Cultural Competency

The Cultural Competency programme was established in 2018 to create research, training and networking opportunities for artists and participants working in community-engaged contexts. It facilitates the development of participatory arts in Ireland and frames the work within local, national and international contexts.

The programme is directed by Jenny Macdonald and produced by Jennifer Webster.

Cultural Competency 2021

Cessair Symposium – Research and Development

In 2021, Jenny Macdonald has been undergoing a reflective research process to explore and chart the journey of SoloSIRENs as an exemplar of TCA’s practices for creating inclusive, socially and culturally diverse work with communities of interest. The research will highlight aspects of SoloSIRENs’ practice that have grown within TCA’s wider practice. It will particularly investigate the creation of “Cessair”, a performance/installation at the Civic, Tallaght in June 2021. The SoloSIRENs collective and artist team created a performance to share the Irish myth of Cessair, using it as a container for the collection of 100 audio stories from women living in South Dublin County, around Ireland and internationally.

Building on the strength of SoloSIRENs 2020 online Symposium, the research will be shared as a hybrid live and digital symposium event in 2022. The event will involve organisations and participants from South Dublin County, as well as supporters and collaborators of TCA/SoloSIRENs locally, nationally and internationally. A crucial part of the research will be mapping this network of support and collaboration. Courtney Helen Grile, a researcher in applied theatre at Trinity College, Dublin will present an academic paper in response to “Cessair”.

Key investigative questions will include:

  • How have we built long term participation and relationships?
  • What is the legacy of our mentorship programme in developing young creatives in South Dublin County?
  • How has TCA created frameworks that allow associate artists (in this case Jenny Macdonald and Jennifer Webster) to develop new projects and collectives?
  • What is the role of wider communities around the work including arts organisations, community organisations and academia?
  • How do we ensure practices that allow for long term sustainability and impact of the work for both participants and artists?
  • How can participatory artists continue to develop and upskill in their practices?

To find out more about Courtney Helen Grile please visit her website:

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Cultural Competency 2020

SoloSIRENS Symposium: Women’s Voices and Gender Equality In Collaboration with Trinity College, Dublin Long Room Hub.

In autumn 2020, Cultural Competency collaborated with the Long Room Hub at Trinity College, Dublin to share the learning of the SoloSIRENs Festival, 2019 and to further an ongoing dialogue about gender in participatory arts and theatre in Ireland today.

The online symposium highlighted the work of Claire Keogh, a Long Room Hub researcher on women in Irish theatre who wrote a paper in response to the SoloSIRENs Festival. Claire’s paper was responded to by Jane Daly, Co-Director of Irish Theatre Institute and Melissa Sihra, Associate Professor of Drama, Trinity College, Dublin.

Other sessions included:

  • The SoloSIRENs model,
  • The role of audience as participants
  • A conversation with Jenny Macdonald and Jen Coppinger on the role of Abbey Theatre 5 x 5 in SoloSIRENs’ development.
  • Panel discussions on women’s voices in theatre and society, and female mentorship and leadership.

Several of the symposium moderators and panellists had been involved in previous Cultural Competencies networks and events including Vlad Gurdis, Kate Harris and Sarah Fitzgibbon.

The symposium also shared a report from the EU’s Voices of Culture think tank on Gender Equality in the arts. Jennifer Webster participated in the think tank and SoloSIRENs Festival was featured as an example of best practice in the report.

Videos of all symposium sessions are available on

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Cultural Competency 2019

Constellation of Practice: Integrated Theatre Network. In collaboration with Sarah Fitzgibbon (Technical University, Dublin).

In 2019, Cultural Competency worked in collaboration with socially engaged theatre-maker and TU Dublin tutor, Sarah Fitzgibbon. We created a “Constellation of Practice”, a network for integrated theatre ensembles around Ireland to share their practices and to support one another’s development.

The year-long programme began with a day of workshops at Rua Red hosted by Doors to Elsewhere Ensemble, Tallaght Community Art’s integrated theatre ensemble. The event was attended by Equinox Productions (Kilkenny), Run of the Mill (Kildare), Shadowbox (Dublin), Smashing Barriers (Ballyfermot), and Encore Productions (Dundalk) with a video contribution from Blue Teapot (Galway).

Building upon the networks created, Doors to Elsewhere went to see “Making a Mark” by Run of the Mill Theatre at Axis, Ballymun. TCA also co-produced “Waterboys” by Equinox Theatre and “Wanted: Dead or Alive” by Smashing Barriers Drama Collective at Rua Red, Performance Space creating an opportunity for Doors to Elsewhere and local audiences to see the work. The “Constellation of Practice” network has continued to grow and has recently had several online practice sharing and research sessions hosted by Run of the Mill.

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Cultural Competency 2018

Inaugural workshop: Verbatim Theatre with Joe Salvatore (New York University), Rua Red.

Cultural Competency began with a Verbatim Theatre workshop led by Joe Salvatore, Professor of Educational Theatre at New York University. Joe Salvatore is an internationally recognised expert in verbatim technique, a methodology with wide-reaching application in educational and community contexts. Joe worked with local, national and international participants for three days at Rua Red.

The workshop allowed participants to learn about and practice verbatim techniques, as well as to consider applications to their own projects and contexts.

Two participants: Kate Harris from Smashing Barriers and Vlad Gurdis from Freshly Ground Theatre continued to work with Joe as an artist-mentor on their projects.

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Proud to be funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and South Dublin County Council