Conversations with women in UK agriculture

Twelve women farmers from all over the UK were interviewed over 2017-18 for this  practice-as-research project by Sarah Harper and Dr Susan Haedicke. Their filmed interviews were the foundation for the creation of a performance:

Who’s Driving the Tractor? Conversations with Women in UK Agriculture

performed by Sarah Harper and integrating excerpts of filmed conversations of the women, so that they ‘performed‘ with Harper onstage. The three verbatim performances in which the women’s voices were interpreted but also participants through their video presence in dialogue with the live actor, concluded with a recorded live discussion with differing audiences: on a farm, in a university setting and for the National Farmer's Union.

Susan Haedicke used this performance-as-research as the foundation for several published articles on performance and food production and for her monograph on this topic, Performing Farmscapes, as part of Palgrave Macmillan's Performing Landscapes series. In this book she looks at plays, site-specific performances and a range of other experimental performance projects that ‘perform’ farmscapes and food production. Her next project will take this research further in a co-edited collection of essays on performance and food production from around the world.


PROJECT WITH UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

‘Who’s Driving the Tractor? was performed three times in three very different locations. The first performance took place in the common room of Fordhall Organic Farm in Shropshire for the local community consisting of neighbouring farming families, local journalists and volunteers and friends of this community-owned farm. The second performance took place at a conference organised by University of Warwick’s Food Global Research Priority, one of the interdisciplinary research communities at the university. The audience here consisted mostly of academics in Life Sciences, Social Sciences, and Theatre and Performance Studies. The final performance took place at the National Farmers Union (NFU) Headquarters in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. Here, the audience was made up of mostly NFU employees. Each performance was immediately followed by a discussion led by one of the women we interviewed. Adapting the post-show discussions after Mary Swander’s plays, the discussion leaders sought to stimulate exchange about current farming issues raised in the performance and to steer the conversation away from the show itself. By and large, I found these discussions disappointing as no new ground was covered, no new stories emerged in the audience. For this to work, I think fewer issues should have been discussed in the performance. On the feedback sheets, many people commented on the power of the women’s stories, the joy of watching Harper get dressed as a farmer, the interaction of Harper with the videos of the women, and the scenes created through the live feed camera. While there is much we would do differently if we did it again, I do feel that we let these women define their own agrarian feminism. As one spectator wrote “I now see women can be part of the future solution of dealing with problems in agriculture”, and another, “I think women are more adaptable to change and natural multi-taskers regarding agriculture”. Others expressed their pleasure in “just seeing so many other women in farming” and that “gender doesn’t matter”.’

Susan C. Haedicke, Performing Farmscapes, pp.55-6 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022)

Creative Team & Partners


Principle Researcher and dramaturg/playwright : Dr Susan Haedicke, University of Warwick, School of Creative Arts, Performance and Visual Cultures (previously Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies)

Lead artist, and performer: Sarah Harper

Director: Hilary Westlake

Technical support: Ian O’Donoghue

Video: Sarah Harper

Video and sound editing: Nadir Bouassria



University of Warwick, School of Creative Arts, Performance and Visual Cultures

University of Warwick’s Food Global Research Priority

National Farmers Union, Stoneliegh, Warwickshire

Fordhall Farm, Shropshire

Friches Théâtre Urbain

Groupe LAPS