Dr Esther Sayers

Staff details

Dr Esther Sayers


Senior Lecturer in Education


Educational Studies


esther.sayers (@gold.ac.uk)

Goldsmiths Research Centres/Groups

Learning and participation in the arts, culture and sport, with a particular focus on equity and inclusion.

Esther is a research active academic whose research interests are learning and participation in the arts, culture and sport, with a particular focus on equity and inclusion. She teaches on MA Arts and Learning (Head of Programme 2016-2023) and BA (Hons) Education, and is a supervisor for MPHIL/PhD Art Practice & Learning and Education programmes. Delivering the SeNSS funded Methods and Approaches for Practice Research programme for Postgraduate Research students in the Graduate School.

Esther is part of the college wide Public Engagement Advisory Group, the Practice Research Network and an academic member of the Research & Enterprise Committee.

Academic qualifications

  • PhD Education: Making ‘Culture Vultures’: investigating socio‐cultural factors that determine what and how young people learn in the art gallery. 2014
  • MA Fine Art 1995
  • BA Three Dimensional Design: Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics 1993
  • Art & Design Foundation Course 1989

Teaching and supervision

Teaching in 2023-24 -

Art & Subjectivity: Pedagogies of Care MA Arts & Learning (MAAL) Masters module with Bethlem Gallery and Wellcome Collection - convenor
Revisiting Practice MAAL Masters module - contributor
Independent Studies MAAL Masters module - contributor
Methods and Approaches to Practice Research (funded by South east Network for Social Science - SeNSS) Postgraduate Research module - convenor
Arts Practice in Education and Community settings BA (Hons) Education module - convenor
Learning and Thinking BA (Hons) Education module - contributor
PGCE Art & Design - contributor

Supervisions -

Ioannis Athanasiou
Exploring young people’s experiences of museum spaces for ‘youth development’: How do discourses of ‘risk’ influence cultures of leaning, participation and social justice?

Kimberley Foster
Material Acts of Learning and Thinking in the Art Museum: Embodied Encounters and the Agency of the Pedagogical Art Object

Amy Petzoldt
Postfeminist Physical Activity: The production, navigation and resistance
of gender normativity in sports

Ben Dixon (with Anthropology)
Concrete Music: Skateboarding, sound and placemaking in London’s Olympic Park

Ben McDonnell PT (with Music)
Listening to pictures and noisy intra-actions: (re)defining photographic and pedagogical 'image space' through sonic encounters.

Terri Newman
What is collaborative pedagogy? What does it look like? What does it do?

Molly Pardoe
Art practice and transnationalism: formulating knowledge and understanding on place and time.

Completions -
Carolina Carvalho Palma Da Silva (2017)
Youth Forums in Contemporary Art Museums: Mapping Untimely Entanglements.

Research interests

My research interests are in arts participation and liberatory pedagogies and practices, where equality is foregrounded. Carried out in art galleries and in community settings, my research methodologies engage co-researchers, learners and educators with arts practice to challenge power relations and realise social change. By exploring how creative activity can help young people become confident citizens, my research with the project 'ArtScapers' addresses the marginalisation of creative subjects and creative teaching and learning by collaboratively constructing alternatives which can deeply and systematically effect change in school communities.

Trained as an arts practitioner, I have an ongoing engagement with practice research methodologies. I put these approaches to use in cultural and community settings, and currently within the cultural context of the skatepark, where immersive, reciprocal pedagogies are played out, in the City Mill Skate project, for the design and use of public space.

Building on my research into processes of learning in art galleries, I am interested in what motivates people to engage, explore and in turn to learn. The exhilaration of engaging bodily with doing/making/learning requires concentration, focus, reward and immersion. Current research at Bryggeriets Gymnasium School in Malmo, Sweden explores the aesthetics of embodied learning.

My arts based research focus is exploring the embodied learning experiences of women in skateboarding through understanding challenge, risk and success. It records women's stories with close-up documentation of progression towards their goals. Through image analysis and sensory ethnographic research I ask about motivation, making time and how self-image contrasts with other media images. I combine writing with film and photography to add to the paucity of research on women, sport and risk; contributing to well-being by addressing barriers to activity.

Grants and awards


Publications and research outputs


Ayliffe, Paula; Sapsed, Ruth; Sayers, Esther and Whitley, David. 2020. ArtScapers: being and becoming creative. Cambridge: Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination. ISBN 9780992625962

Book Section

Sayers, Esther. 2015. From Art Appreciation to Pedagogies of Dissent: Gallery Education Rethinks the Inclusion Agenda. In: Anna Hickey Moody and Tara Page, eds. Arts, Pedagogy and Cultural Resistance: New Materialisms. London: Rowman and Littlefield.

Sayers, Esther. 2011. Subjectivities and school art education. In: Dennis Atkinson, ed. Art, Equality and Learning: Pedagogies Against the State. Sense Publishers, pp. 49-66. ISBN 978-9460914522


Sayers, Esther. 2024. Book Review: Pedagogies of Taking Care by Dennis Atkinson. Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain Blog,

Clark, Sheryl and Sayers, Esther. 2023. Skateparks as communities of care: the role of skateboarding in girls’ and non-binary youth’s mental health recovery during lockdown. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, ISSN 1468-1366

Sayers, Esther. 2023. Skateboarding, Time and Ethics: An auto ethnographic adventure of motherhood and risk. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 17(3), pp. 306-326. ISSN 1751-1321


Sayers, Esther and Delille, Quentin. 2024. Beyond Boards Episode 79 - Esther Sayers.

