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Staff Profile

Dr Catherine Heinemeyer

Senior Research Associate in Ecological Justice, Senior Lecturer in Arts

Profile image of Catherine Heinemeyer

I am a storyteller and researcher interested in the role of storytelling and the arts in ecological justice and other intersecting crises. My practice-based PhD in storytelling with adolescents built on my extensive experience of artist residencies in educational, mental health, heritage, ecological and community settings. My current practice-based research collaborations investigate storytelling and climate adaptation, the role of indigenous knowledge in responding to climate crisis, and disabled access to 'blue spaces'.

I am co-convenor of the Ecological Justice Research Group, based in the Institute for Social Justice, and coordinator of York St John's Living Lab, an interdisciplinary cross-university project engaging students in ecological justice issues locally.


I teach on a variety of modules on undergraduate Drama, Theatre and Acting programmes, including the following undergraduate modules:

  • Politically Engaged Practice 1 and 2
  • Independent Project
  • Workshop Facilitation
  • Making Musical Theatre

I seek wherever possible to create opportunities for students to become engaged in authentic performance and research opportunities, such as through the university's Living Lab, or as Students as Researchers. I also lead the The Reflective Practitioner, a module for all MA students in the Performance and Production departments of the School of the Arts:

  • MA Community Music
  • MA Applied Theatre
  • MA Musical Leadership
  • MA Theatre and Performance
  • MA Music Composition
  • MA Music Production
  • MA Media Production


Based in the university's interdisciplinary Institute for Social Justice, my current research projects are:

  • Suitcase Stories: exploring climate adaptation through participatory storytelling with young people.
  • Living Lab: Feeding the Campus - interdisciplinary, cross-University. pedagogical research into engaging students in ecological justice issues on a local scale (I act as overall project coordinator).
  • 'Storying Our Future', a British Council-funded project investigating the role of indigenous traditional knowledge (ITK) and storytelling in weather forecasting and climate adaptation in marginal areas of East Africa.
  • Disability Access to Bluespaces, in collaboration with the NGO Open Country.

My research and practice explore the potential of storytelling to provide an alternative channel for dialogue across social and generational barriers, in relation to mental health, and in the context of the climate and ecological crisis. My monograph, Storytelling in Participatory Arts with Young People, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2020. My previous research and publications range across several main themes:

  • The intersection of youth activism and climate education.
  • Innovative approaches to collective storytelling for dialogue (e.g. 'Journeys We Make', an action research collaboration with the Faculty of Education at Leeds Beckett University, using Homer's Odyssey to facilitate creative dialogue around identity and migration in schools).
  • The role of storytelling in education and youth mental health provision.
  • The work of Out Of Character Theatre Company and Converge York, its sister organisation.

I seek to disseminate my work, wherever possible, not only through academic publications but through video, podcast, performances, accessible practitioner journals, educational resources, conferences and training workshops.



Heinemeyer C (2020) Dialogic storytelling in participatory arts with young people: the gaps in the story. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Peer-reviewed articles

Cunningham C, Parks J, Heinemeyer C, Bailey J, Castaneda A (accepted) ‘”Doing your little bit” when “everything is just so big now”: locating domains for developing agency amidst disagentic student discourses about our climate crisis’, The SoJo Journal.

Heinemeyer C, Birch P and Rowe N (2022) ‘The promise and pain of devising as deliberative democracy: Out Of Character Theatre Company’s Fresh Visions trilogy’, Research in Drama Education: the journal of applied theatre and performance 27:3, 286-303.

Heinemeyer C (2020) ‘Figures on a windswept shore: the interplay of aloneness and communitas in oral storytelling’. Paedagogia Christiana, 45 (1). 123-135.

Heinemeyer C and Rowe N (2019) ‘Being known, branching out: troupes, teams and recovery’, Mental Health Review Journal 24(3), 212-227.

Heinemeyer C (2019) ‘”Roving” and recovery in storytelling for mental health: reclaiming the city, resingularising ourselves’. Storytelling, Self, Society 15(1), 13-30.

Heinemeyer C and Durham S (2017) ‘Is narrative an endangered species in schools? Secondary pupils' understanding of "storyknowing"’, Research in Education 99:1, 31-55.

Reason M and Heinemeyer C (2016) Storytelling, story-retelling, storyknowing: towards a participatory practice of storytelling. Research in drama education: the journal of applied theatre and performance 21 (4): 558-573.

Book chapters

Heinemeyer C (forthcoming) ‘The Tale Exchange: telling stories around corners to craft a commons’, in Wilson M and Sobol J (eds) Storytelling Research: research methods in storytelling/storytelling as research method, Routledge.

Heinemeyer C (2022) ‘The lessons of Covid for climate pedagogy with young people: Learning to navigate urgency’, in Turok-Squire R (ed.) COVID-19 and Education in the Global North: Storytelling as Alternative Pedagogies, Palgrave Macmillan.

Heinemeyer C (2017) ‘Embracing Indeterminacy in Participatory Storytelling’, pp.238-245 in Reason M and Rowe N (eds.) Applied Practice: evidence and impact in theatre, music and art. London: Bloomsbury.

