Rummaging in the archives

This site began in the summer of 2015, as I started work on the book it was intended to support. Today, I saw that I’d written 199 blog posts since then (to say nothing of the pages of case studies and projects). Inevitably, some of my favourite posts have got buried in that sediment of words, so I thought the 200th might be a good moment to haul up a few of them into the light of day. So here is a selection of pieces (not always the most read) starting with one published almost exactly four years ago. I’m not sure I’d always put things as I did then, but I take that as a sign that my thinking continues to evolve.


Whose story is this a chapter of? (13 November 2015)

The artworld argues that it only notices work that has value: what it ignores is, by definition, worthless. That’s the kind of self-justifying argument which once ‘proved’ that anyone who questioned Soviet Communism was guilty of bourgeois tendencies because of their questioning.

Where do you stand? (26 February 2016)

Everyone I ask answers this question in roughly the same way – by refusing to choose.

Artistic quality and participatory performing arts (21 June 2016)

What matters about artistic quality is not being right. It’s how exploring it can help us understand ourselves and others better

Time in participatory and community art  (19 August 2016) 

There are traps in durational work just as intense moments have transformative potential.

Mindfulness and participatory art practice (31 October 2016)

The group was right: being alive to what is actually happening now is one of the most important qualities of good participatory art practice

The legitimacy of non-participation (11 January 2017)

There are valid objections to the idea that participation in the cultural ‘offer’ is in itself desirable. 

Reasons for funding participatory art (16 February 2017)

Looking at a handbook for participatory arts workers I wrote in 1994, I came across this list of reasons why the work deserves public funding. 

I am not the milkman of human kindness (3 April 2017)

The artist just needs to turn up ready and equipped to ‘deliver’ the workshop and another box can be ticked. It doesn’t really matter who is being delivered to because delivery is one-sided.

Art outside the art world (2 August 2017)

Eccentricity – being out of the centre – is not an easy trail, especially in the arts which, despite appearances, do not much like discordant voices. 

Need to know (8 November 2017)

It is not necessary to have specific knowledge of individuals to devise a dance workshop suitable for people in their sixties – although such knowledge might be valuable in some circumstances.

Who gets paid – and why? (22 July 2018)

I know of situations where non-professionals have been paid expenses, sometimes with a per diem allowance, to take part, and others where people have been unwilling or unable to take any payment 

Everyone can cook (28 November 2018)

Instead of thinking of art as something that is made by a special kind of people (shamans or saints) we could see it as a special kind of act—an act of creative meaning-making.

A Restless Art – TL;DR (31 January 2019)

Too long; didn’t read? Fair enough: so here’s a quick summary of the ground covered in the book: 80.000 words reduced to about 1,350

Community art is improvisation (7 June 2019)

Community art is about empowerment, which starts with professional and non-professional artists cooperating as equals, equally able to influence the work that is being created

Who are you writing for? (12 September 2019)

The traps are not confined to the doing: they catch us when we talk and write about it afterwards. I’ve fallen into my share of them over the years, and it’s often in the writing that we’re off guard.