Testimony in Practice: Working with Stories of the Self and Others is an innovative and collaborative project which collects and performs testimonies of life in a divided Europe. In 2019, Europeans commemorated the end of division and the triumph of liberal democracy over communism. Yet these anniversaries came at a time of turbulence for a continent that seems ever more divided and in the grips of a rising movement against (neo)liberalism and capitalism from both left and right.

Testimony in Practice promotes greater exchange and collaboration between researchers and artists in different fields around the ethics and methods of using testimony. At the same time it aims to increase public understanding of the life experiences of Central and Eastern Europeans living in the UK. In this way, we hope to foster greater community cohesion and a sense of social recognition. The activities fall into two strands, Creative and Social. The strands are linked by an innovative and collaborative theatre production with the title A Land Full of Heroes. In this play, the documentary theatre company La Conquesta del Pol Sud stage the life and literature of Carmen-Francesca Banciu, a Romanian and German dissident author. Carmen-Francesca is on stage, performing her story to a live audience

The Creative Strand

The Creative Strand fosters greater reflection on the ethics and methods of using testimony and collaboration between different artistic forms. We explore how working with testimony between different media (theatre, art, literature) promotes creative reflexivity around issues of fiction, authenticity, appropriation and performance. This strand is divided into five parts:

  1. Performance of A Land Full of Heroes in Birmingham (July 2019)
  2. Workshop for theatre practitioners in Birmingham (July 2019) with La Conquesta del Pol Sud and Phil Holyman of the Little Earthquake theatre company
  3. “Making Of” film (Oct. 2019) and practitioner guide (May 2020)
  4. Two creative writing workshops with Carmen-Francesca Banciu and award-winning non-fiction author Emilie Pine in the Library of Birmingham (Sept. 2019) and the Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) in London (Nov. 2019)
  5. Publication of a reflective article about the project authored by Sara Jones and Emilie Pine.

The Social Strand

The Social Strand promotes greater public understanding of the history of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the revolutions of 1989 and the relationship between this part of Europe’s past and contemporary politics. It provides opportunities for Central and Eastern Europeans to voice their life experiences and to have these recognised and heard by diverse audiences. The strand is divided into three parts:

  1. Testimonies campaign designed to gather the life stories of Central and Eastern Europeans living in the UK (March-July 2019)
  2. An intermedial and interactive exhibition of the testimonies combining installation and sound art, displayed at the Birmingham-based Central and Eastern European Arts Space, Centrala (Sept.-Oct. 2019) and the ICR (Nov. 2019)
  3. Two Youth Artists workshops in Centrala (Sept. 2019) and the ICR (Nov. 2019).

The Team

Professor Sara Jones
Principal Investigator
Sara Jones
Sara Jones is a Professor in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Birmingham. She has published widely on memory, testimony and post-socialism. She was Principal Investigator (PI) on the AHRC research network Culture and its Uses as Testimony. Sara had overall responsibility for the day-to-day management of all aspects of the project and leads on the gathering and exhibition of testimonies, youth artists' workshops and the publication of the “Making Of” film and guide.
Dr Emilie Pine
Emilie Pine
Emilie Pine is Associate Professor of Modern Drama at University College Dublin. Emilie has published widely in the fields of Irish studies, performance studies, and memory studies. She is PI of the Irish Research Council New Horizons project Industrial Memories, a digital humanities re-reading of the Ryan Report on institutional child abuse. Her first collection of personal essays, Notes to Self, is published by Tramp Press (2018) in Ireland & Hamish Hamilton in the UK. It was shortlisted for the Royal Irish Academy Michel Deon award, and has won the IACI Butler Literary Award, and the An Post Irish Book Awards for Best Newcomer, and Book of the Year 2018. Emilie supported the overall running of the project and led on the design and delivery of the theatre practitioners’ workshop and creative writing workshops.
Philip Holyman
Research Assistant
Philip Holyman
Philip is co-Director of Little Earthquake, a theatre company based in Walsall which he has been running with Gareth Nicholls since 2005. Recent projects include I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghost, giving the autobiographical show an 80s makeover; A Tale of Two Chippies, exploring the Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian takeaway industry in the Black Country; and Yamlet, translating sections of Shakespeare’s Hamlet into Black Country dialect. Philip assisted in the overall management of the project, co-designed and delivered the theatre practitioners’ and youth artists' workshops, and promoted the distribution and dissemination of the “Making Of” film and guide.

