Kristina’s research interests include True-Life Storytelling performance and the creative process of writing personal narratives, as well as documentary and verbatim theatre. Other interests are playwriting and theatre accessible to people with caring responsibilities. Kristina explores themes such as migration, bilingualism in writing, personal stories and writing within community. She also loves working with students and has taught undergraduate and postgraduate students at Loughborough University and DeMontfort University.  

PhD research 

Supervisors: Prof Michael Wilson, Dr Lyndsey Bakewell, Prof Antonia Liguori 

This research contributes to the emerging field of storytelling performance by exploring a contemporary oral performance of personal narratives defined by this thesis as True-Life Storytelling (TLS). While life stories can be found in the repertoires of professional storytellers, stand-up comedy routines and autobiographical theatre, TLS is distinctive as a short personal story told by amateur tellers during an event generally organised by urban storytelling clubs. This study focuses on the emergence of TLS clubs in the UK in the last 14 years and incorporates multiple methods from various disciplines, advocating for intuitive, messy and creative research. The unique combination of methods (including oral history, ethnography, semi-structured interviews, performance observation and practice-led research) allows to categorise and analyse true-life stories as the act of performance and as part of the context of the clubs’ events.  

The findings show that TLS created a new storytelling movement and a novel community of storytellers and audiences who seek authenticity and truth over skill or entertainment. They gather around clubs (mainly in big cities) that are structured in non-hierarchical ways and include small teams of people who are passionate about storytelling. The events include multiple storytellers placed in two acts with an interval and a host who compares and facilitates the event. Elements of the event are created to encourage amateur storytellers and instruct the audience to be supportive. The division between storytellers and audience members is blurred, as they interchange in their roles. This thesis argues that amateur tellers bring expertise from two streams: content-led and performance-led, and therefore should be re-defined as Life-Experts. True-life stories include contemporary topics, and in performing them, storytellers employ various performative strategies to create a special relationship with the audience.  

The study demonstrates that the TLS is an art form still developing and in the process of (re)defining itself, so it is crucial to analyse it in its formative years. This research provides new insights into the process of creating personal narratives as a storytelling performance and an amateur’s role in it. As such, it is most relevant to the fields of storytelling, performance studies, folklore, narratology and anthropology. 

Academic publications

Gavran, Kristina (2023) ‘Dramaturgies of Support and Interruption in the Process of Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth by Notnow Collective’ in Šimić, Lena and Underwood-Lee, Emily (eds) Mothering Performance: Maternal Action. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Gavran, Kristina (2022) True-life storytelling clubs in the UK and the life-expert performer. Loughborough University. Thesis.


PhD, School of Design and Creative Arts, 2022

Loughborough University.  Thesis title: True-Life Storytelling Clubs in the UK and the Life-Expert Performer 

Master of Arts, Playwriting and Theatre Studies, 2013

Academy of Dramatic Arts, University of Zagreb

Bachelor of Arts, Dramaturgy, 2010

Academy of Dramatic Arts, University of Zagreb

Academic awards, funding, memberships

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, 2019

Research culture fund for creating Writing Gym programme for Doctoral and Early career researchers, 2018

Loughborough University PhD Studentship Award, 2017

Erasmus Internship Studentship, 2013

Scholarship City of Zagreb, 2010