Cultural Collaboration and Civil Society

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Last year I spent some time looking at the work of Tandem, a partnership between the European Cultural Foundation and MitOst that connects cultural actors within and close to the European space. Tandem marked its fifth anniversary last autumn, and they asked me to reflect on what they’d done and what might change. The essay below is the result of that review, and it looks at how, practically and theoretically, participatory cultural action can contribute to civil society. Continue reading “Cultural Collaboration and Civil Society”

Community art festivals in Rotterdam and Porto

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There are two important community arts festivals on the horizon, in Rotterdam and Porto. I’ve mentioned them before but it’s worth doing it again because there’s news of both:

  • ICAF in Rotterdam (29 March- 2 April 2017) has now published its programme and is open for registrations: follow this link to the download the programme book and timetable..
  • The deadline for submissions to EIRPAC, an academic conference linked with MEXE IV in Porto (Sept 2017) has just been extended to 10 March: click on this link for more information.

Opportunities like this are valuable for anyone working in the field. By its nature, participatory arts work tends to be local and timely, which makes seeing other people’s work difficult. Meeting peers working in other places and situations is invaluable. The programme for ICAF is very rich and includes work from Australia, Lithuania, Ireland, China, the USA, Russia, Peru, Pakistan, Suriname, Kenya, Britain and many other countries. Even if you can’t be there, the ICAF programme book makes fascinating reading.

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‘It became necessary to learn because we made it so’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy first contact with community arts, in 1981, was as a member of the public. With the fearlessness of youth, I’d produced a piece of theatre about human rights to raise funds for Amnesty International. When social media was still a matter for science fiction, we needed posters to advertise the show. Somebody told me about a community printshop near me in South London and I turned up one morning to ask if they could print my poster. That was the first time I heard the line that would define for years my idea of community arts:

No, we can’t print it for you, but we can help you do it for yourself.’

Continue reading “‘It became necessary to learn because we made it so’”

True to the art – Cardboard Citizens

 

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Cardboard Citizens

‘We simply want to say we’re all human beings, and we really mean it, when we think: This could be me. This isn’t somebody different from me. This could be me.’

Adrian Jackson

Cardboard Citizens is an outstanding theatre company, producing and touring new plays about homelessness.

Cardboard Citizens is an outstanding social service helping hundreds of homeless people rebuild their lives.

If these statements seem contradictory, it is only because rigid thinking divides artistic and social work into opposing categories of action. Art and social policy are abstract concepts. Homelessness is very concrete. It is also very complex, in both its causes and its effects. It is untidy and doesn’t respond well to tidy thinking. Cardboard Citizens has developed an approach to homelessness that is creative, robust and light-footed. It adapts equally to constant change in policy and services and to ups and downs in vulnerable people’s lives. It crosses conventional boundaries between art and social intervention because it must: the success of this work depends on elements of both.

Continue reading “True to the art – Cardboard Citizens”