Professor Helen Brooks

Professor of Cultural and Creative History,
Director of Research & Innovation for the Division of Arts and Humanities
+44 (0)1227 827142
Professor Helen Brooks


Helen joined the University of Kent in 2009, having previously taught at the Universities of Nottingham and Exeter. She works across both cultural history and creative arts practice and has interests in co-produced and participatory research. Helen is Director of Research and Innovation for the Division of Arts and Humanities, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. She peer reviews for both national and international funding bodies and is co-editor of the Exeter University Press series Performance Studies.  

Research interests

Helen’s research spans the eighteenth to the twentieth century, with a focus on theatre and performance cultures; questions of gender, sexuality and identity; politics of performance; and theatre as a site of social engagement. As well as researching histories of theatre and culture, Helen is also interested in creative engagement with history and heritage through theatre, live art and culture. She is co-founder and Creative Director of the Gateways Partnership, an organisation which works with cultural, creative and community partners to bring arts and history together. In 2022, in partnership with Imperial War Museums, Helen produced Walking with Ghostsa durational multi-media immersive experience exploring the impact of war on Folkestone over the last 100 years.

Helen has published widely both on eighteenth-century theatre, and theatre and culture during and following the First World War. Her interest in the First World War covers both theatrical practices during and immediately surrounding the war years, as well as representations of the war in theatre since 1918. She is editor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to First World War Theatre and is currently writing a book on theatre during and immediately after the First World War. She has been an investigator on AHRC-funded research projects in the area including: Gateways to the First World War (2014-2020), the Great War Theatre (2016-) project, and Performing Centenaries (2017-2018). Helen has also given public talks, run workshops at theatres and archives, and appeared on podcasts, radio and television.

Helen’s work on the long eighteenth-century includes her monograph Actresses, Gender and the Eighteenth-Century Stage: Playing Women (2014), which was supported by grants from the British Academy and the Society for Theatre Research. She was also Associate Editor for Drama for the Wiley Encyclopedia of British Literature: 1660-1789 and her essay 'One entire nation of actors and actresses': Reconsidering the Relationship of Public and Private Theatricals' won the South Eastern Association of Eighteenth Century Studies, Annibel Jenkins prize.


Helen is a passionate educator who embeds research at the heart of her pedagogy and who has particular interests in working with students through practice. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. At Kent she has been awarded the Humanities Faculty Teaching Prize, the Kent Union Best Teacher, and the Suzie Morris Prize for Learning Support.

Helen teaches on innovative modules in which students combine research, practical and creative work, and seminar discussion. She also works with students on co-curricular projects, providing unique experiences and opportunities for personal and career development. A particular highlight was her 2017 production The St Barnabas Pilgrimage which was performed as part of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Ypres 100 commemorations in Belgium.


Helen has supervised PhDs in a number of areas including cultural heritage, Shakespeare studies, eighteenth-century performance styles, and participatory performance. She is always happy to talk to PhD applicants. Areas of particular interest include, but are not restricted to:

  • Theatre/performance history and historiography
  • Theatre, arts and heritage
  • Participatory and co-produced research
  • Theatre and culture of the long eighteenth-century
  • Theatre and conflict
  • Cultures of and about the Great War
  • Gender, Sex, and performance
  • Identity politics and theatre
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