‘Integrate life and work and friendship’

Integrate life and work and friendship. Don’t tie yourself to institutions. Live cheaply and you’ll remain free. And then, do whatever it is that gets you up in the morning.

Those words come from an early manifesto written by Amber Collective in 1968. Guided by those principles, Amber has gone on to produce a remarkable body of film and photography work that celebrates working people’s lives and culture. Based in North East England, the group has recorded the final years of industrial society on Tyneside and the emergence of its complex, fragmented successor. Not all their work is obviously ‘participatory’ but the group’s values and commitment, undiminished after nearly 50 years, are a beacon of socially engaged arts practice and deserve to be much better known.

You can read about them here as the first Case Study goes online, or download a PDF version by clicking on the link below:

Launch, Amber, 1974


  1. Great article, I really enjoyed it. There were some really thought provoking turns of phrase in there too. I met the Amber collective at one of their screenings in Glasgow in the mid 90’s and, as a recent graduate in filmmaking, found their approach refreshing and exciting. It’s great to see a model of participatory practice that aspires to engage with audiences.


    1. Thanks Kevin. It’s interesting to hear about the impression they made on you as a young filmmaker. I think that the arts still mostly work as they always have done, which is that artists directly inspire the next generation who have to find their own ways to use that inspiration in the new world they are making. As this work develops, I hope that the dialogue between the generations will become more and more interesting.


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