The blog posts here and on my soon to be retired other sites are a bit like journalism: short, timely pieces, often prompted by events and then forgotten. I’m sometimes surprised when someone mentions something I’ve written there and of which I have no recall. We owe the term essay to Michael de Montaigne, a writer that I find difficult (too many obscure classical references) but esteem very highly. In French, an essai means an attempt, and when you read Montaigne, you sometimes feel him attempting to organise his ideas as he writes. He re-worked his essays over the years, always trying to clarify his thought, and they often got longer as a result. I imagine that he’d have enjoyed the freedom to rewrite that comes with blogging.

My essays are more prosaic, though they also get reworked. They often begin as invitations to give a talk or, less frequently, to contribute to a publication. I enjoy being asked to think or write about something outside my main field of community art—museums, heritage, and libraries, or more recondite issues like management theory—but I suspect I end up repeating the same ideas about human rights, democracy, tolerance and respect that underpin all my work.

In the process of tidying up this website, I will gradually add revised versions of the essays that seem to retain some interest beyond the occasion of their writing. This page will then give an overview and indicate the subjects they treat.

  • The first series of 11 essays was published online as podcasts in 2022 as ‘Old Words‘.

Montaigne would have felt at home in Bromley House Library