Pitt J and Heinemeyer C (2015) ‘Introducing Ideas of a Circular Economy’, pp.245-260 in Stables, Kay and Keirl, Steve (eds.) (2015) Environment, Ethics and Cultures: Design and Technology Education’s Contribution to Sustainable Global Futures. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Non-peer-reviewed articles (for practitioner journals)

Heinemeyer C (2019) “The whole story, the whole student: ‘big’ stories as a playground for dialogic learning”. The Uses of English: The journal of The English Association, Summer 2019.

Heinemeyer C (2018) 'Adventures in storyhacking: facilitating indirect inter-community dialogue through storytelling'. Teaching Artist Journal 16: 3-4.

Online articles

Heinemeyer, C. (2018a) ‘Mental health crisis in teens is being magnified by demise of creative subjects in school’,, 03/09/2018,

Heinemeyer C (2018) ‘The dying art of storytelling in schools’,, 11/04/2018,

Heinemeyer C (2017) ‘Is narrative an endangered species in UK schools?’, Oracy@Cambridge blog, 10/12/2018.

Research portfolios

YSJ Students and Ecological Justice, (Development version, to be published imminently)

Online practice research portfolio, Storyknowing with Adolescents: 

Podcast episodes

‘Ecological Justice’ (with Ben Garlick and Jude Parks), Beyond Colouring In: A Geography Podcast. 2022.

‘Giving Voice to the Non-Human’ (interview with storyteller Anthony Nanson and Dr Liesl King), Conversations in Social Justice, 30/07/2021, Giving Voice to the Non-Human by Conversations in Social Justice (

‘Education and the Frontline of Climate Justice’ (interview with Thimali Kodikara of the Mothers of Invention podcast), Conversations in Social Justice, 01/01/2021,

Research reports

Ecological Justice Research Group (2022) Living Lab: Learning at the Junction. Institute for Social Justice,

Research Films

Adekola, Olalekan, Cath Heinemeyer, Matthew Reason, Natalie Quatermass and Natalie Wood (2022). Suitcase Stories: exploring climate adaptation through participatory storytelling with young people. Institute for Social Justice,

Ecological Justice Research Group (2021) York St John Students and Ecological Justice.

Keynote Talks and Conferences

Keynote talks and practice research performances

‘Only Connect: Community Music and Ecological Justice’, talk at Community Music Learning Network, 8th November 2022. Video version of talk at

‘Suitcase Stories: young people as storytellers of climate adaptation’, talk with Matthew Reason at Social and Environmental Justice for a Sustainable Future, Canterbury Christ Church University, 18th Oct 2022

‘Storytelling and Climate Adaptation’, talk at Storytelling and the Environment symposium, George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling, University of South Wales, 20th Sept 2021.

‘Ecologically literate drama pedagogy with young people: urgency and sustenance’, talk at Process, Practice and Environmental Crisis, University of York, 19th Feb 2021.

‘Journeys We Make – research through collaborative storytelling’, keynote talk at Creativities in Educational Research - Weaving and Entanglements, C-SPACE, Birmingham City University, 3rd July 2018.

 ‘Things As They Are: artful conversation about adolescent distress’, workshop at Releasing Potential: Higher Education sector’s contribution to adult and young people’s mental health. York St John University, 12-13 June 2018.

 ‘Story as research in postnormal times’, keynote address at How the Gypsies Got Their Music: the future of storytelling research, University of Warwick, 28th Nov 2016.

Co-coordinating panel on ‘Authorship, language and rigour in the ‘second wave’ of applied practice research’ at annual conference of Theatre and Performing Arts Research Association (TAPRA), 3-5 Sept 2016.

‘Close Encounters in Another World: what storytelling can do’. Safe and Sound, CAMHS conference, Burnley, 13 Nov 2015.

‘A Dialogue in Another Room: Meetings with Young People Through Story’. UK Council for Psychotherapy Children’s Faculty Listen to My Story conference, York St John University, 4 July 2015.

‘Wormwood in the Garden’, collaborative performance as research. Love Arts conference, York St John University, 2-3 July 2015; also Everybody’s Business conference on mental health in higher education, Higher York, University of York, 25 Nov 2015.

'The Storyteller's Agenda'. Narrative and Adolescence seminar, International Centre for Arts and Narrative, York Theatre Royal, March 2014.

Conferences/research events organised

Living Lab: Learning at the Junction Street Festival, part of the Pint of Science Festival, York St John University, 11 May 2022.

Ecological Justice Research Group Inaugural Symposium, York St John University, 17-18 November 2021.

Things As They Are: a festival of the arts in strange times. York St John University, June 2017.

Storyknowing: a festival and symposium of storytelling and theatre with young people. York Theatre Royal/York St John University, 22-23 April 2016.

Professional activities

I am a member of the Research Committee of the School of the Arts, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I am co-convenor of the Ecological Justice Research Group, a cross-university research group based in the Institute for Social Justice.

Outside the university, I am an external fellow of the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling, and was a steering group member on the Converge Evaluation Project (2020-22).