This is the transcript of my talk entitled Cultural Democracy, Community Development and the Old/New Normal which I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to present at the Imagine Belfast Festival on 28th March 2021. It’s about re-enchanting our art, cultures and everyday lives.
Sheelagh Colcough, David Boyd, Conor Shields and I had a great conversation after the talk which could have gone on a lot longer.
In 2005, three artists, Stephan Dillemuth, and Jakob Jakobsen, wrote There Is No Alternative: The Future is Self-Organised (TINA1). They went on to issue a second call in 2012 with the same title that focused on reclaiming self-organisation from what they saw as several forms of appropriation (TINA2).
Having recently launched Artists’ Mutual Aid UK, I am reposting my article from this summer written for Freedom Press.
Please feel free to join Artists’ Mutual Aid UK here and start help shape what the movement might look like and what it could become.
Also, have a look at a recent talk I gave on mutual aid for artists and arts workers for the Bristol Artist-Led Forum here.
This new guest post by Nick Mahony, Stephanie Bolt and Russell Todd, argues that the people excluded by “arts and culture” in the UK are the same people who are all too often excluded from and marginalised by everyday life . They argue that now – as we approach the 100th anniversary of Raymond Williams’ birth – is the time to rediscover his radical calls for collectively creative, democratic change at every level of our society.
I am really pleased to be able to share this extremely powerful, thought-provoking guest blog by Rosie Priest. It’s a personal account of how art can be part of everyday life as well as a challenge to the superficial rhetoric of institutional art as a vehicle for “transformative change”.
Rosie Priest is a PhD candidate at the University of Stirling, working with the National Galleries of Scotland’s outreach programme to explore “Collaborative Art and Transformation”, whilst also working as the Creative Learning Associate for Stellar Quines Theatre Company.
Why have Arts Council England (ACE) published data and a report about how culture can, apparently, help regenerate high streets now? Particularly given that the report does not even consider the devastating effects of COVID-19 on our everyday lives and, of course, our high streets.
The report, produced by social and economic research consultants Wavehill and entitled Arts and Place Shaping: Evidence Review, was written in May 2020 (when COVID-19 was reaching its first peak) but only published a few days ago.
The nation and many Western countries have successfully suppressed, oppressed and controlled our arts and our cultures: narrowly defining and policing terms and practices, building brick and glass citadels for a wealthy minority and a false vision of economic growth, and creating a hierarchy which places artists as servants and denigrates many working-class communities as “hard to reach” and uncultured.
Perhaps, it’s time for artists to learn from the COVID-19 Mutual Aid groups that are self-organising and self-seeding across the UK and the globe? Imagine if artists set up local Artists’ Mutual Aid groups to support each other through these difficult times; to begin setting out ways of speaking to power with coherent voices; to start using art to demand radical changes to the way we work and live together.
Remember what is was like to be sung to sleep. If you are fortunate, the memory will be more recent than childhood.