Community art in Britain

General studies

History of community arts

The 1970s and 1980s

The British community arts movement could be quite intellectual, producing manifestos, statements, conference reports and a few books, all in the days before computers transformed publishing. Although most of these are long out of print, secondhand copies are not hard to find online, Important early books on the movement’s ideas include:

1990 to today


The history of British community arts is beginning to be written as the pioneer generation reaches old age, and new material appears regularly. The best way to find out about it is simply to keep searching online. These links are intended simply as starting points: again the list is very selective.

General websites

  • Radical and Community Printshops: a site created by Jess Baines to document an important but little-known aspect of the UK’s late 20th century visual art and community culture. Currently offline, but this article gives an overview.
  • Unfinished Histories: a site dedicated to recording British Alternative Theatre, 1968-88, through interviews and archive material.
  • Reclaim the Mural: a 2011 Whitechapel Gallery project exploring the rise and decline of London’s murals
  • Community Arts Unwrapped: a blog about the history of community arts by Alison Jeffers and Gerri  Moriarty

Individual projects and groups

  • Amber: a film & photography collective documenting working class and marginalised lives and landscapes in North East England since 1968.
  • The Black-E: an alternative and community arts centre in Liverpool whose 40 year archive gives an invaluable insight into radical culture in the city.
  • Chat’s Palace – an online archive about this community arts centre established in 1976 by local people in a former library in Hackney (London)
  • Craigmillar Festival Society: a 15 minute film about this key community-led group using much archive footage; Winner of the Saltire Award for best documentary at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
  • Greenwich Mural Workshop: founded by Carol Kenna and Stephen Lobb in 1975, GMW worked on community environmental projects in SE London for over 40 years.
  • Jubilee Arts Archive Project: a work in progress led by Brendan Jackson to conserve and put online one of the 1970s pioneering projects in the West Midlands
  • Mid-Pennine Arts: Community-based arts company in Lancashire with a varied programme of work over 50 years including with Welfare State.
  • See Red Women’s Workshop: a site about the feminist silk-screen poster collective (1974-90) set up by two of its founders