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 the transcript of my 3 very short provocations presented to stimulate discussion during my workshop at the Sound Connections Social Justice Conference at Cecil Sharp House on 30th November 2017.

You can access the PowerPoint with notes and images here.


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Hello. I’m Stephen. This workshop will explore neoliberalism, language and engagement, and whether social justice can ever be compatible with neoliberalism.… READ MORE


This is the second of two blog posts examining recently published reports.  The first post focused on the civic role of arts organisations.  This post is a response to Towards cultural democracy: Promoting cultural capabilities for everyone and some of the other discussions that developed from its publication.

(Like last time, the blog title is inspired by a song. … READ MORE

Two new reports were recently released about how the arts and creativity might engage with society and communities in more meaningful ways.  The first was Rethinking Relationships – an enquiry into the civic role of arts organisations commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; the second was Towards cultural democracy, commissioned by Kings College London. … READ MORE

ABSTRACT  

This article seeks to reveal the limitations of state-initiated arts and cultural projects as well as spurious notions of ‘empowerment’ by examining them in terms of homogeneity, universality and technocracy.  It focuses on issues of instrumentalism with the arts and explores how state-initiated ‘community engagement’ programmes like Creative People and Places may effectively reproduce state agendas linked to social capital theory and thereby to neoliberalism. … READ MORE

This is a copy of my abstract submitted for the forthcoming Creative People and Places conference entitled (unbelievably) People, Place, Power.  It was rejected.  Perhaps it was not academic enough or badly written?  Or perhaps it might have been a little challenging for some panel members?  Anyway, I stand by my words…

Make a Wish, Bentley Street Art, Right Up Our Street

Make a Wish, Bentley Street Art, Right Up Our Street, Doncaster. … READ MORE

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Arts Council EnglandBeneath the old iron bridges, across the Victorian parks
And all the frightened people running home before dark
Past the Saturday morning cinema that lies crumbling to the ground
And the piss stinking shopping center in the new side of town
I’ve come to smell the seasons change and watch the city
As the sun goes down again

Here comes another winter of long shadows and high hopes
Here comes another winter waitin’ for utopia
Waitin’ for hell to freeze over

This is the land where nothing changes
The land of red buses and blue blooded babies
This is the place, where pensioners are raped
And the hearts are being cut from the welfare state
Let the poor drink the milk while the rich eat the honey
Let the bums count their blessings while they count the money

So many people can’t express what’s on their minds
Nobody knows them and nobody ever will
Until their backs are broken and their dreams are stolen
And they can’t get what they want then they’re gonna get angry

Well it ain’t written in the papers, but it’s written on the walls
The way this country is divided to fall
So the cranes are moving on the skyline
Trying to knock down this town

But the stains on the heartland, can never be removed
From this country that’s sick, sad, and confused

Here comes another winter of long shadows and high hopes
Here comes another winter waitin’ for utopia
Waitin’ for hell to freeze over

The ammunition’s being passed and the lords been praised
But the wars on the televisions will never be explained
All the bankers gettin’ sweaty beneath their white collars
As the pound in our pocket turns into a dollar

This is the 51st state of the U.S.A.… READ MORE

NPG x184224; Aneurin Bevan; Jennie Lee

It’s been almost 50 years since Jennie Lee published her white paper A Policy for the Arts – The First Steps (1965). It was Britain’s first state arts policy. Some revere it. For others, the white paper ushered in a period of government instrumentalism in the arts, increasing the powerful influence of the Arts Council.… READ MORE

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Doctor Faustus in a magic circle, Woodcut, 1648

I have always been perplexed when people talk of “quality”.  It’s a strangely powerful word, given that it is essentially neutral.  Colloquially, people say things like, “He’s a quality player,” meaning that the person has an excellent footballing attribute (or attributes): goal scoring, tackling, whatever. … READ MORE

This week has been hectic.  Research visits in London with Platform London and Ovalhouse Theatre; a participatory art workshop commission for Berwick Visual Arts; working on a lab session about collective working, the commons and ending status-quos for arts organisations that I’m co-delivering in London in November; talking about The New Rules for Public Art with a Scottish artist’s collective; working to continue to develop our work with dot to dot active arts in Blyth; developing new NHS commissions in Cumbria and Northumberland; and attending the Culture Action Europe Beyond the Obvious conference which took place in NewcastleGateshead over the past few days.… READ MORE