  • Louise Owen, ‘Performing “Risk”: Neoliberalization and Contemporary Performance’, co-supervised with Nicholas Ridout (2010)
  • Suzy Willson, ‘Performing Medicine’ (2011)
  • Megan Macdonald, ‘Performance Art, Liturgy and the Performance of Belief’, co-supervised with (2012)
  • Sylvan Baker, ‘Creating a Movement: Leadership Through Art’, co-supervised with Caoimhe McAvinchey (2015)


As part of People's Palace Projects, I direct projects that involve performances, workshops, seminars, and other events. These projects include: