Regular Marvels was a programme of arts-led research that responded to two paradoxes I felt about my recent work:
- If art is important, why is it not accepted as a valid way to understand arts experience?
- If people are important, why not write about their experience in ways that they might read?
In 2011, I began what has become a series of short books on aspects of cultural life today. I was particularly interested in areas that are not well understood or even noticed by the art world today: the work of amateurs, of artists in old age and non-European artists, rural communities and the complex cultural place of the parish church. None of these figure much either in arts policy or in academic studies of contemporary art. My approach was to see what happened if used the methods of art, rather than those of social science, to make sense of what I saw. In all the projects, except The Light Ships, I also worked with a visual artist to see how their perspective could influence the story and how it was told.
Regular Marvels was self-generated. I developed each idea before seeking a relevant organisation to work with. Consequently, they were demanding to achieve, with funds rarely covering more than a fraction of the time and production costs. At the same time, they were immensely rewarding to do and I think each book, despite its faults, has distinctive qualities that make it worth reading. Print copies are still available, although stocks are running low on all five books: if you’d like a copy, please send me an email. Alternatively, you can download a PDF version by clicking on the links or visiting the dedicated Regular Marvels website.
- Where We Dream (2012): The story of West Bromwich Operatic Society, which has been performing since 1938 to audiences of several thousand in the post-industrial Midlands; undertaken with supported by Multistory
- Winter Fires (2012): Exploring how creativity empowers professional and amateur older artists at a time when other forms of power and status are so often lost; undertaken with artist Mik Godley and supported by the Baring Foundation
- Bread and Salt (2013): Honours the creativity of those who cross borders, creating new art from migration, enduring and resisting in the truth of their imaginations; undertaken with sculptor Bill Ming and supported by Vrede van Utrecht (Netherlands).
- The Light Ships (2014): A celebration of the church’s place as a complex centre of artistic and community life in the Lincolnshire Fens. Text and photographs by François Matarasso; commissioned by Transported.
- A Wider Horizon (2015): Exploring access to the arts by and with rural communities West Norfolk and Suffolk; undertaken with artist Rosie Redzia and commissioned by Creative Arts East.
Regular Marvels went into hibernation in the autumn of 2015, while I work on A Restless Art. I have no idea at this point when or whether the project will wake up.