A conference co-hosted by the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland, and the School of Media, Film and Music, University of SussexTo be held at the David Puttnam Media Centre, University of Sunderland.

We are delighted to announce that a provisional version of our conference programme is now ready  (click here to download the file).

On-line registration is also now available.  To register, please click here on the following link to our on-line booking site.  Please note that online booking closes on Friday 26th August.

Further information will be sent to all delegates nearer to the time of the conference. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do get in touch with Michael Lawrence (Michael.Lawrence@sussex.ac.uk) or Susan Smith (drsusan.smith@sunderland.ac.uk).

This conference seeks to build on recent scholarly interest in screen performance by focusing on the contribution of child actors to the history of international film and television. From the popular child stars of Hollywood to the child actors working in popular television and the non-professional children ubiquitous throughout ‘world cinema,’ the child performer is a prominent figure across a diverse range of media. However, the child actor is rarely considered in discussions of screen performance or of the representation of childhood: this conference will be the first of its kind to be focused exclusively on the work of children in and for film and television. We welcome papers that discuss particular child stars and performers and/or particular performances by children, as well as papers that consider more general historical and theoretical questions related to the child actor’s presence on the screen and their position in film and television cultures and industries. 

Keynote Speakers: 

  • Professor Karen Lury (University of Glasgow), author of The Child in Film: Tears, Fears and Fairytales (2010).
  • Professor Linda Ruth Williams (University of Southampton), author of the forthcoming book Steven Spielberg’s Children.

Special Guests:

  • Jon Whiteley, the former child actor, will talk about his film career and his experiences making Hunted (Charles Crichton, 1952), The Kidnappers (Philip Leacock, 1953), Moonfleet (Fritz Lang, 1955) and The Spanish Gardener (Philip Leacock, 1956).
  • David Redfern, film historian, will give a presentation on the film career of Baby Peggy Montgomery, one of the three major American child stars of the Hollywood silent movie era (along with Jackie Coogan and Baby Marie). In her heyday between 1920 and 1923 Baby Peggy was as famous as most adult stars. She later went on to have a career as a book publisher, historian and author on many Hollywood subjects under the name of Diana Serra Cary. David’s presentation will draw on his interview with the former child actress in 2006.

The programme will cover a wide range of topics and seeks to engage with issues relating to the following:

  • the training and schooling of child actors; the craft and labour of the child actor; notions of agency and control;
  • different traditions of child acting and how child acting operates within different national/historical/cultural contexts and on the small (tv) as opposed to big screen (cinema);
  • the critical reception of children’s performances/the child as actor.
  • the relationship between child acting and child stardom (e.g. the contribution that performance makes to the formation/articulation of child star identity; the notion of the child star as performer); the child actor’s transition to child star;
  • the transition from child to adolescent (or adult) performer; adolescent performances in film and/or television;
  • how child performance operates within the context of genre;
  • the child’s voice as an aspect of performance; voice/body relations in child performance;
  • the dynamics involved when children perform with adult actors/stars;
  • the work of the child actor in children’s vs. non-children’s cinema/television;
  • children performing with animals;
  • ensemble child acting;
  • the performative spaces in which children find scope to act;
  • child acting during the silent vs. sound era;
  • the notion of the child as performer in the animated film;
  • collaborations between child actors and particular directors or stars;
  • professional vs. non-professional child acting.