Sayers, Esther. 2024. Board Women: Feel the fear and drop in anyway - Esther Sayers Season 0, Ep. 2.


Sayers, Esther. 2019. The Materiality of Skateboarding: Motion as Material.

Sayers, Esther and Griffin, Sam. 2019. City Mill Skate (@citymillskate) Instagram photos and videos.

Sayers, Esther; Sapsed, Ruth; Jasilek, Susanne and Arenge, Gabby. 2016. ArtScapers online resource.


Sayers, Esther; Griffin, Sam and Wilkinson, Sam. 2022. City Mill Pool Street.


Sayers, Esther. 2014. Making ‘Culture Vultures’: an investigation into the socio-­‐cultural factors that determine what and how young people learn in the art gallery. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London


Sayers, Esther. 2024. Common Grounds: Skateboarding, Learning and the Built Environment. City Mill Skate and UCL, London.

Sayers, Esther. 2019. Skateboarding, Pedagogy and Motherhood. Free Skateboard Magazine, London.

Professional projects

Esther’s background of professional practice is an important part of her research. She began as an artist leading workshops in schools, youth clubs and galleries. She has been a gallery educator extensively across the UK. She moved to London in 1998 to work as Special Projects Coordinator at Camden Arts Centre after which she was a gallery educator and then Curator for Youth Programmes at Tate Modern 2002-2011. Since leaving Tate she has been a professional mentor within the Practice Research (Learning) programme (2018) and (2020) a contributor to a seminar for Practice Research CPD for Conservation Managers at Tate.

As an education consultant Esther has conducted research and written reports for a number of cultural organisations including Camden Arts Centre, Wellcome Trust, North West Cambridge Public Art Programme and Skateboard GB.

Research projects

2018: City Mill Skate
is a practice research project funded by UCL Public Art that led to a tangible output with the launch of co-designed City Mill Pool Street - a skate space at UCLEast on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

2021: Girls into Skateboarding
collaborative empirical research with Sheryl Clark to look at the processes of learning and community-building in girls’ and non-binary young people’s take up of skateboarding over lockdown

2015: ArtScapers
Addresses the marginalisation of creative subjects and creative teaching and learning by collaboratively constructing alternatives which deeply and systematically effect change in school communities.

2023: Exploring the Aesthetics of Skateable Classrooms: belonging, placemaking and learning at Bryggeriets Gymnasium, Malmö, Sweden
an exploratory research project using qualitative emplaced methods to examine skate spaces as places for learning

Media engagements

2023: ‘We all deserve to take up space’: The changing face of London’s skate scene'
Representing London Skate Mums in an interview for the Evening Standard by Isabelle Aron

2023: Womens Health magazine
Meet the women redefining what menopause looks like: From running ultramarathons to taking up skateboarding, three women share their experiences of this time of transition by Alice Barraclough

2022: Skate le Monde
Interviewed in 'England' for Skate le Monde on Canadian Channel TV5, Season 2, Episode 4

2021: Skate Sisters
Interviewed by Stefani Nurding for Skate Sisters IGTV Episode 2

2021: The Ethics of DIY in Grassroots Skateboarding
A short piece made by Esther Sayers and Henry Edwards-Woods for Dickies Life on IGTV

2021: City Mill Skate Dots and Lockdown
How the City Mill Skate project navigated the profound effect that social distancing, skatepark closures and other measures had on young people, London’s skateboard community.

2021: What are Skate Dots?
A conversation with Henry Kingsford to talk about the project and its origins, the context of the Olympic Park, how Sam Griffin and Esther Sayers managed to save City Mill Skate from failing

2020: What is City Mill Skate?
An introductory film edited by Jacob Brown

Museums in the City

Conferences and talks

2022: Ecologies in Practice: ArtScapers, Forest of Imagination and the Living Tree
Centre for Arts and Learning talk

2022: Radical Places
Panel Discussions on Skateboarding in the City at Skate Nottingham

2021: UCL Lunch Hour Lecture: UCL East, Skateboarding and Public Space
with Professor Iain Borden, Sam Griffin, Professor Paola Lettieri talk about how UCL's City Mill Skate project is working with East London artists and Skateboarders to form part of the UCL East campus

2019: Pushing Boarders
Panellist for Skate & Educate: from classrooms to communities

2016: Co-operation and the ethics of shared meaning making
Reading the Gallery Walls, a seminar exploring experiences of gallery interpretation and the visitor’s role in co-production, with Prof. Chris Whitehead and Deborah Riding. Tate Liverpool, John Moores

2015: Learning for Arts and Design
At ‘The Pedagogy of Ambiguity: Creative Practice and Arts-based Forms of Learning & Assessment Within and Beyond the Arts & Humanities’. King’s College London

2015: The ethics of peer-led practice: Authorship, autonomy and representation
At A Different Game: young people working with art and artists. engage International Conference 2015, Glasgow.

2015: The ways and means of praxis led research led praxis
with Page, T. & Hickey-Moody, A. at TTU Arts Practice Research: Scholarship, Pedagogy, and the Creative Process, Texas, USA.

2015: The imagined ‘other’: constructing the learning subject.
Contemporary Museum and Gallery Education Practices: Local Communities meet Global Narratives, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

2013: What are we doing for learning and the arts and whom are we doing it for?
iJADE conference 2013

2013: Making ‘Culture Vultures’: engaging young people in modern and contemporary art.
Keynote for the 3rd National Taiwanese Art Education conference, Taipei, Taiwan