thinking about culture, art and democracy
My writing, research and work in community art all rests on the belief that everyone has the right to create art and to share the result, as well as enjoy and participate in the creations of others.Shaping your own cultural identity – and having it recognised by others – is central to human dignity and growth. If people can’t represent themselves culturally how can they do so in any other way, including politically? If people are only imagined and portrayed by others, how can they be full, free and equal members of society?
And yet, in every society, people’s access to culture is very uneven. Those who identify with dominant cultures have no difficulty creating and promoting their values. Others, passively or actively denied cultural resources, platforms and legitimacy, remain on the margins.My work engages with those issues through research, support for cultural groups and writing. This site is gradually becoming home to books, research, essays and talks; all the material is freely available for download.
I am a writer, researcher and consultant with a 30-year career at the intersection of practice, theory and policy. Between 1979 and 1994, I worked as a visual artist, theatre maker and producer in community settings including housing estates, hospitals, care centres and prisons.As my interest in the ideas behind this practice grew, I became more concerned with research and its implications. From1994 to 2004 I was associated with Comedia and undertook a series of studies of arts and culture, beginning with Use or Ornament? in 1997 and ending with Only Connect in 2004.
Since 2004, I have focused on writing, supported by freelance work. Over the years I have worked with all sorts of organisations including public bodies, foundations and universities, but above all with arts organisations whose work I find worthwhile and interesting. I’ve also served pro bono on the boards of cultural groups and institutions. My work has been widely published and I’ve been asked to work or speak in many countries. All these experiences have shaped my thinking and practice.
In 2011, I began a series of creative projects that explore new ways of understanding people’s culture. Regular Marvels celebrates the richness and diversity of people’s everyday art practice, especially when it is disregarded by power. Current projects engage with migration, age and amateur performance.