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Welcome to
Centre for Creative Ethnography

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley


I am currently a Visiting Scholar at QUB. As a creative musician with a performative aspect to my work, my creative and scholarly interests merge as I explore the interplay between performance and ethnography. My work as a consultant, trainer and researcher in the field of arts engagement and creative learning uses my experiences as a socially-engaged artist to foreground the social impact of arts participation.

Creative Practice

Working  in the UK, Ireland and Germany has given me opportunity to reflect upon my artistic vision and socially-engaged practice and its social application. I aim to model best practices to support the recognition of socially-engaged theatre practice in performance-making and music performance education as being important drivers for the future of a civically engaged society.


I am interested in performance-making as offering people an opportunity to explore their lived experiences as part of the creative process. The resultant sharing of lived experiences and negotiation of meaning that emerges in collaborative co-creation is highly ethnographic in nature. As a researcher working along the spectrum of (creative) practice to reflection, I have been developing a practical methodology using approaches from music and theatre alongside a solid grounding in anthropology and ethnomusicology to enable my creative practice to function as a research tool for use in diverse social settings. With an ethnographic and participant observer methodology, workshops can serve as field work for practice-led research with all material generated such as reflective commentary from participants and creative output becoming research data.

My PhD (2003-7) considered the interaction of social and artistic practices in music-making ensembles across a variety of genre in Germany. A Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residency (Armagh Observatory) (2015-16) revealed how creative engagement gave members of the public access to the research world of astronomers by offering an opportunity to develop new conceptual frameworks for interacting with the unfamiliar. Work developing a Community of Practice of music educators with Music Generation (Ireland) (2021-22) has highlighted the importance of shared parameters to give a common language for sharing and reflecting upon pedagogic practice.

Currently I am working on research around a recent performance art project with Ukrainian Refugees in Dublin (CEPA 2023). This experience of working with displaced people highlighted how the energy and hope generated in co-creating workshops and public performance had the potential to engender resilience amongst participants and audience.  My Visiting Scholar position at Queens University Belfast (2023-26) offers me a unique opportunity to develop my creative practice within the reflective framework of practice as research.


Refereed Book Chapters

2017. ‘“Beyond Limits”: Using Participatory Arts Practices to Explore the World of Astronomy at Armagh Observatory’ in Building Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Bridges: Where Practice Meets Research and Theory ed. P. Burnard, V. Ross, E. Mackinlay, K. Powell, T. Dragovic and H. Minors. BIIBAC Publishing, 182-89. ISBN 978-0-9957727-0-0.

2013. ‘Transforming the Singing Body: Gender and Place as Factors in Musical Experience in East Bavarian Choral Singing’ in Performing Emotions, Gendering Landscapes ed. Fiona C. Magowan and Louise Wrazen. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 109-126. ISBN 978-1580465434.

In preparation

‘Finding a common language: Developing a Community of Practice for Music Performance Educators’ (journal article). Based on 2021/22 research conducted with Music Generation, Ireland. Journal to be confirmed.

‘The Ukrainians: Developing resilience through performance making’ (journal article)

Based on 2023 research conducted with CEPA project, Dublin City University, Ireland. Journal to be confirmed.