Project Partners

La Conquesta del Pol Sud
La Conquesta del Pol Sud
La Conquesta are an internationally acclaimed theatre company who have specialised in the creation of innovative performances that place testimony and the witness at the heart of the production. They have toured their work globally, most recently the trilogy Nadia, Claudia and Rapahëlle – three scenic documentaries focused on the relationship between individual experience and collective history. In Testimony in Practice, La Conquesta wrote, designed and performed the documentary theatre performance focusing on the life and literature of Carmen-Francesca Banciu. They also co-designed and delivered the theatre practitioners’ workshop and the youth artists' workshops in Birmingham and London, and assisted in the production of the “Making Of” film and guide.
Carmen-Francesca Banciu
Carmen-Francesca Banciu
Carmen-Francesca Banciu is a literary author who writes in both Romanian and German and whose work has been widely translated into English. In 2018, she was longlisted for the prestigious German Book Prize for her work Lebt wohl, Ihr Genossen und Geliebten: Tod eines Patrioten. She has given invited readings and seminars at institutions across Europe and the US. She runs a series of creative writing workshops focusing on writing as a means of exploring the self. In Testimony in Practice, she is co-author and performer in the documentary theatre production about her life and literature. Carmen-Francesca also co-delivered five workshops as part of the project. One for theatre practitioners, two for youth artists and two for aspiring authors. She also assisted in the production of the “Making Of” film and guide.
Meda Banciu
Meda Banciu
Meda Banciu was born in 1987 in Bucharest and grew up in Berlin. She studied acting at the University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart. In addition to her studies, she has performed at the Staatstheater Stuttgart and at the Landestheater Tübingen. From 2012 to 2015 she was part of the theatre company at the Theater St. Gallen in Switzerland. Since 2015 she has been working as a freelance actress. She has performed at the Theater St. Gallen, Theater Paderborn, Heimathafen Neukölln, and Theater unterm Dach Berlin. She also works with the theatre collectives Cafe Fuerte and Foxdevilswild. In Testimony in Practice, Meda performs in the theatre production about Carmen-Francesca Banciu’s (Meda’s mother) life and literature and authored a monologue for the script.
Birmingham European (BE) Festival
Birmingham European (BE) Festival
BE FESTIVAL (shortened from Birmingham European Festival) takes place annually in July at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Each year a daring and innovative programme of boundary pushing theatre, dance, comedy, circus, music, visual and performing arts takes place turning the theatre’s rarely seen backstages into a den of creativity, discovery and exchange where diverse cultures are celebrated. It also brings together theatre practitioners and producers from across Europe and functions as a showcase for artistic innovation across the continent.
Centrala/Polish Expats Association (PEA)
Centrala/Polish Expats Association (PEA)
The Polish Expats Association (PEA) runs Centrala – a centre for Central and Eastern European art and culture – and the mission of the organisation is all-embracing: advocating for social integration, bringing together diverse audiences under one roof to share, explore, debate and connect with high-quality art and cultural events. Centrala strives towards a vision of a society where Central and Eastern European communities are welcomed and integrated, and where their art, culture and heritage are recognised and understood. In Testimony in Practice, Centrala led on the design of the testimonies art installation, which was displayed in Centrala in the autumn of 2019. They also hosted the youth artists' workshop in Birmingham.
Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) London
Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) London
The ICR London is part of a global network of cultural institutes that together make up Romania’s main arm of cultural diplomacy. In Testimony in Practice, the ICR displayed the testimonies art installation in Winter 2019 and hosted the youth artists' and creative writing workshops in London.

Advisory Board

  • Professor Hank Greenspan (University of Michigan)
  • Professor Éva Kovács (Vienna Wiesenthal Insititute)
  • Professor Doris Sommer (Director of the Harvard Cultural Agents Initiative)
  • Atxarte Lpz. de Munain (BE Festival producer)
  • Alicja Kaczmarek (Director, PEA/Centrala)


This project is funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The AHRC funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training, in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.


Email: testimonyinpractice@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TestimonyPractice/

Twitter: @InTestimony

Address: Ashley Buiding, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK, B15 2TT