This is my paper given as part of the Movement for Cultural Democracy panel at the Raymond Williams Society Conference in Manchester on 26th April 2019. It’s a mash up of some previous work but I think it is a succinct account of where my thinking is at about cultural democracy and working-class culture.Read More
This is the second of my blogs about my experiences of being a “properly critical critical friend” for Creative People and Places project, Super Slow Way. I talk about my experiences of spending time with artists Claire Wellesley Smith and Jamie Holman.Read More
The struggle for cultural democracy is part of our fight back against those who have always sought to keep us down – who have always told us: “KNOW YOUR PLACE!”
I know my place: it’s called HOME. We all have homes of one sort or another. And home is where we start from. Not art galleries or spectacles or museums or whatever else we are told are “cultured” places. HOME. This is the place where we build our own cultures, our way.Read More
This is a film with narrative from a performance I gave in Belfast earlier this year about neoliberalism, instrumentalism and cultural democracy.
“We must trust in our individual and collective selves. We must remember our struggles. We must remember that official arts and culture and, for that matter, the creative industries, reflects only one rather small part of our arts and culture. We do not live in a cultural democracy. The cuts to state-sanctioned arts and cultural production makes this assertion starker as each day passes… And cultural policy, like fortune, has always favoured the rich and powerful.”Read More
I took part in Communalities, urbanities and artistic commonalities - a symposium at Birkbeck School of Arts on 5th June 2018. This is a transcript of my talk. I billed it as the meeting of William Blake and Half Man Half Biscuit via a trip to Trumpton. There's a video to accompany the talk which I'll upload soon...Read More
This is the transcript and presentation with notes from my talk at Panda (The Performing Arts Network) in Manchester on 28th March 2018. The event was a celebration of the network's 15 years working with artists and communities but it was also tinged with sadness as they announced that they were unable to continue to operate due to the toxic arts funding environment and local council cuts. I spoke of two songs with two very different fields and two very different chains.
The first is the song of neoliberal state-sanctioned power and control; of compliance and conformity; of commerce and economics. This is the siren song of austerity and the systematic destruction of our communities, of our lives. This is the song that has sunk so many hopes and dreams.
The second song is that of childhood, of freedom, of creativity, of disobedience, of hope.Read More
This article was first published in print in Sluice Magazine and then on their website in 2017. I've decided to publish it on my website because I hope its content still resonates in 2018. It addresses issues of instrumentalism in the arts, artwashing, living creatively and cultural democracy. As I wrote in 2017, I believe "it is still possible to conceive of art as part of living creatively, as part of everyday life, as local cultural democracy, as artistic autonomy." It's time to talk about how...Read More
This review was first published in November 2017 for Artworks Alliance. It was the first review of the book which is published by Bloomsbury and can be purchased here. I am publishing it on my blog in the hope of stimulating new discussion around cultural democracy, community arts and everyday art and creativity - an area I'm working on quite a lot at the moment.Read More
I was kindly asked to talk alongside Labour MP Laura Pidcock, Jessie Jo Jacobs (Policy and Campaigns Officer, Northern TUC) and Ramona McCartney (National Officer for the People's Assembly) at the People's Assembly event, "In Place of Austerity", in Newcastle on 20th January 2018. It was an incredibly inspiring day! This is the transcript for my talk...Read More
Plans to redevelop Elephant and Castle shopping centre and the surrounding area by tax-avoiding, Tory-supporting property developer Delancey and London College of Communication/University of the Arts London where rejected (subject to confirmation on 30th January 2018) by Southwark Council’s planning committee. It is understandable that arch-capitalists Delancey (owned by the notorious father and son property development partnership, the Ritblats) aren’t interested in local people and local communities, but what’s with LCC/UAL? Why would a top arts and design institution behave so aggressively to existing community members? The connections between the Ritblats and the Vice Chancellor of UAL are interesting. They reveal how the corporate takeover of high education and the arts are intersecting with the corporate takeover of our communities and our land.Read More
This is a video recording of my lecture entitled Rethinking the role of artists in regeneration contexts. It was recorded at Northumbria University on 24th November 2017. Includes a short Q&A at the end.Read More
This is a transcript of my paper I presented at the Edge | Situated Practice conference at Here East on Saturday 7th October 2017. The conference was organised by the UCL Urban Laboratory and the Folkestone Triennial, with additional support from the Bartlett School of Architecture and Slade School of Fine Art. There's a link to my PowerPoint presentation too. It was a really interesting conference and I think my paper provoked some challenging debate.Read More
There’s been a lot written about Boiler Room’s involvement with Notting Hill Carnival and its future funding from Arts Council England’s Ambition For Excellence programme to produce a film about the event. I do not intend to rehearse those discussions here. There have been many valid points raised on both sides of the argument. Rather, I want to address some serious issues that this fiasco raises about the role of public money in funding the arts in England. My contention here is not only that Arts Council England’s funding of Boiler Room does not meet the goals of the Ambition For Excellence programme, but that it also does not support their Creative Case for Diversity objectives either. Rather, it reinforces colonialism and white, upper and middle-class privilege. Indeed, this funding represents the deeply neoliberal agenda of turning art into a globally-marketed consumer product.Read More
This is a guest blog by Martin Daws. Martin is a Spoken Word Poet and Community Artist. Full-time freelance since 1999. Young People's Laureate for Wales 2013-2016. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter.
Martin came up with the idea of paying artists to work with communities instead of "investing" millions of pounds in "capital projects" such as arts centres. We chatted about it back in 2016 a bit and he came up with some figures back then. My take is similar but different to Martin's. I favour a simple system based upon replacing infrastructure projects with 10 year funding for community artists based on a scaled system proportionate to the size of each city, town or village. I recently tweeted this question: "Instead of a £50m art venue, a city could pay 200 artists £25k a year for 10 years to work with communities; do what they want. What do you think?" That's sort of my starting point. Martin has kindly agreed to lay out his first draft in a guest blog to hopefully stimulate more discussion and debate about this brilliantly simple, yet potentially life changing shift in how we think about arts funding and how it is distributed more equitably. I will respond in a blog post soon...Read More