This is a selective list of books about the community arts movement in Britain, mostly from the period when it was being invented and mostly written by people who were involved in inventing it. Most of them are long out of print, but can be found secondhand fairly easily. All are worth reading if you want to understand that most distant time in history, the recent past.
Su Braden, 1978, Artists and people, London
John McGrath, 1981, A Good Night Out, Popular Theatre: Audience, Class and Form, London
Owen Kelly, 1984, Community, Art and the State: Storming the Citadels, London
Carol Kenna, Lyn Medcalf and Rick Walker, 1986 Printing is Easy…? Community Printshops 1970 – 1986 London
Robert Hewison, 1995, Culture & Consensus: England, Art and Politics since 1940, London
John Fox, 2002, Eyes on Stalks, London
Note: The discourse about ‘participation’ has become much more confused in the past 15 years, as parts of the elite art world got excited about working with people, but I am sceptical about both the work and the writing that has emerged on the back of it; neither are relevant to the history of community art.
Community Art Dialogues (2013) is an excellent book by Eugene van Erven which closely documents some recent community arts experiences in the Netherlands. It also has a fascinating chapter tracing a family tree of outdoor performance from Bread and Puppet in the USA, Welfare State in the UK, and Dogtroep in the Netherlands. Eugene has kindly allowed me to add a PDF of the book to this site, which you can download by following this link (5MB). Printed copies of the book, which includes a valuable DVD of films about each project, are available from Community Arts Lab Utrecht, Treaty of Utrecht, P.O. Box 532, 3500 AM Utrecht, The Netherlands
The history of 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
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.
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