Joan is an artist/ filmmaker/ Independent scholar whose animated films explore women’s rights, meadow swimming, gothic fantasy and fertility.

From 1994- 2015, Joan headed up the internationally renowned Animation Dept. at the Royal College of Art, London. She lectures internationally on Animation and Visual Writing. Publication:

Joan studied filmmaking at the NFTS and co-founded 3 Peach Animation through which she directed many commissions including the opening for Tim Burton's Batman 1. Joan later co-founded Seed Fold Films and completed How Mermaids Breed inspired by Bronze Age Cycladic figures and the drawings of Henry Moore. In 2010, Joan completed Mushroom Thief. Joan has worked with and published on Animation Therapy, and worked with a team on Medical research looking at how animation can engage young patients in giving feedback on their health treatment.

Ashworth’s current project is a documentary film on Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragette and artist, exploring Sylvia’s relevance to contemporary issues.

November 2021, Portugal
Cinanima Animation Festival, Espinho
Joan was a Jury member and attended the beautiful, friendly City of Espinho in person, the first in person festival for a while.

September 2021, Chicago
Joan chaired the Review Panel of Film, Video, New Media and Animation Department, at School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

May-June 2021, London
3. Shudder Research Collaboration, University of East London
Joan exchnaged roles with punk musician, Helen McCookerybook, in the making of 2 short films. Helen animated, Joan made the sound. Watch them here:
Pity Me

[older news]

August 2021, Norwich
Raveningham Sculpture Trail.
How Mermaids Breed was screened in the MicroCinema for the duration of the Sculpture festival, Norwich, UK.

June 2020, London
Stories In Transit Talk at the Royal Drawing School, London
Joan and colleague Lee Shearman gave a talk on their recent work in animation with refugees in Palermo, Italy. Listen to the talk here. The ongoing project was the idea of mythographer, Marina Warner, and involves many artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians who come together to play creatively and make new work and devise story games. More about Stories In Transit here.

June 2019, Lisbon
At the 31st Society of Animation Conference, Joan gave a paper on her contribution to Stories in Transit project In her paper, Animation is a Refuge, ‘migranti’ dwell in the stories of the mind Joan gave an account of bringing animation into Marina Warner’s storytelling project and refers to Hannah Arendt’s writing on being a refugee and the Life of the Mind. Joan notes that refugees are ‘watchers’ and could translate their observations into subtle or bold storytelling skills through animation, and flex their creativity muscles to facilitate communication.

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As part of the commemoration of the Representation of the Peoples Act of 1918 Joan presented a paper Visualising Suffragette Prison Experience through the work of Sylvia Pankhurst, at Art and Suffrage, a symposium at London School of Economics. The Women’s Library was where her project on Sylvia Pankhurst began is now housed at LSE. The special collection holds many artefacts and sound recordings on which her film is based.

June 2018, Lisbon
Ecstatic Truth.3rd Edition. 2018.
Portable culture: animation in Stories in Transit (SiT) refugee project, Palermo, Italy. Joan gave a workshop in Animation, with artist Lee Shearman, and it is thoughts around this workshop and the wider aims of the project that her presentation unfolded. Stories in Transit, is a project devised by mythographer, Marina Warner, in which she asks “Can culture, and specifically storytelling provide shelter for people who have lost their homes?” Artists, writers, and musicians were brought together by Warner to devise diverse workshops, and Joan and Lee’s animation workshop contributes to the overall aims of interdisciplinary improvised storytelling across cultures.

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WOFF runner up

Joan’s film, Mushroom Thief, was screened at Women Over Fifty Film festival, 2018, Brighton, UK. It was runner up in the Best Animation section. The film was also screened as part of Best of Fest UK Tour, taking in Manchester, Lewes, Brighton, London, Folkstone, Aberystwyth, Tywyn and Eastbourne during 2019.

August 2018
Joan presented her insights into South London Suffrage at Southwark Transformed an event organised by Southwark Momentum. Suffragists and suffragettes were very active in South London and Joan gave a snapshot of activity in the area in 1918. It was held at Nunhead Green Community Centre.

Animation Workshops
During 2018-19, Joan gave animation workshops to refugees in Palermo, Italy, and to excluded pupils at East London Alternative Provision in East London. The workshops were for staff and students new to animation, focussing on timing and movement as well as storytelling and character. Cut-out silhouettes, and pixilation methods of animation formed the basis of the workshops. Further workshops in Palermo are planned for the Autumn.

