Looking back at Bath Arts Workshop

In the course of working on A Restless Art, I’ve met many people from what I think of as the ‘pioneer’ generation – those who, in the 1960s and 1970s, invented community art through a heady mix of inspiration, rebellion, accident and happy contrariness. Some of them I knew before; others I met for the first time. They’ve been unfailingly kind and happy to talk about their experiences. There’s not been much nostalgia, though. Artists, like sharks, need to keep moving to stay alive.

Nigel Leach, a founder of Bath Arts Workshop, called me one afternoon to talk about preserving the project’s archive. We’d never met, but we talked for an hour about mutual friends and shared experiences. Three years on, that idea has blossomed into an exhibition at the Museum of Bath at Work. On Saturday 14 September, the museum is hosting a conference about community art and I’m looking forward to being there and seeing the show. I’m glad that community art is being recognised by museums but it raises interesting questions. I hope that it means the practice can take its place alongside other art movements, but as a living tradition. We need to know where we come from mainly because it can help us think about where we’re trying to go.