An open letter to Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England from artist Richard Parry about arts organisation V22

An open letter to Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England from artist Richard Parry about arts organisation V22

I received this letter from Richard Parry as a comment to my blog post entitled SHHH, BE QUIET! (Reflective prose about library closures, Arts Council England & middle-class asset stripping.)  Richard has been researching the arts organisation V22 for some time (as have I).  His letter which he has agreed to publish as a blog post here instead of a comment is the result of his research and relates to a number of Freedom of Information requests he has made to Arts Council England.

Read More

ASHwash: Architects for Social Housing AND for Establishment Values?

ASHwash: Architects for Social Housing AND for Establishment Values?

This blog post is about ASH - Architects for Social Housing.  It uncovers a different side to ASH's founder that is rooted in the establishment and seeks to work with local councils to promote citizenship and art as a public good.  It suggests that these values (and others) are at odds with the aggressive and passionately political persona often adopted by ASH.  ASH's work has been outstanding but is it all it appears?

Read More

Artwashing London #2: Art's complex web of financial investments - an ethical dilemma

Artwashing London #2: Art's complex web of financial investments - an ethical dilemma

The first post in this series, Artwashing London, explored V22 and its alter-ego V220 in a little detail, linking its group of companies to its headquarters in the Isle of Man.  It asked why would an arts organisation apparently interested in social impact want to register its activities in a tax haven?

This second post looks in more detail at some more of V22’s connections and compares its stated aims to its other directly or indirectly linked corporate interests.  This is a trail from London to the Isle of Man to Africa and back again.  I do not suggest that anything illegal has happened but there are several ethical questions that, in my opinion, should be answered.

Read More

Artwashing London – ‘Artist-led’ Studios, Library Takeovers, GLA Cultural Advisors, Property Developers & Offshore Tax Havens

Artwashing London – ‘Artist-led’ Studios, Library Takeovers, GLA Cultural Advisors, Property Developers & Offshore Tax Havens

London is awash with ‘artist-led’ initiatives that use ‘meanwhile’ spaces as temporary galleries, studios and all the usual stuff.  There are many bigger companies doing this too.  Nothing new here.  Sometimes, like in the case of Bow Arts and Balfron Tower, for example, they are rightly called out for artwashing.  There are many more cases of artwashing now than ever before.  More and more people are getting interested in its cynical misrepresentation of arts and culture as a ‘community good’ when really art is used as a front for big businesses, national and local government ‘regeneration’, property investors and a whole host of other people wanting to make a profit from, what is for many people, social cleansing.  Even artists are getting in on the artwashing act.

But why would any arts organisation want to set up its primary base in a tax haven -  particularly one who claim to be all about supporting local people and local economies?  And, why would Arts Council England and the Mayor of London (amongst others) be happy giving funds to a company that’s ultimately based in the Isle of Man?

This is the tale of one such case – V22, an ‘artists-led’ and, indeed, ‘artists owned’ arts organisation with a few different incarnations.  It’s a bit complex, but that seems to be how they like it.  It is one part of a mammoth case of interrelated artwashing that’s going on in London right now.

Read More

Tell me again, why do arts organisations (really) want to work in communities?

Tell me again, why do arts organisations (really) want to work in communities?

Tell me again, why do you want to work in Stockton? asks ARC Stockton chief executive Annabel Turpin.  Of course, this question could apply anywhere and, I argue here, it could also be applied more deeply, perhaps.

Annabel Turpin’s blog about the invasion of London arts organisations in ‘the regions’ reflects a growing sense of frustration within regional arts organisations who feel they are not treated as equals in many such ‘partnerships’.  I argue here that the same thing is in fact happening within the regions – that large Arts Council England funded ‘local’ arts organisations are going into their communities with the same lack of understanding and for the same reasons.

Read More

Opportunity areas Part 2: 'There for the taking' - (Re)writing gentrification & placemaking

Opportunity areas Part 2: 'There for the taking' - (Re)writing gentrification & placemaking

This is part two of a three-part series of posts about Opportunity Areas.  Part one is here.

Part two explores Sarah Butler’s work in a little more detail.  Creative consultations, writing stories for Creative People and Places, advocacy of socially engaged writing as part of regeneration agendas, poetry hoardings ‘covering’ demolished social housing sites whilst new builds spring up and working for the New Deal for Communities.  It reveals, perhaps, how artists can be increasingly drawn into complicit relationships with local councils, the state, funders, charities, schools and property developers.

Read More