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Introducing Tom Bailey: Leverhulme Artist in Residence in the Migration Research Unit

Posted by Ajay Chauhan at Feb 07, 2017 11:14 AM |

by Tom Bailey


My name is Tom Bailey and for the next year I’ll be Leverhulme-supported artist in residence with the Migration Research Unit at UCL’s Geography Department. I’m delighted to be working within the department and I’ve already began to find inspiration from the many meetings, workshops, seminars going on within UCL. I studied English here (2004-2007) so it’s great to be back and see how things have changed.

I’m a theatre director and performer by trade, and run my own independent theatre company, The Mechanical Animal Corporation (  My reason for coming to the MRU is that last year I was involved with a charity called Good Chance Theatre. This was a theatre space set up within the Calais ‘Jungle’ migrant camp. Across 2015-2016 I visited several times to run workshops and make performance with the many refugees who used the space.


Prior to going to Calais, I was preparing to develop a project exploring bird migration on a bird wetland near Glastonbury. The more I explored bird migration, the more I became fascinated how the migratory capacity of species differs greatly. Aware of the growing current global human migrant crisis, and looking to do something to help, I figured that an exploration of bird migration and human migration might be a compelling subject for a work of performance, and offer public audiences an interpretation of what is happening amid this mass movement of people.

During my residency I’m looking to increase my understanding in many areas, but specifically the cultural and ideological frameworks that construct/ exclude the identity of a ‘refugee’ or ‘migrant’. Considering that for several years explorations of climate change and evolutionary biology have underpinned my work, I’m also looking to explore biological/ cognitive aspects of how humans migrate, or make journeys – I’ve already had a very fruitful discussion with UCL neuroscientist Dr. Hugo Spiers in this regard.

I love connecting ideas and working in an interdisciplinary way, so I will hopefully be connecting with a lot of different researchers across the university. Besides personal research, my plan for this year is to run a series of workshops exploring performance and migration (for staff and students), to present an audio project exploring bird and human song at UCL’s Grant Museum of Natural History, and to develop a work-in-progress theatre performance (to be completed beyond the scope of this residency). All information about these events will be disseminated via the Geography Department, so please do keep an eye out!