Álvaro Restrepo: ‘Education is useless’

'If education does not strengthen us, if it does not reveal us our vocation, our inner voice, and if it does not help us to get rid of frustration and the fear of failure, then what is the bloody purpose of education?' Álvaro Restrepo is a Colombian artist, choreographer and educator who has run an … Continue reading Álvaro Restrepo: ‘Education is useless’

Cultural Collaboration and Civil Society

Last year I spent some time looking at the work of Tandem, a partnership between the European Cultural Foundation and MitOst that connects cultural actors within and close to the European space. Tandem marked its fifth anniversary last autumn, and they asked me to reflect on what they'd done and what might change. The essay below … Continue reading Cultural Collaboration and Civil Society

Dancing about migration

It’s been said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. I’ve never been convinced. Human beings are not locked into silos. They are not fixed in place like trees.  Translating experiences from one form or language or culture to another is an everyday necessity. Like all translation, it’s creative. It brings into being … Continue reading Dancing about migration

Worlds within words

Yesterday two short conversations reminded me of the pitfalls that make words so elusive, so fascinating and so important. The first was a question after I spoke at the Teach Through Music conference in Deptford. I’d been asked to give a talk about the value of music that I wrote for Sage Gateshead last year. … Continue reading Worlds within words

Dancing in a shared world

The 2015 daCi World Congress is taking place this week in Copenhagen, bringing together over 700 young dancers for an intensive exchange and celebration of dance. The theme is ‘Twist and Twin’ and it picks up a daCi’s growing commitment helping dancers from different cultures to work creatively together. On Tuesday morning, I was lucky … Continue reading Dancing in a shared world

On the futility of comparing experiences

It’s a genuine shock when the soprano hits her first note. The contrast between the purity of the sound and its location is disconcerting. To hear such a voice in the functional environment of a residential home day room rather than a concert hall seems bizarre at first. There are thirty elderly residents, perhaps half of … Continue reading On the futility of comparing experiences

Optimism is a valuable resource

  Jubilee Arts was a pioneering community arts project founded in 1974, in West Bromwich, an industrial town west of Birmingham. It thrived for more than 20 years, making imaginative and serious art with local communities. Then, during the ‘aspirational’ New Labour years, Jubilee Arts was crushed by the effort to establish a permanent place … Continue reading Optimism is a valuable resource

Traditional culture and community art

There was a time when I dismissed traditional art as a medium for socially engaged practice. As a young community artist, I thought only contemporary forms could explore current issues. Like all prejudices, this was rooted in ignorance: I knew almost nothing about traditional arts. It was researching the Scottish fèisean movement that opened my … Continue reading Traditional culture and community art

Theatre and community

It’s been a while since I last added anything here, partly because I’ve been meeting artists whose work is supported through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Central Asia. As ever, I came back inspired by what people do in very challenging circumstances, and how much it matters to those involved; I will … Continue reading Theatre and community

Owning your language

This week has been spent at arts conferences and training days in different parts of the country. Each was rich in ideas and shared experience. In Devon, North Yorkshire, London and Cardiff, I met many gifted, passionate and inspiring people. I came away with renewed confidence in the arts, despite the pressures they face with … Continue reading Owning your language