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Old Words #11 – ‘All in this together’

Still from ‘Ghost Town’ The Specials, 1981 THE DEPOLITICISATION OF COMMUNITY ART IN BRITAIN, 1970-2011 In 2011, I was asked to speak at ICAF about community arts in Britain, after the change of government the year before—and could I also say something about the riots that had taken place that summer? No, I could not:…

More carpenters than jackasses

In this part of Northern Europe, midwinter skies are often bright and clear. The low sun floods in like stage light, giving new shape to familiar land. It’s a precious reminder when the nights are so long, seeming to light the way forward. As the saying goes, if you look towards the light, the shadows…

Guest post: Arlene Goldbard on her new book

NOTE: This post is to introduce you to the 24th episode of the monthly podcast, ‘A Culture of Possibility’, which I record with my friend Arlene Goldbard. It will be available from 16 December 2022. You can find it and all episodes at Stitcher, iTunes, and wherever you get your podcasts, along with miaaw.net’s other podcasts by Owen…

Old Words #10 – ‘Approximate Visions’

‘Descriptio Maris Pacifici’,, the first known map of the Pacific, drawn by Abraham Ortelius, in 1589, Antwerp This month’s Old Words were originally written as a lecture for the University of Antwerp, in Belgium, given on 26 March 2012. It relates to British government structures and cultural policy as they were in 2012 based on…

There exists a genuine mystery at the heart

“I believe that there exists a genuine mystery at the heart of songwriting. Certain lines can appear at the time to be almost incomprehensible, but they nevertheless feel very true, very true indeed. And not just true, but necessary, and humming with a kind of unrevealed meaning.” Nick Cave speaking to Seán O’Hagan in ‘Faith,…

A museum is a strange place

On 9 November 2022, I was invited by Fondazione Brescia Musei to contribute to a discussion on ‘participatory museums today’, and specifically on the potential of co-creation in museums. I was able to draw on my thinking about co-creation for the Traction project to explore parallels in the world of museums. This is the text…

Watch the making of ‘La Gata Perduda’

Reading about ‘La Gata Perduda’ in these posts must be a somewhat frustrating experience. After all, it has often been said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture – and in an opera co-created with hundreds of non-professionals, there are many more layers that need to be translated from one idiom to another.…

Old Words #9 – ‘Another Angle of Vision’

The Brough of Birsay from Orkney, August 2011 (photo François Matarasso) In 2011, I was commissioned to research cultural life in Orkney, for a report that was published the following year. It was one of the most interesting and rewarding tasks I’ve undertaken, and I have vivid memories of the people I met during my…

A time of endings

This morning’s news bulletin led with the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk, so I’ve deleted my account. I’d kept it going to support the Traction project, but that too is drawing to its close, with all three operas now performed. There are reports to write, dissemination activities and final meetings: the project ends on…

Culture and community development in Bulgaria

NOTE: This post introduces the new episode of the podcast, “A Culture of Possibility’, available on 21 October 2022. You can find it and all episodes at Stitcher, iTunes, and wherever you get your podcasts, along with miaaw.net’s other podcasts by Owen Kelly, Sophie Hope, and many guests, focusing on cultural democracy and related topics. You can also…

The night of the première

Nature doesn’t have a sense of humour, so it’s just coincidence that I’ve caught my first dose of Covid-19 in the opening week of the opera I’ve been working on since January 2020. But else is there to do but laugh? There’s a small chance I might be well enough to see the last performance…

Virtual Realities (Part Three)

But for the first two hundred years of its life spectacle, associated in particular with stage technology – referred to as ‘machines’ in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theatre – was assumed to be an essential component of opera; indeed, as essential as music. In his General History of Music of 1766–89 the English historian Dr Burney…

Virtual realities (Part Two)

If you go to experience Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách at the Dublin Fringe Festival today, you’ll be greeted by hosts who’ll show you to your own little island, one of several green spaces dotted around the room. On it, there’s a headset and a white crate, where you’ll put your shoes (and other…

‘The MIAAW Monthly’, a cultural democracy email

For the last couple of years, I’ve been doing a podcast with Arlene Goldbard, in which we talk with like-minded people in the USA and Europe about community art and cultural democracy. I tag along really: Arlene is a much more natural speaker than me, while the technical side of is kindly and invisibly managed…

Four years to get here, four weeks to go

Exactly a month from now, on 7 October 2022, the second and final performance of La Gata Perduda will happen at the Liceu Opera House in Barcelona. It has ben a four year journey, through a pandemic, slowly building confidence and belief. What began as a simple idea—’Let’s invite our neighbours to create an opera…

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