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March 2018, Vienna
Joan gave a lecture and was a Jury member at Tricky Women Festival, Vienna, Austria.

April 2018, London

Animation Club, Soho, London hosted Joan in April, 2018.

Key-note lecture, Portugal. July 2017
Joan gave a keynote lecture on Visual Writing at the International Conference on Illustration and Animation, CONFIA. .

The lecture reflected on Ashworth's collaborations with writers to explore the material of imagination. It delved into ways of exposing furtive or fragmentary thought and ways of working into this (im)materiality to make a coherent, expressive, tactile and engaging whole. Joan drew on her work with writers Deborah Levy, Peter Blegvad, Russell Hoban, Marina Warner and her use of visual mind maps and props to interrogate ideas. This lecture was published in the accompanying proceedings.


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September 2016
Joan Ashworth presented her work and that of her students at the Royal College of Art, at Animation Volda Festival, 10th Anniversary, Norway.

Ashworth presented her paper, Suffragette Prison Experience: accessing archive texts, artefacts and objects and representing and re-enacting through film and animation, at the Women's History Network Conference 2016, Women's Material Cultures/Women's Material Environments, Leeds Trinity University, Leeds UK.

2016 presentations
In July, Ashworth presented her reflections on Northern Light and Landscape in her paper: Waterlogged shudder: Animated Lancashire landscape, at the Northern Light conference hosted by the Photography group in the Department of Media Arts and Communication, Sheffield Hallam University

In April, Ashworth gave her keynote presentation, Shudder, Flicker, Shift, on designing a Masters Animation Course and experience of directing independent commercial animation, at Lusofona University, Lisbon, Portugal. The event was co-ordinated by Pedro Serrazina and hosted by the Cinema and Arts Media Department at the University.

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shortlisted for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Anniversary Research in Film Awards

10 November 2015 - How Mermaids Breed shortlisted for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Anniversary Research in Film Awards. The awards are “designed to recognise the creative and innovative work being undertaken at the interface between research and film by world-leading researchers, practitioners and filmmakers in the UK arts and humanities research community”.

The winners will be announced on Thursday 12th November at a special Awards Ceremony at the BFI Southbank. To mark the shortlisting, I have put together clips form the making of How Mermaids Breed cut to a music track made for the film. and the completed film is here.

Blue’s Song, one minute film by Ashworth was screened at One Minute Hull Artists Moving Image Festival, The Museum of Club Culture, High Street, Hull. Martin Pickles curated the programme. November 2015.

Sylvia Pankhurst documentary project
Ashworth gave a paper Unfreezing Sylvia Pankhurst at the Women’s History Network Conference: Female Agency, Activism and organisation, September 2015. @AgencyFemale

And a paper Interrogating the Paintings and Texts of Sylvia Pankhurst Using Animation at the Society of Animation Studies Conference, Canterbury in July 2015, @sas2015beyond

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CHILDSPLA medical research
Ashworth and the CHILDSPLA team (about the project) have now concluded the data collection and our first joint paper has been accepted for publication in Child: Care, Health & Development Journal. A 2nd paper, The Dog was Acting: Designing an animation tool to enable children and young people express their views about their health state, has been submitted. In August 2015 three members of the CHILDSPLA team, Neus Abrimes Jaune, Matt Abbiss and Joan Ashworth gave a 3 day workshop, Serious Animation, based around the CHILDSPLA project in Trinidad supported by the British Council and the University if Trinidad and Tobago. 2 NGO’s, Microsoft, students, graduates and staff of UTT all participated to devise, research and test ideas for medical apps. Part 2 of this collaboration is being planned for the future.

Joan Ashworth with the CHILDSPLA team presented the panel “What’s Up Kid? Designing an Animated Tool with Children to measure how they feel” at the Animation and Public Engagement Symposium convened by the Animation Academy, Loughborough, and hosted by the Bradford Animation Festival, November 2014.

