Autobiography

Dr Declan McCormack is a filmmaker who has been producing work about international development for the last twenty years. He grew up in the UK and moved to Italy in the mid-nineties where he began working for the United Nations, filming in over fifty countries and training UN staff in communications.

In 2015 he decided to develop his interest in communications and philanthropy by relocating to the north of England to study for a PhD at the University of York in the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies (CECS), a world-leading centre for interdisciplinary study. He is interested in the impact of drama and its practitioners during the ‘Age of Improvement’.

PhD

Declan studied for his PhD in the University of York’s Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies (CECS) supervised by Dr Catriona Kennedy. His thesis “Theatre and Associational Life in Northern England, ca. 1760 to 1815” examined aspects of Northern Enlightenment related to performance.

We know relatively little about the place of theatre in eighteenth-century cultural, political, and intellectual life. Declan’s research addresses this historiographical gap, proposing that theatre played a more significant role than has been previously recognized. His local archive research provides examples of provincial actors stepping in to fill gaps in civil society, such that contrary to a common misconception of vagrancy, actors enabled the foundation of schools, dispensaries, libraries and large scale infrastructure which significantly improved regional development in the period.

Declan brings his previous professional experience to this research and has been commissioned to make films for the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire, the oldest working playhouse in its original form in Britain, as well as the Universities of York, Newcastle and Northumbria in the UK, Cornell in the USA and AIT in Thailand.

Declan is currently working on a book “The Eloquent Player: Performance, Rhetoric and Northern Enlightenment.”

Research

Declan’s research examines networks of association related to Enlightenment and Romantic theatre with particular focus upon improvement and civic development.

His specialist area is local and regional intellectual and cultural history.

Particular interests are theatre, rhetoric, material culture, freemasonry, abolition and political agitation.

Publications

2019: Chapter. ‘The Provincial Commencement of James Field Stanfield’ in Ireland, Enlightenment and the Eighteenth-Century English Stage, 1740-1820, ed. David O’Shaughnessy (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

2019: Film. Beer and Ballads commissioned by University of York in commemoration of Peterloo.

2018: Film. Tales of a Fashionable Life commissioned by University of York (CECS), WRoCAH and York Mansion House.

2017: Film. Samuel Butler’s Circuit of Theatres commissioned by The Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond for visitors to ‘The Georgian Theatre Experience’.

2016. Film. Sonic Theatre, Booing, Hissing, Clapping. Funded by a University of York Humanities Research Centre “Priming New Research in Creativity” award.

Workshops, Seminars & Conferences

March 2018: “Miss Wallis from Bath and ‘Conspiracy Theory’ on the English Stage” at Leeds University’s Passionate Politicians: Parliament, Print and Theatre in the age of Sheridan and Austen Conference held at Bath’s Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.

February 2017: “James Field Stanfield, an Irish Actor on the British Northern Stage” at The Irish and the London Stage: Identity, Culture, and Politics 1680-1830 Conference held at Trinity College, Dublin.

December 2016: “Eighteenth Century Theatre in the North East” at the North East Forum in Eighteenth Century and Romantic Studies, Northumbria University, Newcastle.

June 2016: Developed and curated “Sonic Theatre, Booing, Hissing, Clapping” at the University of York (CECS) Sheridan, Theatre and Public Opinion Conference held at the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond. I was asked to present the case for a York Humanities Research Centre “Priming New Research in Creativity” award to fund the filming of this conference and oversaw this production.

Public Talks include

January 2024: “Under the Influence: Provincial Players in the Georgian Northumberland” at County Hall, Morpeth.

December 2023: “Under the Influence: Provincial Players in the Georgian North” for the Northumberland Archives 2023 series of online talks.

February 2019: “Georgian Theatre in Northern England” at the Northallerton & District Local History Society, Northallerton, North Yorkshire.

October 2018: “James Field Stanfield: actor, freemason and abolitionist on the Northern Georgian Stage” at the BBC History Weekend Fringe, Kings Manor, York.

August 2016: “An Acting Brotherhood: Georgian Freemasons on the Northern Stage” Georgefest, Richmond, North Yorkshire.

Awards

Declan received the Kathleen Barker Award from the Society for Theatre Research (STR) for research on northern theatre companies and association in 2015.

Film career

Declan studied film at London College of Communication, University of the Arts. His degree film Paternoster Square (1988)  is archived by the BFI in the Artists’ Moving Image category. After working for broadcasters in London and Rome he established Flooded Cellar Productions with partner Sue Price in 2002. He specialises in producing for UN agencies and has filmed in over 50 countries of the Global South.