Old Words #11 – ‘All in this together’

Still from ‘Ghost Town’ The Specials, 1981


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: I wasn’t even in the UK when they happened. But I was in London during the 1981 riots, working as a community artist, and that memory started me thinking about what had changed during those 30 years, in community arts, politics and society. The result, worked out over several months, and first published by ICAF in 2013, was a long essay about the depoliticisation of community art, and its wider meaning. Revising it in late 2022, I can see how it laid the foundations for what subsequently, after many years more thinking and research, A Restless Art


This is the last of the Old Words podcasts, at least for now, though Arlene and I will continue our Culture of Possibility collaboration. If you’d like to know about miaaw’s forthcoming podcasts and activities, you can subscribe to the monthly newsletter. (And if you’ve wondered why miaaw, it’s ‘Meanwhile, In An Abandoned Warehouse’, which seems a fair a title for an odd succession of quiet murmuring.)

Download ‘All in This Together: The Depoliticisation of Community Art in Britain 1970 – 2011’

Listen to “All in This Together’ on MIAAW.NET

Postscript: Terry Hall (1959-2022)

Last night, I heard that Terry Hall had died. The Specials were the last band I really cared about, as we care about things when we are growing up, finding and defining ourselves. We were contemporaries, though our life experiences were more distant than our homes. I loved the Specials’ music but, more than that, I loved what they stood for, as this essay explains. I still do, and so did Terry Hall and his bandmates. When they recorded their third album in 2018, they invited Saffiyah Khan to write a feminist reply to Prince Buster’s unlistenable Ten Commandments. Ghost Town is 40 years old, but its picture of Britain is up to date: ‘Government leaving the youth on the shelf, This place, is coming like a ghost town No job to be found in this country Can’t go on no more The people getting angry.’ Terry Hall: a courageous and creative man.