Joan Ashworth participated in the Sylvia Pankhurst Scholars’ Morning, Tate Britain, March 2014
This Scholars’ Morning, coincided with the Sylvia Pankhurst display at Tate Britain, and gathered together scholars, artists and activists to celebrate Sylvia Pankhurst’s work as artist and campaigner. The morning was used to explore current debates about the relationship between art and politics. The event was programmed by the Emily Davison Lodge with Tate Britain

Joan Ashworth worked with Editor/Filmmaker Jo Ann Kaplan on the archive findings and experiments.

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Ashworth attended the Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival, France as part of We Are UK Film, February 2014, supported by the British Council.

Joan Ashworth delivered the keynote lecture, "Designing Animation tools to enable health assessment sharing by young patients and clinicians" at Animation On Prescription Event, Encounters Festival, Bristol, in September 2014.
Ashworth discussed her current interdisciplinary project, CHILDSPLA: an innovative collaboration between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Royal College of Art, London.

The team are developing an animated app to measure the health states of children. For example, the app asks the child “On a scale of 1-5 how much pain are you in today?” but rather than text or voice, the app shows animated representations of pain, sleeplessness, and annoyance etc. Ashworth discussed the importance of artists/ animators and children being involved in medical research and reflecteed on the challenges and knowledge emerging during the first year of the Medical Research Council funded project.

How Mermaids Breed by Joan Ashworth was shown as part of The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art. The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art provided a fascinating insight into the world’s oldest art and design school in continuous operation, revealing the politics and polemics behind the question of how Britain should train artists and designers, and interrogating the purpose of publicly funded art schools. The exhibition featured work by RCA faculty and alumni according to four principal themes: ‘Art for Industry’; ‘Public Purpose’; ‘Personal Expression’; and ‘Political Expression’ and ran form November 2012 – January 2013 .

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by Joan Ashworth and Deborah Coates Tyler showed as part of OpenHouse London 2012
at Cambridge House, Camberwell, London SE5 0HF 23rd September 2012.

Solargraphs are unusual photographs, taken by means of a pinhole camera. The sun's movement over a six month period can be re-coded into a single image. The images are taken from summer to winter solstice to get the highest and lowest points. Some of these images in this exhibition were taking during the refurbishment of Cambridge house and traces of scaffolding and lost views are captured.

Mushroom Thief and How Mermaids Breed were screened as part of Into The Woods curated by the eminent writer and mythographer Marina Warner at the Deloitte Ignite Contemporary Arts Festival at the Royal Opera House.
September 2010

Mushroom Thief screened at Moves-International Festival of Movement on Screen, Liverpool, UK.
The theme of the festival was INTERSECTIONS: Filming Across Culture and Technology
Moves11 is a unique festival with selected art works that will celebrate outstanding experimental and innovative video works. April/ May 2011.

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Mushroom Thief was screened as part of Painting with Light Contemporary, experimental and animated short film programme. November 2010 Cafe Gallery, Southwark Park, London, SE16 2UA.

"Mushroom Thief" screened at Ottawa International Animation Festival, Canada October, 2010


© 2022 Joan Ashworth - All Rights Reserved. Site design:
Santa Barbara International Film Festival (USA) (Audience Award) March 2003
Taiwan International Animation Festival (Taipai) April 2003
Tough Eye International Animated Film Festival (Finland) May 2003
Holland Animation Festival (Utrecht) Nov 2002
Athens International Film & Video Festival (Ohio, USA) April 2003
Bristol Animated Encounters (UK) May 2003
Annecy Int'l Animated Film Festival (France) (in competition) June 2003
Rushes Soho Shorts Festival, London, (UK) August 2003
Anima Mundi International Festival, Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo) August 2003
Fantoche International Animation Festival, Switzerland (Special Jury Award) Sept 2003
KROK International Film Festival, Ukraine, Sept 2003
FAN Festival of Animated Film, Norwich, (UK) Oct 2003
Espinho Cinanima (Portugal) November 2003
Future Film Festival Bologna (Italy) January 2004
PISAF (Korea) November 2003
Leipzig International Festival (Germany) October 2003
BAF Bradford (UK) November 2003
San Sebastian (Spain) November 2003
Paris Lesbian Film Festival (France) November 2003
Istanbul Trendsetter (Turkey) November 2003
Black Nights Animated Dreams Festival Tallinn (Estonia) November 2003
Anchorage Int'l Film Festival (Alaska) December 2003
Deloitte Ignite festival 2010, at the Royal Opera House, London (UK) September 2010